Kate Duke, a New York nurse, was reminded how significant a social media post can be when she posted a picture to Instagram of an empty but messy trauma room, where a man was treated after being hit by an NYC subway train.  After putting up the image with the title” “#Man vs. 6 train”, Duke was told that after 7 years of working in the ER, she was being let go.  However, Duke claims that her supervisor told her that she had neither violated HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) nor had she breached hospital policy: she was being fired for being insensitive. 

While “insensitivity” seems like a weak reason for dismissal, Duke’s story has even more eyebrow raising details: the photograph in question, Duke claims, was not even hers.  Rather, she reposted the picture from a doctor’s Instagram page.  According to Duke, the doctor, who also works for the same hospital, was not reprimanded.  Duke insists that she hasn’t done anything wrong by posting the picture.  “If you hung around nurse’s station and heard the way we talk about injuries, life and death you might get the wrong impression but it’s just a coping mechanism.”  She said.  

So why all the drama?  Why did the hospital react so harshly to one post by one of its employees, a post without an actual human in it?  The reason could be preemptive in the hospital’s case, prompted by the vast and far-reaching influence of social media.  Maybe the hospital overreacted to Ms. Duke’s post, but it’s hard to predict what kind of an uproar will occur in the online world. 

Our society is so influenced by social media, that even the possibility of a negative reaction can invoke dramatic steps, like the firing of an employee.  Ms. Duke’s story is a dramatic reminder to everyone that what you post to social media travels far, and once it is done, you cannot erase it.  We should always be careful and double check what we post before it is etched into the internet. 

And for those curious, Ms. Duke’s story didn’t come to a full-stop after this unfortunate episode.  While her post may have caused her dismissal from her original job, she now has a new job, her own website (officialkatieduke.com), an endorsement deal for Dickies and Cherokee scrubs, speaking engagements, her own YouTube show, and a line of “Deal With It” merchandise.  It has also been hinted that she will be reappearing in upcoming episodes of “NY Med”.  

Original stories found at ABC News and STLToday