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Every semester, new students arrive at a large Level I trauma center to try their hand at caring for some of the toughest patients with the assistance of an experienced preceptor. Every time, we remind them of the following:

  • What you do stays here.

  • What you see stays here.

  • What you hear stays here.

  • What you say stays here.

Each incident below is an example of individuals who innocently shared just enough information that it was considered a serious violation of privacy. In some cases, the innocent person lost their job. Anything that results in the ability to identify a patient is a problem.

  • Without realizing that the patient was an uncle of her Facebook friend, a scrub technician shared her frustrations over an OR case she just finished, providing details of the diagnoses, delays, and complications experienced.

  • A medical student posted a selfie on Instagram without realizing that it included the patient bed board with names and physician info on it directly behind him.

  • An emergency room nurse posts a photo of the torn-apart trauma bay on Instagram, with brief details of what happened to the patient who had just been there.

  • Two physicians discuss the complications of an OR case on the way to the cafeteria without realizing they were walking right in front of the patient’s wife.

  • A student observes a large trauma in the OR, sees details of the accident on TV that evening, and proceeds to share that they were in the room during the case and the procedure that was done.

Whether you are in the hospital hallway, trauma bay, a small clinic, or visiting the OR, the rules are the same: keep it to yourself. Privacy is a serious issue, and even if you feel you are describing something without identifiers, remember that there are only a few degrees of separation between us. You never know who may be listening, watching, reading, or part of the story that you are sharing. Questions about whether you had ill intent, if it was an honest mistake, or if you would like to defend why you posted or said something are rarely asked. The only thing you will be told is to hand over your badge and gather your things.

Here are some basic tips to help you avoid problems:

  • Do not post anything on social media. (I admit, I will post that there are days I feel like quitting/celebrating/crying/etc. about my job, but that is it. That’s what “vaguebooking” is for.)

  • If it doesn’t concern you, it doesn’t concern you. Literally. Our nosy instincts tell us to find out what happened to that person or how that accident happened, but if you are not providing direct care for them, it doesn’t concern you. You don’t get to ask follow-up questions, and you definitely don’t get ...

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