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Nursing Student Expelled for Placenta Photo on Facebook

January 4th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

As nurses, we all know the importance of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, in health care today. In the past, too many people were accessing and sharing information about patients without their express permission, and HIPAA was created to prevent this. HIPAA seems particularly crucial in the age of social media since nurses and health care workers are privy to very private information about patients. But how far does HIPAA go and when is too far really too far?

Student nurses and licensed nurses have been disciplined in various facilities for posting inappropriate comments or photos on social media websites like Facebook. Sometimes the posts are direct HIPAA violations, but other times they create questionable judgment calls. We like to think that we learn from mistakes, but there always seems to be another story of a nurse or a nursing student who ends up in trouble.

Enter the newest member of that dubious club, a 22-year-old female student named Doyle Byrnes, who was in a registered nurse program in a community college in Kansas. According to a Wall Street Journal news article, Byrnes was dismissed from the program  for posting a picture of herself with a placenta on her Facebook page. She is now seeking a reversal of that court decision. She claims in a lawsuit that the photograph did not violate any of the school’s policies and that she had the alleged approval of the instructor, the WSJ article states.

There could be discussion about the appropriateness of such a photo: some may find it distasteful while others do not.  To top it off, she wasn’t the only one taking photos; three others were as well, according to the WSJ. They were all kicked out of the program, but will be eligible to reapply in August of 2011, according to the piece.

What do you think? Should Byrnes have been kicked out of the program? If she is allowed back in, do you think she’ll be treated fairly or will she have a mark on her back?

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