Russian nurses took selfies with unconscious surgery patients. Can it happen in Australia?

A smiling nurse holds a recently removed spleen. Two others pretend to drink donated blood. Another poses alongside a surgery patient, the newly made incision clearly visible body.

These are just some of the images to have reportedly been shared to social media by Russian nurses in recent years, all of whom are believed to have escaped the scandals without losing their jobs.

The latest case to make headlines is that of Anna Kim, an employee at Sakhalin Regional Hospital, in Russia’s east, who according to The Sun, is under investigation for sharing images online mocking her sick and elderly patients, and boasting about how she and her colleagues would “tie them to beds” when they “go out of their minds”.

She also alleged that doctors are selective in helping patients. “If they don’t want to help, you are doomed. They don’t give a ****,” Kim said, according to The Sun.

Australia’s healthcare sector has experienced social media scandals of its own. In December, a Western Australian nurse was stood down from a public hospital after posting a racist, expletive-laden rant on a Broome community Facebook page.

Responding to reports of children breaking into local homes, nurse Kevin Naughton wrote, according to ABC, “Just f***ing bash them within an inch of their useless, worthless lives, they are nothing more than rats or cockroaches.

“F*** this do-gooder shit, let’s f*** these little c***s up, we’ve got bull-bars for a reason.”

Naughton was dismissed by the WA Country Health Service, and later publicly apologised for his “disgusting and completely inappropriate comments”.

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While social media can serve as a useful source of information and activism for healthcare workers, its appropriate use is strictly defined by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Established in 2014, the NMBA’s social media policy was created in order to help registered practitioners understand their obligations when posting online.

“Whether an online activity is able to be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health professionals need to maintain professional standards and be aware of the implications of their actions, as in all professional circumstances,” the policy reads. “Health professionals need to be aware that information circulated on social media may end up in the public domain, and remain there, irrespective of the intent at the time of posting.”

It also refers to the Codes of Conduct of each of Australians 14 National Boards, which set standards in relation to patient privacy and confidentiality in their jurisdiction, “For example, posting unauthorised photographs of patients in any medium is a breach of the patient’s privacy and confidentiality, including on a personal Facebook site or group even if the privacy settings are set at the highest setting.”

Breaches of these codes can result in disciplinary action, including termination.