Katie Duke, a nurse propelled to fame by popular reality show NY Med, was fired for social media. This article is written not to attack Katie, but instead, share a very public example of how nurses can easily be fired for inappropriate social media use. There are many examples of nurses being fired for social media use, but Katie’s story is one of the most well-known and allows for a very teachable moment.
To be clear, this article is not intended to attack Katie in any way. The intent is to explore the complex issue of where personal life intercept work end and how social media makes that all the more complex. This article contains personal opinions and assumptions based on the facts available to me as of the original publication date. Where new information has been made available, I have provided updates and clarification.
No Nurse is Immune to Being Fired for Social Media
Even famous nurses make mistakes on social media. Katie Duke, who has a massive following on Twitter and Instagram, 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).
The Photo In Questin
The caption for the image reads “Man Vs 6 Train… The after #lifesaving #EMS #NYC #ER #Nurses #Doctors #nymed #trauma #realLife.”
Was the Photo a HIPAA Violation?
Katie Duke states that when she was dismissed from her job of nearly 7 years that she wasn’t fired for committing a HIPAA violation or for breaking any hospital policies, but for being insensitive. 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:
- 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.
- 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 NY Med Reality Show Complicates This Issue
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.
Was Instagram Post Insensitive?
It was poor choice for Katie to post this particular social update. In my humble opinion, this type of social media is insensitive and inappropriate. This is not an opinion all nurses share, but clearly Katie being fired for it shows that hospital administrators largely share my professional opinion.
The Caption in Question
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. 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.
A Double Standard for Physician and Nurse Social Media Use?
Her employers agreed with that stance. In fact, it is my understanding is that a physician shared the same photo without the caption and didn’t lose his job or receive a known reprimand. Whether this has to do with physician-privilege or the comments on the photo is an unknow, but it’s worth mentioning
Many Nurses are Fired for Social Media Mistakes
I speak professionally on the topic of social media for nurses and 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 plenty of results. I don’t like to focus on the negative aspects of social media for nurses, but this Katie Duke 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.
The Silver Lining in All of This
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 one 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 Will Deal With It
Katie Duke is a no-nonsense kind of nurse who has a personal motto of “deal with it.” It may even be her nursing motto. 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.
However, Katie is resilient. She moved to New York and made something of herself. She is able to get back up when she is kicked down and I have no doubt that she will deal with it and come out better for it in the end.
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Was Katie Dukes Social Media Mistake Sensationalied for TV?
A large part of me thinks this was all for the 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 Will Bounce Back
Katie Duke is a passionate nurse who has strong opinions and will no doubt find another job 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 NY Med fired:
- Reality Show Nurse Fired For Instagram Post – The Social Medic
- Nurse Firing Highlights Hazards of Social Media in Hospitals – ABC News
- ‘NY Med’ star Katie Duke speaks out on getting fired from NYC hospital for posting Instagram photo of trauma room – NY Daily News
Update: What Happened to Katie Duke After Being Fired on NY Med?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps are active on social media, you likely know that Katie Duke has skyrocketed her social media presence and various nursing business ventures. With over 128,000 followers as of the writing of this update, she is one of the most popular nurses on Instagram. In addition, Katie pursues additional education and now works as a nurse practitioner. She has launched social media training programs, nurse travel and excursion, her very own scrub line, and a wildly popular podcast.
All and all, I’d say Katie Duke used her social media mistake to make lemonades out of some very sour lemons. We can all learn from her mistake and her perseverance.