Florida Nurse Fired for Posting Photos of Baby With Birth Defects on Instagram

Photo: (Photo : HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A Florida nurse has lost her job after posting photos of a baby with birth defects on her social media accounts. Sierra Samuels was fired because she violated the privacy of a patient at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital.

According to reports, Samuels had access to the baby with birth defects since she works at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She posted two photos with a caption that allegedly read, "Your intestines are supposed to be inside not outside baby."

The Jackson Health System told WFOR that they are taking the breach of privacy seriously. Employees who violate the privacy rules accorded to patients could face disciplinary action, suspension, or termination from work. The Florida nurse was under investigation for weeks, and the hospital found cause to terminate her employment.

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Baby Had Gastroschisis

Samuels included "gastroschisis" as one of the hashtags on the photo post. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is a birth defect where the baby's intestines are outside the abdominal wall and coming out from the baby's belly button.

Gastroschisis happens during the early stages of the pregnancy when the abdominal wall muscles fail to form properly. The hole then develops, causing the intestines to come out. In some cases, it's the other organs that extend outside the body. Organs that form outside are at risk of swelling or becoming irritated because they are exposed to the womb's amniotic fluid.

Every year, at least 1,871 babies with this stomach birth defect are born in the U.S. However, the CDC said that more and more children develop gastroschisis, especially if they have young mothers. Diagnosis of this condition may be possible during the pregnancy.

Some experts believe gastroschisis might be a gene or chromosome condition but could be triggered by the mother's health and eating habits while pregnant. Babies born with a gastroschisis birth defect will require surgery. However, they could still encounter problems post-operation. In this case, the baby might have digestive problems and challenges in absorbing nutrients.

Protected Health Information

According to the HIPAA Journal, photos of patients are categorized as "protected health information" under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act signed in 1996. Medical workers should have authorization from the patient to share any of their medical photos, even in private groups on social media.

HIPAA also stated that healthcare providers should train their staff about protecting the patient's privacy. Reinforcements and refreshers of this training are also encouraged annually.

Reports cited that the hospital became aware of Samuels's post in early September, but it's unclear how they were alerted to the privacy breach. The mother of the child was also informed of the incident.

The Florida nurse, who has been working at the Jackson Memorial Hospital since 2016, had more than 600 followers on her Instagram and regularly posted photos from work. Samuels was placed on administrative leave before her termination. Her social media pages are now switched to private.

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