A North Carolina Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) was fired from a nursing home after she posted a series of videos on TikTok. The videos included the following phrases:
- “I’d unplug your vent to charge my cell phone.”
- “Me waking my patient up at 6:55 am to make sure they didn’t [sic] die from all the drugs i gave them to make them go to sleep”
- “Me on my way to give my patients drugs so WE can get some good sleep tonight”
It is not a surprise that the statement the nursing home issued about her termination stated: “ANY FORM OF RESIDENCE [sic] ABUSE IS NEVER TOLERATED AND BE ASSURED WE HAVE HANDLED THE SITUATION AND REPORTED HER ACTIONS TO ALL APPROPRIATE STATE, LOCAL, AND FEDERAL AGENCIES.”
CMS states that mental abuse includes “abuse that is facilitated or caused by nursing home staff taking or using photographs or recordings in any manner that would demean or humiliate a resident(s).”
With this type of abuse-by-social-media, we usually see a resident identified by name, photograph, or video. That doesn’t happen in this TikTok series – but these videos certainly feel “demeaning” and humiliating.” And they certainly feel wrong.
What would your employees think about these TikTok videos?
Here’s what the LPN had to say about her TikTok videos: "The only thing hurt in my TikTok videos were people's feelings…All my videos are comedy skits."
And this is what the daughter of a former resident at the nursing home had to say: "I was very disturbed. No words can express just how that video makes me feel."
Perhaps even more disturbing: this LPN created a GoFundMe to raise money to pay her bills while she is unemployed. Many people made a $5 donation in order to be able to comment that the LPN’s behavior is deplorable. But, the page has raised more than $900, with many nurses and other healthcare professionals commenting – in support of the LPN – that nurses need “dark humor.” Most did not seem to understand the potential abuse implications of the videos:
- “As long as your videos did not include any identifying information of your work facility, I doubt there is any justification for the loss of your job.”
- “As a fellow hospital worker I should know the dark humor we have. I’m not sure if it is to help the stress or the emotional dues we go through. I don’t find anything that you did offensive. We all need to blow off steam in our own way. To the nasty human beings that caused you to most your job I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart. We all have dark humor in this industry and I know many would back me up on that fact. I hope things go on the right track for you and your beautiful babies ♥️ ”
Some commenters noted that no patient information was in the videos, so no harm was done. From a HIPAA standpoint, they’re right (although that’s really not the point). And, some videos were clearly taken in resident rooms – likely a violation of any policy prohibiting cell phone use while on duty.
The supportive GoFundMe comments from healthcare workers make me wonder: were these people trained by their employers on abuse? On social media? What would these people say to regulators if asked about these TikTok videos?
I ask you again: What would your employees think of these TikTok videos? Would they be appalled, and report them immediately? Or would they think they are harmless “dark humor” that should have no consequences? Have you told your employees – both in new employee orientation and repeatedly since then – that this type of conduct is not OK?
What you can do
- Review your abuse policy. Does the definition of abuse include this type of mental abuse? Does it address social media use? Is the policy distributed to staff?
- Train, train, train. Most staff use social media every day. Many times per day. How often do you train them on appropriate social media use? Once a year is probably not enough.