Friday, February 12, 2010


I recently bought a new camera and I’m becoming a little obsessed with photographing anything that catches my eye. Granted, I have no talent (yet) but I do know when NOT to start snapping away like a lunatic tripping on crack laced short bread cookies. For example, I would not start taking pictures if I had signed myself into an ER to be seen by a doctor. It’s bad enough when I’m trying to compete with cell phones but when patients become irate and start taking pictures of ‘lazy nurses’ and empty stretchers with their camera phones to prove that their care is being purposely delayed, well, that just makes me angry. Recently, I’ve had to tell a patient to stop taking pictures of patients occupying stretchers because it’s obviously disrespectful and violates confidentiality. After all who wants to be photographed by a stranger while ill? He didn’t seem to think that I had a point and retorted that he was going to share his pictures with the local news channel to highlight how badly he was being treated. Sasha, the Russian ex-prison guard current bad-ass security guard was called to assist. The formerly irate and now thoroughly petrified patient promptly handed over his cell phone to him and watched while the pictures were deleted. The phone was returned after the patient was discharged and was walking out the door. Yet another unhappy customer tried to take pictures of a few nurses and doctors at the nursing station because we were far too ‘social’, meaning we weren’t paying attention to her demands for more ice chips. She accused us of being lazy good-for-nothings who were ignoring patients to chat about weekend plans and demanded to know exactly what we were talking about. What didn’t cross her mind was that the lazy nurses and good-for-nothing doctors could actually have been trying to sort through a very complicated social and medical history of a fairly sick patient and she was not privy to that information. Again, Sasha had to step in.

When I wrote my last post, I was furious that people could be so vicious for not experiencing instant gratification. Today, I’m just annoyed. I really do sympathize with patients who are getting frustrated at having to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and then wait some more. It sucks. I get it. I try my best to keep my patients updated on a regular basis and explain how care is managed in an emergency department. However, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that some people actually think it’s acceptable to take pictures of staff and patients and demanding information that they have no right to possess to bully their way into getting the attention that they feel is owed to them. A picture maybe worth a thousand words, but without context and perspective those words can be incredibly harmful. There is a reason that confidentiality has to be respected and it’s not only to destroy entitled morons’ dreams of becoming the next big name in photojournalism.


Doctor D said...

Someone well enough to wander around the ER taking candid photos is well enough to be at the bottom of the triage priority list.

As I often tell patients, "Your ability to misbehave proves you are not as sick as the people ahead of you in line. Enjoy your wait and be glad you aren't my first priority."

Maha, you should post some of your (out of the ER) photography.

Mark p.s.2 said...

The person snapping photos is angry THEY themselves/loved one are not being cared for( too much ego). Snapping photos is relatively harmless-as what can they show thats wrong?, and may help the angry-impatient person calm down, as it gives them the illusion they have proof of wrong doing.
You are correctly insulted by the accusation of wrong doing (photos being taken) when you are giving/performing aid, but remember you are asking patients(noun) to BE patient(verb). The world does not have much patience today. People going for A to B must drive as fast as possible on the road, take the fasted route. In the checkout line, they must get through as fast as possible. Instant money at the ATM. Etc. People don't know how to wait anymore in this instant gratification world.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I've had people take my picture as soon as I walk into a hospital room. I make them delete them.

Michael Guzzo said...

Wow, you make a good point here. This is the first I've heard of such craziness. I'm not sure how I'd handle it if that type of behavior becomes prevalent. I wonder if it'll get bad enough to where policies against such behavior will have to be instituted?

Not Nurse Ratched said...

I think it's bizarre how more and more patients are having their friends take pictures of their hideous injuries so they can post them to Facebook before we fix the dislocation/laceration/whatever. They ask US to take pictures of the injuries. Weird. I'd be like "ARGH. JUST FIX IT. I DON'T WANT TO SEE."

Old MD Girl said...

I had a patient in the trauma bay who wanted us to take a picture of his horrific open and displaced tib-fib fracture. He wanted to be able to show his friends later.

StorytellERdoc said...

Thankfully, that trend has not yet caught on in our ER. I hope it never does! Although, at the gym I work out, candid pictures with the cell phone were a problem, recently. Can you imagine?

little d, S.N. said...

Mark, taking other people's photos without their consent is a violation of patient privacy. If this idiot is taking photos of other PATIENTS, this is especially bad, because they might have a very good reason NOT to want other people knowing why/if/when they sought emergency care- for example, a woman beaten by her husband might be HIDING. Just a thought.

ERP said...

You should take a picture of the patient's nasty dripping urethra and told him you were going to post it on your blog with his wife's name attached. I bet he would have stopped and deleted his photos without resorting to a near-ass whupping.

midwest woman said...

off post but let's see some pix!! google Andy will either make you want to crawl under a rock or inspire you...he is incredible!!!!!

Maha said...

Doctor D - When I have seen pictures being taken, its usually by family members of the person who has signed in to emergency. It sucks having to call security on family members but by taking pictures they're asking for it. And I will post up some experimental pictures as soon as I have my next set of days off. Remember though, I'm a newbie!

Mark - I agree. Most people have no patience but that doesn't mean I'm going to drop everything else to make their wait times shorter.

Dr. Grumpy - I've had to repress the urge to grab the phone/camera out of their hands and stomp on it repeatedly.

Micheal - I really hope that the incidences I witnessed were the rare exceptions. I don't want to have to ask patients to put away all electronic devices prior to assessing them.

Not Nurse Ratched and Old MD Girl - I usually have no problems with taking pictures at the patient's request, no matter how gory the injury is. But I'm not going to take them at the expense of doing more important things. I've had plenty of patients ask me for copies of their x-rays/ct scans for facebook. I guess it's their info so they are free to do whatever they want with it. I still wouldn't be posting pictures up of any gory injuries I may get.

StoryTellERdoc - I'm also hoping that stopping people from taking pictures does not become a daily part of my job. And cellphone cameras in the gym? Just wrong.

Little d - Excellent point! It's just a shame people don't stop to think about things before whipping out their phones! Just because something is available doesn't mean it has to be used right away!

ERP - Next time that happens, I'll use that threat! Public relations skills be damned!

Midwest woman - I'll post some pics up, I promise! Some potential candidates are in post-processing. My cat got tired of having me chase him around and flashing bright lights at him when he was sleeping so I had to find new subjects! Andy Goldsworthy is my next google project. Thanks for the heads up!

RehabNurse said...


I have had patient's request pics of their pressure sores on one occasion. Our wound nurse took some and showed them the ones for the record. No photos were take on their phone.

In my current job, we have had to remind people not to take pictures d/t the confidentiality issue. One guy wanted pics of nurses, which is also creepy.

And the fact that the rules state they are forbidden on the property....but keep them from doing it...another story.

Halie said...

You've brought up a very interesting point and you are the first blog I've read who posts about this. It'll be interesting to see if this grows into a nation epidemic. Hope not but if it does maybe we can start a campaign with Oprah to make hospitals a "No Phone/Camera Zone."