The Placenta Incident & The Shawshank Redemption

So I ran RNchat last night to open up discussion about The Placenta Incident (click over to read about it).

It’s a movie in the making. Generally speaking, I sometimes wonder if the ghost of Warden Samuel Norton in The Shawshank Redemption still possesses a part of the nursing profession.

Unless the patient related to this story was actually harmed, the story is largely pretty humorous.

And yet dramatic events like these, which garner media attention, displace important issues that get almost none.

I mean: there are so many horrifying things that happen in Healthcare every single day:

  • Someone hangs a bag of Dopamine thinking it’s normal saline and runs it in at 250
  • A bitter, burnt-out nurse curses out a a student for forgetting his pin and the patient in the room behind them falls out of bed and breaks her hip
  • Ralph in Accounting shows the CFO that the hospital can save $250,000 a year by cutting nursing staff and the next year the hospital pays out $2,500,000 in litigation due to nursing burnout

And now we have social media thrown into the mix:

  • Nursing instituions lead by (good) people who don’t know the difference between “a” Twitter and a sparrow are handing out sentences on a generation that uses both everyday without taking the time to find out what it’s all about.
  • The generation that grew up on digital technologies and social media are learning hard lessons about the consequences of a dopey tweet, a weird status update on Facebook and that picture of their sprawled out naked body on the floor of Delta Tau Delta.

It’s so easy to miss what matters most when you’re stuck on what matters least.

That may have been what’s happened here in this story.

I don’t know about you, but I think we’re kinda losing our minds and I think the best option we have of saving ourselves from our own dopery is mindfulness.

Social media may be the most disruptive part of human evolution – ever. It comes, however, with prices: mindfulness may be its biggest.

We really do live in interesting times.

No shortage of material for artists to grip.

Maybe there’s a metaphor for the need of a re-birth of nursing somewhere in that placenta.

Nursing will never be emerge from all of the dopey stereotypes dumped on it over the decades unless it finally puts down to rest all the emotional violence within its own house.



Humor. The laugh is the crowning achievement of evolution. Let’s use it more often – in nursing and everywhere else.




  1. Excellent post Phil – and it was a most interesting chat last night too. I’m not a nurse, so I probably miss why the delighted nursing student sharing her accomplishment and success with friends and family went so awry. What I don’t miss goes to your point of losing focus on what matters most, and instead getting caught up in things that have no real impact in the long run, and in fact, are pretty trivial in comparison to issues like preventing adverse medical events and improving access to care. My fear is that in healthcare we tend to try and regulate or legislate that which we are afraid of or don’t understand and I’m concerned that events like the “placenta incident” will have organizations developing such rigid rules and policies around social media that it will prevent adoption and act as a barrier to innovations that could help us improve the system and improve care. What was called for here was education, both for the instructor and the student. While I’m an advocate of having a social media policy, many of the issues that were raised in this incident were probably already covered in a confidentiality (or HIPAA) policy and either a “code of conduct” or “standards of behavior” guide. What is needed is to update these policies to reflect the current paradigm in which we live today. Technology is rapidly changing around us and if you believe the experts, before long we’ll all be using smartphones and tablets for everything we do — and that includes nurses and doctors. So rather than producing policy after policy to address the ever changing digital work place, we need to bring our current policies into the 21st century. We also need to include, in our on-boarding and curriculum, the education and guidance for what it means to be “a professional”. We also need effective mentoring programs to help younger nurses mature and grow in their role, and more seasoned nurses to adapt to the new tools of the trade. If we can trust our nurses to make the right judgement calls to prevent medical errors and bad outcomes, than surely we can teach them to use their judgement skills in other aspects of their jobs.

    It will be interesting to see what impact this incident has across our industry.

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