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Tech @ Rochester Regional Health makes insensitive comment. Should she be fired?

Should healthcare workers be held to a higher standard? An alleged Endoscopy Technician at Rochester Regional Health(RRH) sparked a social media debate after posting an insensitive comment on Facebook.

The incident went down on the Facebook page of 13 Wham. The media outlet posted "Police say while they were on the scene of a shooting, the shooting suspect fled in a white BMW. After a short pursuit, officers lost sight of the BMW. Minutes later the vehicle crashed into a pole on Portland Ave, the driver was pronounced dead the scene" The post generated hundreds of comments but a particular commenter stood out.

As some commenters posted prayers, others weren't so nice. A woman under the username Katie Applegate — who claims she is an Endoscopy Technician at Rochester Regional Health posted, "Couldn't ask for a better ending!" The evil-spirited Facebook user received some support and backlash after the cruel comment. A commenter under the username Nikki Lawrence commented, "if you are going to comment things like that and work in healthcare, you may want to take your place of work down from your public profile"

According to HPSO.COM, social media poses hazards for healthcare professionals and students, who must remember that professional standards are the same online as in any other circumstance. Two high-risk areas include:

  • Violations of patient privacy and/or confidentiality. Breaches of patient privacy/confidentially can be intentional or inadvertent, with inappropriate postings including patient photos, negative comments about patients, or details that might identify patients.

  • Unprofessional behavior. Standards of ethical conduct require healthcare personnel and students to act in a professional and moral manner. Examples of unprofessional behavior/inappropriate postings include photos or comments about alcohol or drug use; profane, sexually explicit, or racially derogatory comments; negative comments about co-workers, and employers; or threatening or harassing comments.

Common misunderstandings about social media also may contribute toward unacceptable postings, such as the incorrect belief that postings are private and accessible only by the intended recipient; deleted content is no longer available; it’s okay to talk about patients using nicknames, room numbers, or diagnoses; and it’s harmless to disclose patient information if it’s accessed only by the intended recipient.1

The ramifications of unprofessional social media behavior could have serious negative consequences. Complaints to professional governing boards could come from anyone with direct—or indirect—access to social media, including patients and their family, employers and co-workers, family and friends, and law enforcement agencies. Disciplinary action could ensue, with results ranging from a reprimand and fine to temporary or permanent loss of licensure. If federal or state laws are broken, there also is the potential for civil and criminal penalties.

Do you think healthcare workers should be held to a higher standard?

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