The student sued after she was dismissed for saying unflattering things about a patient online.
The long saga of a nursing student who was dismissed after posting an online entry about a patient on MySpace may finally be over, as a result of a new federal court ruling in the case.
Nina Yoder enrolled in a childbearing class while she was a nursing student at the University of Louisville. As part of the class, she was assigned to find and follow an obstetric patient through the birthing process.
After Yoder found a patient to follow, both signed a consent form. The form said Yoder was not to provide information relating to the pregnancy to anyone other than her course instructor.
Yoder had also agreed via an honor pledge to “adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, accountability, confidentiality, and professionalism” and to keep confidential any information she obtained during the course of clinical rotations.
After watching the patient give birth, Yoder posted a long MySpace entry about the experience. In it, she referred to the patient’s newborn as “the new Creep” and described the child as “ugly as hell.”
When the school found out about the entry, it dismissed her for violating the honor code and applicable confidentiality requirements.
Yoder sued, claiming a violation of her right to free speech under the First Amendment.
A trial court initially ruled for Yoder, but an appeals court negated that ruling and sent the case back for further proceedings. Meanwhile, Yoder was for some reason readmitted, and she finished her studies.
The school tried to get the case thrown out because Yoder was gone, but the court said her claim for damages still needed to be addressed. It then ruled for the school, finding that Yoder broke her promise not to publicly talk about the birth mother.
The school had good reason to keep the information private: It understandably could be worried about the effect of such public discussion on its ability to get willing participants for future clinics, and the limitations it imposed were reasonable.
Cite: Yoder v. University of Louisville.
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