My son was born recently at a local healthcare facility. Due to some rather inflexible hospital policies, he was kept for an extended period of observation. Ordinarily this would be merely burdensome and wouldn't constitute a major issue except that the facility, Carilion Clinic New River Valley Medical Center, had implemented extremely Draconian restrictions on visitation. I decided it would be best to get direct clarification on these policies in person and film the exchange for my research. While tensions during the Covid crisis are running understandably high, I could not have anticipated the level of antagonism and disrespect I received from the nurse that met me at the pediatric department. She immediately called security and demanded that I stop filming when I asked if she was denying a 2 year old access to the pediatric unit. Her ignorance of state laws regarding video recording notwithstanding, I politely complied, made no attempt to enter the facility, and waited for my wife.
Due to the confusion I experienced regarding whether I was being banned from the facility and therefore access to my son, I asked my wife to clarify these questions with the nurse. It was during this conversation between my wife, mother-in-law, and the RN that the situation took a particularly dark turn.
The nurse claimed that I was "not a journalist", that I was "on a racist podcast", reiterated that I was "not a journalist", and denigrated me to my wife while demanding that I delete my initial video. Keep in mind she's doing this to a woman who just gave birth a few days prior.
My wife felt immediately terrified that she would be victimized by retaliation from this nurse and/or nursing staff.
Her fears were apparently justified, because the next nurse on shift interrogated her about me, my employment, and my relation to another family visitor, while making obvious references to the previous incident.
As a husband with family in Carilion's facility, I was naturally horrified and gravely concerned about my newborn son and wife, but the ramifications for the public interest struck me as equally dire: In 2020, you are subject to investigation by nursing staff via internet searches. In this dangerous social environment in which citizens have been executed in the street for their political views, "healthcare providers" are now in the habit of scrutinizing medical records for names to type into Google.
We pay doctors and nurses to treat patients, not to perform politically motivated investigations of their personal lives.
I contacted the Unit Director, Lia M Boggs for comment, with no response. Based on my research the behavior of the nurse in question may be in direct violation of Carilion Clinic's Code of Conduct and their Access & Confidentiality Agreement. Accessing a patient chart for emergency contact info to identify a spouse or interrogating other nursing staff for the name of someone's husband is certainly not a necessary component of patient care or in concordance with Carilion's "need to know" standards.
Many concerned community members have come forward to express their fear and reluctance to use Carilion Clinic based on this exchange. I cannot understate the level of power that healthcare providers and facilities wield over patients, or how dangerous it is for this power to become political. Are you going to get retaliation from an ER nurse because you were in a car accident while wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt? What if you're related to someone doxxed by Christian Exoo as a member of a "far-right extremist group"? Are you now potentially going to be victimized by a political activist wearing scrubs simply because of what your sister or husband does in their free time? Research shows that political bias does indeed impact patient care decisions, and with increasing polarization this will only get worse over time. If you're white, you're already an unofficial member of a suspect class, subject to institutional bias and denied any advocacy, so keep in mind that there are no policies in existence designed to protect you from racially motivated malpractice.
We now live in a world where you cannot assume neutrality even from a basic, supposedly noble profession like healthcare.