Katie Duke Shows Nurses How to Not Use Social Media

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Katie Duke Shows Nurses How to NOT Use Social Media

Image Credit: ABC News

Even famous nurses make mistakes on social media. Katie Duke, who has a massive following on twitter and instragram, is one of the stars of the ABC hit NY Med. At this point, however, I should probably say “was” a star, since a recent episode revealed that Katie was fired after posting this photo of a trauma room to her popular instagram account (thekatieduke).

Photo that got Katie Duke Fired

Image credit: ABC News

The caption for the image reads “Man Vs 6 Train… The after #lifesaving #EMS #NYC #ER #Nurses #Doctors #nymed #trauma #realLife.”

Katie states that when she was dismissed from her job of nearly 7 years that she wasn’t fired for committing a HIPAA or hospital policy violation, but for being insensitive. But honesty, I am not sure what hospital administrator would say this wasn’t a HIPAA violation. I can think of at least two potential HIPAA violations:

  1. All geographical subdivisions smaller than a State, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code, and their equivalent geocodes, except for the initial three digits of a zip code, if according to the current publicly available data from the Bureau of the Census: (1) The geographic unit formed by combining all zip codes with the same three initial digits contains more than 20,000 people; and (2) The initial three digits of a zip code for all such geographic units containing 20,000 or fewer people is changed to 000.
  2. All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death; and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age, except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older;

The fact that this drama all plays out on a reality show where patients and healthcare professionals are filmed does muddy the waters a bit. Was this patient in an episode? And even if they were, are Katie’s posts protected by the waivers the producers of NY Med no doubt have patients sign? That I am not sure of.

But I am sure that it was a poor choice for Katie to post this particular social update. This type of social media is insensitive and inappropriate. But it’s not the photo, in my humble opinion, that’s the real issue. It’s the caption: “Man Vs 6 Train.” As if the poor soul who encounter that level of trauma was intentionally playing chicken with an oncoming train.  The photo itself tells a story. The caption is not needed. And I think that if the photo was the only thing posted, without her personal commentary about a real life tragic event (that she made light of), I think it would have been perceived as harmless and she’d still have her job today.

I often get asked about specific examples of nurses making mistakes on social media. A single Google search for “Nurse fired for social media” will yield you plenty of results. And as much as I don’t like to focus on the negative aspects of social media for nurses, this is one example is being highly publicized and merits a response. It highlights just how easy for nurses to make an error that could cause them to lose their job. And as unfortunate that is is that Katie was fired over the incident, there is a silver lining here. This is a great chance for nurses to learn from the mistakes of of another and put a little more thought into the pictures they take, the statuses they post, and even the times they post them.

Social media can do many wonderful things for nurses. Even Katie has used social media to catapult herself as a personal brand and grow a huge following online. But it can also have big, sometimes unforeseen consequences, even for bold nurses who are on reality shows.

Katie Duke is a no nonsense kind of nurse who has a personal motto of “deal with it.” This time it looks like she didn’t exercise the best judgment when it comes to using social media as a healthcare professional and has consequently been forced to “deal with” her own inappropriate actions.

Still a large part of me thinks this was all for show. Reality TV is never quite reality, and this social media slip might have been a clever move planned by NY Med for major media and nursing coverage, or by Katie herself to further her growing fame. I can’t be certain that this is the case, but it should be considered when looking at the big picture here.

Katie Duke is a passionate nurse who has strong opinions and will no doubt find another job (I’m predicting not in direct patient care) and have continued success. Her social media mishap can (and should)  be a powerful tool that nurse educators, bloggers, and others can use to show how a simple oversight in your online activity can have a damaging impact on an individual nursing career and potentially the nursing profession as a whole.

Update – I was informed that later in the episode it showed Katie Duke working in a new ER and being filmed there. This further suggests that the social media mishap was planned. Even so, the example still has the potential to help many nurses avoid making similar mistakes.


More information about how social media got Katie Duke fired:

This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival If you are interested in participating find out more details and sign up here. Check out  How Do Nurses Use Social Media for more information this topic. Nurse Blog Carnival - The Nerdy Nurse

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  1. BSN at Work says

    Just wanted you to know, I saw an episode of NY Med that showed this story at the time she was fired. She did get a new job at another local ER. It actually filmed her there.

  2. The Nerdy Nurse says

    Lauren Hunter I didn’t watch the episode, but was told she already had a new job in it and they were shooting in that ER. This really makes me think it was a complete set up.

  3. Mary Krusi Dyke D'Rozario says

    I have a whole file for training. People often use keywords like “I shouldn’t violate HIPPA, but…” that make the inappropriate material pop up on a search for “HIPAA.” There are a few frequent fliers on my search lists but their employers obviously aren’t doing the same searches.

  4. The Nerdy Nurse says

    Mary Krusi Dyke D’Rozario I think that many nurses (and other employees) are getting by with a lot more on social media than they would be able to if their employers monitored their activity more often. I’m not saying that nurses should be monitored any more closely that anyone else, but unfortunately it’s an option for any employer these days so everyone should be on their toes about it.

  5. Mary Alyn Garcia says

    I saw that episode of NY MED. It bothered me that she was fired for re-tweeting the image that was originally posted by a doctor… a doctor who works for the same hospital. It wasn’t even her image. I could see having to go to a “social media sensitivity” class or something, but I sympathized in shock and my heart went out to her. Definitely would make me think twice, however.

  6. The Nerdy Nurse says

    Mary, in my opinion the photo wasn’t the problem. It was the caption, which was very insensitive. You can read it in the stills. “man vs 6 train”

  7. Amanda Darling says

    I’m not a HIPAA expert by any means, but I thought it was more than insensitive – IMO it was a HIPAA violation.
    ‘Man vs 6train’ gave identifying information to the public about a patient (she said it was the man who was hit by the 6 train; she didn’t need to post his name as the media will have already taken care of that); her account identified where she works (thereby identifying that the person is being treated in her hospital – can’t release that info to anyone unless the patient or family consents – doubt she got a release) and the actual picture showed the type of treatment the patient received (it’s a stretch – but any person with reasonable medical knowledge can figure out what kind of tx the pt received). They all sound like HIPAA violations to me.
    I saw a lot of nurses / RTs posting because the media released the name – she wasn’t bound by HIPAA.
    My response to that is – that last time I looked, the media was in a different business. We as licensed healthcare professionals are held to a higher standard by licensure and ethical / legal standards such as HIPAA.
    Again – not an expert on HIPAA by any means – but from all my years of experience and training – that’s how I see it.

  8. Amanda Darling says

    I also saw Katie on an interview on Inside Edition late in the week – she didn’t seem to admit any wrongdoing – just said ‘I can’t believe they fired such a caring person’. Now I know they cut interviews and spin them – so I don’t know if she admitted she was wrong or not. If you make a mistake – own it, learn from it and teach others not to make the same mistake. We’re all human and in her case she was in a stressful environment, plus had TV cameras. Just admit you made a mistake and move on. She’s in a great position to become a public speaker and teacher of what not to do with SM – I’m curious to see where she takes it.


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