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Social Media and COVID-19: Oregon Nurse on TikTok Ashley Grames Fired After Posting Video


The social media app TikTok has exploded in popularity in recent years. Professionals across all different kinds of industries often take to the app to show off their dancing or lip-syncing skills. With so many people hanging out at home, the app has only grown more popular in recent months. In the age of COVID-19, nurses and other essential workers are gaining a lot of attention on the platform as they get their colleagues together for a dance-off or a heartfelt message to the community.

However, using social media on the job to discuss personnel decisions, especially during a pandemic, can be a recipe for disaster, especially if you and your colleagues aren’t following the rules.

That was the case for Ashley Grames, an oncology nurse employed with Salem Health in Marion County, Oregon. She posted a video of herself wearing scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck in the staff break room as she lip-synced to “The Grinch.” 

The caption on the bottom of the video reads, “When my coworkers find out I still travel, don’t wear a mask when I am out, and let my kids have playdates.”

As you might imagine, the post quickly went viral. Soon after, the hospital confirmed that disciplinary action was taken against Grames and she was no longer working there. So, what can we learn from this situation?

Caught in the Act

The video was uploaded to TikTok on November 27th. Grames was then put on administrative leave shortly after. The hospital responded to the post in a statement on Facebook, writing, “[The video] displayed cavalier disregard for the seriousness of this pandemic and her indifference towards physical distancing and masking outside of work.”

Clearly, oncology nurse Grames was in violation of the state’s coronavirus safety guidelines. Oregon recently was on lockdown after experiencing one of the state’s biggest surges of new cases of the year. Marion County, where Salem Health is based, has had some of the highest numbers of cases in the state.

Staff members employed with Salem Health have been feeling the pressure on all sides as their colleagues are forced to quarantine after potential exposure to the virus. According to the Network, there are currently 47 staff members in quarantine, and 176 employees out of approximately 5,200 have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Trend of TikToking at Work

The social media app and its 500 million users seem to have a thing for professionals dancing and goofing off at work. Log on to the app and you’ll see dozens of nurses, cops, baristas, cooks, painters, and other kinds of workers doing strange things on the job. From a distance, these videos seem to exist in a world in which supervisors aren’t around and the traditional rules don’t apply.

As Elizabeth C. Tippett, professor of law at Washington University writes, “Even the most innocuous videos likely violate standard corporate social media policies, which tend to require a strict separation between the corporate brand and one’s personal life.”

You may get hundreds, if not thousands, of “likes” every time you post a video of you at work, but it’s important to remember that these photos and videos often say more about your place of work than you as an individual, which could bring you disciplinary action down the line.

TikToking at work has also evolved into a form of free marketing for companies looking to recruit the next generation of workers. Even though interest in nursing has skyrocketed during the pandemic, the U.S. is still in the middle of a nursing shortage. 

All those videos you’ve been uploading online could be used to convince aspiring nurses to join the team.

As professor Tippett writes:

“It’s free promotion for the employer, as recruiting and marketing companies have pointed out. Even before the COVID-19 era, these types of jobs could be difficult, dangerous, boring, or low paid. Videos that present an alternate narrative, from the workers’ perspectives – showing them looking cool or being silly – can’t really be replicated in formal marketing.”

It’s also incredibly easy for your employer to take out their phone and see what you’ve been doing online, especially if something happens on company property. The case of Ashley Grames is a reminder that we all need to be careful when uploading images of ourselves at work.

Nurses are rightly getting the attention they deserve online, but going viral has its pros and cons. Use your judgement when uploading images of you at work online. We can’t afford to lose any more providers as the pandemic rages on.

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