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Nursing Student Expelled For Blogging

When University of Louisville nursing student Nina Yoder blogged about her experience watching a patient give birth in a post entitled “How I Witnessed the Miracle of Life,” she may have thought she was just blowing off some steam. Well her school saw things very differently.

When school officials read Yoder’s post, which included a description of the baby as a “creep” and “a wrinkly, bluish creature, all Picasso-like and weird, ugly as hell, covered in god knows what, screeching and waving its tentacles in the air,” they moved to expel her from school by calling her into an office, searching her for weapons (apparently because Yoder had separately blogged about her support for the Second Amendment), and informing her she was no longer enrolled at the school.

That’s right. No hearing, no notice. Expelled from nursing school for blogging.

Not surprisingly, Yoder sued the nursing school in federal court for reinstatement–and won. U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Simpson III ordered that Louisville reinstate Yoder because her blog didn’t violate the school’s honor code, confidentiality provisions, or principles of professionalism; the judge concluded that although the post was “crass and uncouth” and that Yoder’s attempts at humor were an “abject failure,” it wasn’t written in a professional capacity or from the view of a representative of the nursing school.

The school had argued that Yoder broke confidentiality principles and the school’s honor code by disclosing “the following identifying information about the birth mother: the number of her children; the date that she was in labor; her behaviors; the treatment that she underwent (an epidural); her reaction to labor (vomiting); and the reactions of her family.”

The court rejected that argument, though, finding that such information was non-identifying; types that would be considered identifying, according to the judge, include “the birth mother’s name, address, social security number, or the like….age, race, or ethnicity….‘financial’ or ‘employment related information’ [and] where she was in labor.”

Yoder maintains that her blog post (and others, such as those in which she mocks a suicide patient and calls alcohol abuse “a choice”) “is a mixture of fiction and satire, aimed to be an emotional relief from daily stress.”

Well Yoder won this round in court, but what do you think? What should students in RN programs be allowed to blog about? Did Yoder cross the line?

Guest post by Michelle Fabio, About.com Guide to Law School and frequent contributor at LegalZoom.com.

My particular take on this is that she crossed the line.  I’m not sure that she crossed it enough to be expelled without due process, though.  She was technically within the lines of HIPAA and thus did not break any laws.  But there are more appropriate ways of letting off steam.  Others will probably disagree with me, which is fine.  I personally found her comments very unprofessional.  -ed.

*This blog post was originally published at code blog - tales of a nurse*


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4 Responses to “Nursing Student Expelled For Blogging”

  1. John says:

    Clearly, she didn’t cross the line or the court would have upheld the university’s obviously spurious attempt to intimidate. Good for her for standing up for the First Amendment.

  2. Brooke says:

    I completely agree that this woman was out of line. As a PR professional and a mother, I was horrified that she thought this type of blogging is acceptable. I’m not sure she should have been expelled without due process; however, I would NEVER want that “nurse” attending me. And, I don’t want to be worried about my bodily functions when I’m at the doctor’s office or hospital. Have some common sense.

  3. Jeff. Cain says:

    This legal case is a prime example of the emerging “e-professionalism” construct. When personal thoughts are voluntarily made public all kinds of things can go wrong. As a society we haven’t completely come to grips with the new social communication paradigm. Laws and responses to acts like this are still a little shaky leaving many of us wondering how to react to cases of un-professionalism revealed online. Was Ms. Yoder acting unprofessionally by posting those comments online? — most definitely. Was the school within its bounds to expel her? — debatable.

    The lesson is that social media is changing our society in subtle ways, but these changes are powerful. Educating professional students about online personas and e-professionalism is becoming increasingly important.

  4. Jeff. Cain says:

    This legal case is a prime example of the emerging “e-professionalism” construct. When personal thoughts are voluntarily made public all kinds of things can go wrong. As a society we haven’t completely come to grips with the new social communication paradigm. Laws and responses to acts like this are still a little shaky leaving many of us wondering how to react to cases of un-professionalism revealed online. Was Ms. Yoder acting unprofessionally by posting those comments online? — most definitely. Was the school within its bounds to expel her? — debatable. The reasons for the court ruling in her favor had nothing to do with the unprofessional content, but more so with process and procedures.

    The lesson is that social media is changing our society in subtle ways, but these changes are powerful. Educating professional students about online personas and e-professionalism is becoming increasingly important.

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