When emergency medicine becomes entertainment, lines become blurred

By Daniel Ghinn

I made an online social media post. This post, which has gotten me fired, was a picture of an empty trauma room with a comment underneath. My comment was ‘Man Vs 6Train… lifesaving New York City ER EMS Nurses and doctors’”. So says Katie Duke in a recent episode of ABC’s New York Med.

The story of emergency room nurse Katie Duke being fired from Manhattan’s New York Presbyterian Hospital after posting a photo on social media site Instagram was originally filmed in 2013 but broadcast to US TV audiences in July 2014, in the first episode of the television show’s new series.

Although its airing has raised many questions about social media use by healthcare professionals, I suspect that there is much more to the story. According to ABC News, New York Presbyterian hospital provided the following statement after they published an article claiming that nurse Duke’s firing “highlights hazards of social media in hospitals”:

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital does not discuss individual employee matters. NYMed provides snapshots of experiences at NYP. It would be impossible to convey every aspect of every situation in one-hour of television.

This story is not simply about social media in hospitals. It is about a complex world in which reality TV meets healthcare professionals working in life-and-death emergency situations and the lines between news, TV production, real lives and social media are blurred. Shows such as ABC’s New York Med have brought graphic scenes of hospital life to the public and in doing so, have made celebrities of some of the people for whom emergency healthcare is a daily job. The stars of New York Med, which include media medic Dr Oz, are just like thousands of other healthcare professionals working in pressured emergency departments, except that now they also have a role to play as celebrities. It’s good, and it’s bad. It’s about what happens when somebody’s job becomes an entertainment channel.

Has Ms Duke backed away from social media since the experience? Far from it! She describes her new website as the backbone of her mission “…to be THE public figure for nursing” and launched a YouTube show, The Katie Duke Show on July 1st, where she has so far shared her personal response to the events portrayed in New York Med. In one video she describes how she felt on the night she shared the now-famous “lifesaving New York City ER EMS Nurses and doctors’” Instagram:

Sometimes there’s that huge disconnect being in the emergency room, just in the sense that we don’t really know what happens to them after they leave us, so to actually see somebody make a great solid recovery, and see their family progress through all these stages… it was pretty overwhelming. I remember when I went home that night, I was like ‘this is what being a nurse is about. This is how I know I’m in the right field.’

In recent years, public social media use among healthcare professionals has grown exponentially. Healthcare professionals use Twitter, Instagram, blogs and forums to learn, share, and even test ideas. I believe that ultimately, the world of healthcare is better for it.

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Image source: ABC News.

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Meet the Author

Daniel Ghinn

Daniel has been at the helm throughout the company’s life since 1998. His rich expertise in working with pharmaceutical businesses has enabled CREATION to build business solutions that fit our clients’ needs.

Daniel is married to Jo, has three children, a cat, a dog, 28 fish, and 160,000 bees.