The convergence of social media and career has been a point of contention for some time — and an OB-GYN who landed in hot water after bashing a pregnant patient on Facebook has again highlighted how we cannot always predict the ways in which backlash will ensue from the use of such media.
The controversy began fairly innocently, when Dr. Amy Dunbar, an OB-GYN at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, took to Facebook to (as many of us do) gripe about a work annoyance.
Dunbar’s candor — for which she was ultimately reprimanded — was not as questionable in her first exchange, but still perhaps not entirely professional. The doctor had been frustrated at the continual lateness of a patient, and complained:
“So I have a patient who has chosen to either no-show or be late (sometimes hours) for all of her prenatal visits, ultrasounds, and NSTs [non-stress tests]. She is now 3 hours late for her induction. May I show up late to her delivery?”
A screenshot of the controversial complaint wound up on the Facebook page for Mercy Hospital Moms-to-Be. But while the initial post was certainly borderline inappropriate, Dunbar’s response to a query about the patient was what really stoked the flame war:
“[Here] is the explanation why I have put up with it/not cancelled induction: prior stillbirth.”
Some argued that Dunbar’s Facebook disclosure threatened to violate her patient’s privacy, while others felt that the patient was not clearly identifiable by the doctor’s description. In response, Mercy was forced to address the issue posed by Dunbar’s Facebook indiscretion:
“Mercy values the dignity and privacy of all our patients and we are very sorry that this incident occurred. While our privacy compliance staff has confirmed that this physician’s comments did not represent a breach of privacy laws, they were inappropriate and not in line with our values of respect and dignity.”
Ultimately, social media thrives on openness — so it’s good that Dunbar’s career wasn’t affected by her Facebook lapse of judgment. However, it’s good to keep in mind that anyone on your Facebook friends list can take a screenshot of anything you say, and if they wish to cause you grief, send it to your parents, co-workers or significant other.
Another bit to consider is that given the reach of the story, it’s likely that any Google results for Dr. Amy Dunbar in St. Louis will forever be tarnished by the Facebook catastrophe. While we can’t always predict the tendency of certain things to resonate, once they do, that is a bell you cannot unring.
Have you ever been burned by a private Facebook post extended past its intended audience?