Nurse Accused of Taking Naked Photos of Nursing Home Patients

How would you feel if a nurse took pictures of your mother, father, or grandparents in various states of undress? Learn about the case against a Pennsylvania nurse for doing just this. Nurses Headlines News

Nurse Accused of Taking Naked Photos of Nursing Home Patients

Elder abuse comes in many forms. However, most people believe that patients are safe at the hands of their nurse. This might be why the story out of Pennsylvania feels so jarring. Ashley Ann Smith, a 30-year-old licensed practical nurse, has been accused of taking photos of at least 17 of her elderly nursing home patients. Some of the images show the residents in various states of undress and in need of immediate private care. One video found on her phone showed a patient undergoing a medical procedure while nude. The complaint filed against Smith states, “The images are explicit and private, and some have the sole purpose to humiliate the patients.”

Not only did she take the photos, but she’s also charged with sending 20 pictures to a former co-worker, who also happens to be the father of her child. This man, Ron Whittaker, turned Smith into hospital leadership sometime last week. At this time, Whittaker hasn’t been charged with any crimes.

If all of this isn’t enough to cause outrage, police also found two pictures of a 2-year-old girl on Smith’s phone that have been called Mediaographic. So, along with the 30 crimes of invasion of privacy and abuse of care, she’s also facing child Mediaography charges. Smith was immediately suspended from Kane McKeesport Community Living Center without pay once the photos were discovered. Then, on May 1st, Smith was terminated when local law enforcement notified the long-term care center that the allegations were founded.

In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Lori Rushe, the daughter of one of the alleged victims stated, “You’re taking advantage of people who don’t know their name, where they’re at or anything” about her father, a 90-year-old man with dementia. Lori told the paper that she noted a new sign on the elevator a couple of weeks ago stating that taking unauthorized pictures of residents was prohibited. She went on to say that she wished the staff had told her the seriousness of the allegations.

Understanding Elder Abuse

While this case seems pretty clear that what happened to the residents at Kane McKeesport Community Living Center is abuse, let’s just review the definition. The National Institute of Aging notes that there five types of abuse:

  • Emotional Abuse, also called psychological abuse, happens when a caregiver or other person yells, threatens, or repeatedly ignores an older person.
  • Neglect happens when the older person’s needs aren’t met.
  • Physical abuse occurs when someone causes bodily harm to the person, such as hitting, pushing, or slapping them.
  • Abandonment is when an elderly person is left alone without having their needs or care planned or met.
  • Sexual abuse happens when a caregiver forces an elderly person to be part of any sexual act.

Signs of Abuse

We often think that signs of abuse are only physical and usually visible. However, it’s critical to know that some seniors won’t be able to tell you about the abuse, such as what’s allegedly happened to those at Kane McKeesport. Here are a few things to monitor for if you think there’s been any sort of abuse:

  • Withdrawn
  • Stops taking part in activities they enjoy
  • Has unexplained burns, bruises, or other injuries
  • Has trouble sleeping
  • Seems depressed
  • Weight loss with no explanation
  • Rocks back and forth, or shows other signs of trauma
  • Acts violent or agitated

How Would You Feel?

It’s probably safe to say that if you had a loved one living in this facility, you would be outraged. But, what about if you worked there? Maybe you were even friends with the nurse who’s been charged and didn’t recognize any signs of this heinous crime? How would you feel?

What do you think should happen to Smith? Should she lose her job along with any criminal sentence she receives? Post your comments below. We would love to get your take on the situation.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at

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Specializes in Hospice.

No words. Did no one notice during this "nurse's" education, training and orientation that she lacked the judgement and maturity to ever be allowed anywhere near a patient? Of course, strip her license and send her to jail.

Specializes in ER.

What a weirdo! She needs to serve time.

Specializes in Neuro.

She's earned time away, stripping of license & I'd even argue for the title of felon.

Specializes in Medsurg.

Is this a joke???? You cant be serious ... REALLY?? Wow


What she got out of this, I will never .understand.

She should have never been hired.

Specializes in ICU; Telephone Triage Nurse.

Some people are very disturbed privately and are adept in hiding it for a length of time - it just flies under the radar it until their weird comes exploding out of the closet in full spectrum Technicolor vibrancy. Afterward people wonder how they missed it in the first place, but Dave Mustaine sums it up in a nutshell: "Hindsight is always 20/20".

Shocked that anyone, let alone a nurse, would do something so stupid and just downright evil. It is not uncommon nowadays to see nurses with their phones out at work (even thought it's against company policy) doing whatever. I've caught a few with their phones out in patient's rooms. It makes me wonder what were they doing. I hope this nurse is in jail and should have their license revoked immediately.

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

Complete invasion of privacy and HIPAA violation along with elder abuse. PA license verification documents she received her Practical Nursing license February 2019..... just 3 months ago---what a way to sabotage one's career if proven true in court.

Specializes in Primary Care, Military.

My take on the situation is pure and absolute disgust. Taking advantage of vulnerable adults and, apparently, a young child. I hope charges are filed for the apparent child Mediaography and the abuse of the elderly adults under her care. This is not okay. License should be revoked. Never to be returned. OIG exclusion. This is actual harmful predatory behavior. Do not pass go. Do not collect a new nursing license. Never work in healthcare again. Do get some psychological evaluation and treatment, however.

Specializes in Psychiatry, Community, Nurse Manager, hospice.

Was any attempt made to contact the nurse and ask her what she did and why she did it?

That's responsible journalism.

Specializes in Critical Care.

How absolutely awful. There are times when I feel burned out and dislike my job and feel jaded over the horrid things and behaviors I see, but I always keep in mind that my patients are PEOPLE who deserve care and when the going gets tough, I try to imagine if this person were my brother/mom/grandfather and ask myself how I'd like them to be treated. My grandma was in the hospital recently and can be a little difficult when she's removed from her normal environment and I was SO nervous about leaving her there overnight without family, but I had to relax and trust that the nurses would do their job! And they did a FABULOUS job working with her. How horrible that this person abused the trust that others placed in her to care for their elderly, vulnerable family members. I am so disgusted and sad for the victims and their families.