• September 2, 2014

Judge Orders U. of Louisville Nursing Student Reinstated

A federal judge has ordered the University of Louisville to permit a nursing student who had been expelled for writing blog posts about her patients, gun rights, religion, and other issues to re-enroll.

In an order issued on Monday, Judge Charles R. Simpson III of the U.S. District Court in Louisville ruled that the student, Nina Yoder, could register for classes at the university as soon as she would like.

The university expelled Ms. Yoder in February, saying she had violated the nursing school's honor code by identifying herself as a student in "Internet postings regarding patient activities." Ms. Yoder appealed the expulsion, but the appeal was denied. She then sued the university for reinstatement, alleging that it had violated her free-speech and due-process rights.

The judge sided with Ms. Yoder, saying the school had violated her contractual agreement, but he did not deal with her free-speech or due-process complaints.

In an interview on Monday, Ms. Yoder's lawyer, Daniel J. Canon, said his client planned to go back to the university to complete her degree.

"She was elated," he said of Ms. Yoder. "This is what she's wanted since the very beginning."

Ms. Yoder, who is now working for the U.S. Census Bureau, was unavailable for comment.

According to copies of posts on the social-networking site that were attached to her lawsuit, Ms. Yoder had shared her personal views about several unidentified patients. In one post, she discussed a patient who attempted suicide, saying the patient was "sucking up some valuable nurse's aide time around the clock, so they can sit there and listen to some more of her 'boohoo poor me.'" In another post, she expressed anti-abortion beliefs. "We get Virgin Marys by the bundle at the clinic each day," she wrote. "Then they go and surgically expel the unwanted fetus out of their body, unaware that it may be the next Jesus they're dumping into the biohazard bin."

In an e-mail statement to The Chronicle, a university spokesman, Mark R. Hebert, said the university's lawyers and administrators were reviewing the court's decision "to determine what our next steps might be."

Comments

1. laurencejgillis - August 04, 2009 at 07:07 am

I say a strong "Amen" to her views on abortion. Happily for some inconvenient parents, kids "in utero" don't have a right to abort their parents. "Disposable parents"? Now, there's a thought !! I certainly hope, however, that this nursing school student has respected patient confidentiality in her postings. The school has a legitimate concern -- and quite possible legal exposure -- if immature students start blabbing intimate patient information in the blogoshpere, for all the world to see. I assume that proper training can address this. In all honesty, I must say that her comment about "Boo Hoo, poor me" patients is distracting. Looking on the bright side of this, I see a great future for her -- in management!! (She'll feel right at home) Larry Gillis, Cape Coral FL

2. dqualters - August 04, 2009 at 09:05 am

This is a difficult situation we're facing more and more in all professions. What is the role of attitude in certifying that someone is qualified to be in the field?? This is compounded when students make "public" their attitudes via blogs/wikis/facebook etc. Do we want a nurse who clearly is young and unsympathetic taking care of us? Do we want a teacher who has negative attitudes towards students teaching our children? Do we want lawyers who see the profession as a money-making proposition taking our case?? We do need training - but how do you "train" attitude? This is a much more complex curriculum question? Anyone got the answer?

3. bunburyjr - August 04, 2009 at 10:29 am

I'm less concerned about "attitude" (which is notoriously difficult to assess and document) than I am with professionalism, i.e. professional behavior. Most health-care professionals are circumspect about describing or characterizing their patients, even among friends. There are clearly defined legal and ethical guidelines for describing patients in case studies. Two generational issues also emerge. First, Yoder grew up in the Age of the Rant in which one's own self-absorbed observations are assumed to be infallible. Second, Yoder is presumably part of a generation that is accustomed to representing itself in very public ways, often with embarrassing consequences. (I would also suggest that Yoder consult her priest or minister: Her theology is heretical; there will be no "next Jesus" born to a "Virgin Mary." The Church holds that Jesus is a one-time deal.)

4. drnancylbush - August 04, 2009 at 10:41 am

Simple question: Would you want this person as your nurse?

5. davi2665 - August 04, 2009 at 10:45 am

For physicians, medical students, and recredentialing of physicians in most medical schools and highly ranked hospitals, the six competencies are important cornerstones of expected knowledge and activities. "Professionalism" is one of the key competencies; this nursing student violated it in an egregious and flagrant fashion. Her caustic and heartless comments about a suicidal patient and her sarcasm indicate that she is miles away from the professionalism required of a health care worker given important responsibilities for patients' lives. It is not just their physical health that is important, it is their emotional and spiritual well being. She fails on the latter two accounts, which leads me to also question the first account. Even with our current nursing shortage, the last thing we need is arrogant, flippant, uncaring nurses.

6. mlevendusky - August 04, 2009 at 12:48 pm

A nursing student who discusses her patients in public and in such unsympathetic ways is not a person who should be a nurse. The school was right to expell her and the the judge was wrong to order her reinstated.

7. benemma - August 04, 2009 at 01:54 pm

Posting a comment.

8. 22007444 - August 04, 2009 at 01:56 pm

I would not want this person as my nurse! Also, I think the earlier comments addressing both the professionalism & attitude (aka compassion in this case) make very important points. I also found it "interesting" this student is anti-abortion, but seemed unopposed to suicide. I interpreted her comments about the suicidal patient to suggest that patient's life didn't matter. I wonder if the student's blog postings were really intended to ruffle the feathers of the nursing school rather than expressing the student's real opinions.

9. eoghanfarquhar - August 04, 2009 at 02:42 pm

Wait... is that a funeral dirge I hear playing? It is - the death knell of HIPAA is sounding. Here President Obama and the US Congress have introduced 66 privacy acts or resolutions since January 7th of this year, and in one fell swoop a student who breaks the law has summoned up her freedom under the pretext of constituional rights. Yeah, right. Whatever happened to obeying the law? Whatever happened to the patients' rights? Whatever happened to common sense. I guess I'm just not liberal enough.

10. dsauerwein - August 04, 2009 at 04:10 pm

When individual professionals are dictating the rights of others, we have a problem. If you don't want to do parts of your job, then you are not doing your job at all. Nurses, get ready for a life where privacy matters (I know that nearly all of you are already for that), but also for a world that includes choice - your values are not relevant unless you make them so. And fair enough, if your values trump your job, then change jobs or work in a sector where your values are not in conflict. We all have to make that choice.

11. akprof - August 04, 2009 at 04:58 pm

If this student discussed her patients in a way that made them possibly recognizable, she has violated a basic tenet of the professional responsibility to maintain confidentiality - if she makes it thru nursing school, I have no doubt that she will eventually have her license suspended or (hopefully) revoked for unprofessional conduct. She certainly has a right to express her personal beliefs and views - but not in a manner that violates patient confidentiality. And, NO, I would not want her as a nurse, I would not want her as a nurses aide, I would not want her as a ward clerk on the unit where I was a patient - and quite frankly, I would be ashamed to have raised her as a daughter. One wonders why she chose nursing - probably to ensure that she could always get a job???

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