Professionalism (NSGD 4006)

For this week’s blog post, I will be deconstructing the case and situation surrounding Doyle Byrnes, a nursing student who in 2010 was removed from her undergraduate program after taking a picture with a human placenta and posting it to Facebook.

Doyle Byrnes was examining and dissecting a human placenta with several classmates. The young ladies asked their clinical instructor if they could take photos of the placenta, and they explicitly said that they wanted to post on Facebook to show their friends and families. The clinical instructor gave permission, on the condition that no patient identifiers could be seen. Byrnes, as well as 3 other classmates, took pictures with the placenta and posted to Facebook. The following day, all 4 students were reprimanded by the Director of Nursing at their school, and dismissed from their program. Ultimately, this case went to court, with a judge ruling that while in violation of the school’s policy on professionalism, patient confidentiality was not compromised, and all 4 students were permitted to return to their program.

The way I see this scenario is two-fold.

On one hand,
Doyle Byrnes and classmates did not violate patient confidentiality.
Confidentiality is defined as being kept private or secret (, 2019). As no factors existed in which the patient could be identified, it stands to reason that Byrnes and colleagues did not compromise the confidentiality of said patient, and I believe that the judge ruled rightly in this regard.


On the other hand,
Doyle Byrnes and classmates absolutely, without a doubt, destroyed any semblance of professionalism that any of them once had by taking pictures and posting them to Facebook.
The College of Nurses of Ontario Code of Conduct Practice Standard (2019) outlines the accountabilities that all Ontario nurses have to the public. Of the 6 principles, one stands out as fitting this case in particular. The sixth principle states that nurses have a duty to maintain public confidence in the nursing profession (2019). That is to say that individual nurses must conduct themselves in a manner which promotes the public to trust the profession as a whole. By engaging in this act, all 4 students jeoparized the public’s trust in the profession. There can be countless patients who’s confidence in nurses to provide confidential and ethical care may have been irreparably damaged; the numbers are impossible to know.
Further to this point, these students not only let down the public, but the profession itself. The College of Nurses of Ontario Ethics Practice Standard (2019) addresses the commitment of each nurse to the nursing profession. Upholding the standards for the nursing profession and acting in a way that reflects well on the profession are at the core of this ethical value (CNO, 2019). Indeed, these 4 students let down the profession.

As a nursing student, with all the excitement and discovery that happens on an almost-daily basis, it is understandable to want to share these experiences with those close to you. However, as professionals of privilege, nurses and students alike must ensure that their actions can in no way damage their credibility or the public’s view of the profession. It is unfortunate that these young ladies failed to see this, and that their instructor did not guide them accordingly.

Code of Conduct. (2019). The College of Nurses of Ontario. Retrieved from
Confidentiality. (2019). Merriam-Webster, Inc. Retrieved from
Ethics. (2019). The College of Nurses of Ontario. Retrieved from

3 thoughts on “Professionalism (NSGD 4006)

  1. Hello Myrissa
    Great Blog. I found your blog interesting as you approach the scenario from two points of view. I agree with your blog that the judge made the right decision. Although Doyle Brynes should not have taken the picture and posted it on Facebook, I believe the professor did not guide the students well. According to the standards, the educator (school) should ensure appropriate supervision of students and ensuring that nursing students receive appropriate education, support, and supervision when acquiring new knowledge and skills (Colleges of Nurses of Ontario [CNO], 2018). At that moment when Doyle asks the professor, she should have stated no, and possibly provide them with information about patient information, use of social media and even point them in the direction of reading the information on posting images on social media. Instead, she gave them permission, which had a negative impact. Doyle Brynes reputation is shattered, and she has to live with that mistake for the rest of her life.


    College of Nurse of Ontario. (2018). Professional Standards, Revised. Retrieved from

    Thanks for sharing


  2. Hi Myrissa, loved your blog this week. I find that keeping our professional and personal life can sometimes be a challenge to some people. I found a great video which includes information on how to interact on social media as professionals. Feel free to check it out !


    Sketch Medi. (2016, March 26). Social Media: A Guide For Health Care Students in 4 Easy Steps!!! [Video file]. Retrieved from


  3. Hi Myrissa

    Your post was very informative and well researched. I think it is fantastic that you looked at this case from both perspectives. I do agree with all the stated facts but I have to say I personally disagree with the judge’s ruling. It is a hard lesson to learn but I feel that the public’s view of the nursing profession is already jeopardized, even more so with the recent comments made by state senator Walsh that “nurse’s play cards all day”. As we try to push for your profession to be just that and be viewed as professionals by everyone we can not be portraying ourselves in this manner. Sadly someone needs to be made an example of for nurses to recognize the boundaries that need to exist when using social media. No these students did not breech patient privacy they most definitely portrayed nursing in a negative light and as you stated lost every bit of professionalism and credibility they could have if they would not have made the decision they did. I also feel that the clinical instructor should have received some sort of discipline as well as it is her responsibility to guide these student nurses to make the right decisions when it comes to their future careers and remind them to always act in a responsible professional manner. I am sure this particular young lady and her group friends will never make the same mistake again, however the upcoming generation of nurses just might knowing it will be thrown out in court if it ever gets to that point. Very thought provoking post.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s