We often wonder how it comes to pass that so many nurses and midwives end up being anti-vaccine activists. How does someone who goes through a whole university course of evidence-based learning end up rejecting the evidence behind immunisation? It boggles the mind, it does.
On November 16 2015 the 7 News Queensland Facebook page posted a whooping cough health alert:
HEALTH WARNING: A Whopping Cough alert has been issued for Brisbane.
DETAILS: The Metro South Public Health Unit has warned of an increased number of whooping cough (Pertussis) cases recently diagnosed in the greater Brisbane area, with a number of babies afflicted with the disease.
The following vaccinations are recommended:
– The standard childhood immunisation program (started from 6 weeks of age) including the four year old booster dose, followed by a Year 8 booster as part of the School Immunisation Program
– An additional vaccination at 18 months to boost immunity
– All pregnant women at 28 weeks of each pregnancy, provided free of charge
– A booster for those close to infants or young children if it has been 10 years since last receiving a dose.
It’s important to see your GP early if there were concerns about a family member having whooping cough.
For more information, contact 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or visit: http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/14/33/150/Whooping-Cough-Pertussis
Good stuff, you would think. The public needs to know about whooping cough outbreaks. Only in the last couple of days we have seen two separate stories, including confronting videos, regarding babies who are suffering from the hideous disease. The two mums who recorded the videos – Rebecca Harreman and Jade Lewis – deserve our thanks for capturing just how awful this disease can be. They are wonderful public health advocates. They are the sort of public health advocates you would hope all evidence-based health practitioners would aspire to be.
Well. Not quite.
On that 7 News Brisbane Facebook thread we find these rabid anti-vaccination comments:
Christine Palmer Unvaccinated children do not cause childhood illnesses.
Christine Palmer I am an educated health professional who has read far more widely than you could imagine. Do the reading yourself before you accuse others of ignorance.
Christine Palmer I have done everything for my child Melissa. My beautiful 22 year old daughter has never been vaccinated and is rarely sick. Vaccinations are not just harmful for a range of reasons, they are insidious in their impact on natural immunity. We have been taught that germs and illness are to be avoided but they’re extremely important to the strengthening of our immune systems. A recent study even revealed that people who hand wash their dishes have stronger immunity than people who use dishwashers. That was scientific research …
Okay. We’re intrigued. Christine Palmer claims to be an “educated health professional who has read far more widely than you could imagine.” Luckily we can find out immediately what she is talking about. This is what happens when you hover over her name:
A “Lecturer in Nursing at Flinders University”. Palmer’s about page tells us more:
Lecturer in Nursing · Adelaide, South Australia
Have returned to teaching and research in mental health nursing. I provide Clinical Supervision for other mental health nurses and teach Clinical Supervision too.
Queensland University of Technology
Diploma of Applied Science – Nursing Education · Master of Nursing · Bachelor of Nursing ·Brisbane, Australia
University of South Australia
PhD · Adelaide, South Australia
You read that correctly. “PhD.” Dr Christine Palmer is a lecturer in mental health nursing at Flinders University. She is the course coordinator, no less:
I joined the School of Nursing and Midwifery 16th June 2014. I moved to Adelaide from Brisbane where, for the past 6.5 years I worked as a credentialed mental health nurse in private practice. This work was collaborative with General Practitioners and Psychiatrists and also autonomous in the provision of mental health care to people in the primary care setting, largely within their homes.
In the past I have held academic positions with the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and with Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. I am passionate about mental health nursing as a specialty and also as a necessary skill for undergraduate nursing students in all areas of practice.
Credentialed Mental Health Nurse; DipAppSc-NEd; BAppSc-Nursing; MNursing; PhD
Co-ordinator for NURS9539 Mental Health Nursing Practice I and NURS9533 Primary Health Care for Mental Health.
I will also be involved in the teaching of NURS1007 Dimensions of Physical and Mental Health.
Oh boy. I’ve got nothing. Except this:
Please read this information. This is an excellent summary of the facts.
Update November 18 2015
Some hours after this blog post was published, Flinders University commented in the comments section under this post; on Twitter, and on the 7 News Brisbane Facebook thread in question.
Comments under this blog post:
7 News Brisbane Facebook thread:
Christine Palmer Just by the way, my well informed views on vaccination are my own and not the views of my employer. As an academic I have the right to express my views in a public forum as a private citizen 🙂
Flinders University All Flinders staff have the right to advise their view publicly on any matters of public interest provided it is clear they do so in their capacity as private citizens. Where this is not clear, staff are asked to ensure that any ambiguity is removed by emphasizing that comments are made in their private capacity. Flinders University is committed to evidence-based teaching. The University expects its lecturers to adhere to the endorsed curriculum which is based on accepted scientific standards. The University is confident that this expectation is being fulfilled in its Nursing program.
We can see that Christine Palmer doubles-down on her anti-vaccine claims, and shows absolutely no contrition for them. The reader can see that Palmer’s Facebook profile still shows her Flinders University affiliations, even after the Flinders University places its disclaimer underneath her comments:
Palmer then refers to her academic position whilst making a Big Pharma Gambit:
Christine Palmer I have assignments to mark. I suggest you do some reading yourself … beyond the research funded by pharmaceutical companies.
Shared on flinders Facebook page
All Flinders staff have the right to advise their view publicly on any matters of public interest provided it is clear they do so in their capacity as private citizens. Where this is not clear, staff are asked to ensure that any ambiguity is removed by emphasizing that comments are made in their private capacity. Flinders University is committed to evidence-based teaching. The University expects its lecturers to adhere to the endorsed curriculum which is based on accepted scientific standards. The University is confident that this expectation is being fulfilled in its Nursing program.
Thanks for your prompt response. I’m almost certain that when you questioned Dr Palmer about her provision of extracurricular anti-vaccine and anti-fluoride information she would have assured you that she has never passed on these views to any student, in any capacity. Ever.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Flinders asked her to undergo some retraining, or to stump up some quality evidence to substantiate her delusional claims about immunisation and water fluoridation. We are not only talking about individual “views” here, are we. We are talking about a mainstay of public health, being derided by one of your senior lecturers in nursing. Palmer mocks you.
She publicly states her affiliation with the university when she trumpets her anti-vaccination nonsense, which does negatively impact the reputation of the university.
Frankly, I would have to consider anyone graduating from any class she taught suspect.
She is not posting anti-public health information as a private citizen, but as a *clearly stated* Lecturer in Nursing at Flinders. When I have posted PRO-vax material of Facebook, my employer requested I delete any reference to my workplace, so that it would be clear the views expressed were my own – even though they stated they AGREED with my position. Will you not require Ms Palmer to do the same? Or do you endorse her antivax/antifluoride views? God knows what she has told her psych patients in the past – antivax/antifluoride proponents are almost exclusively virulent and vocal in their condemnation of psychotropic drugs,or indeed any products of “Big Pharma”. Rein her in, Flinders, even if you won’t sack her.
Academic freedom is an important principle and worth defending. At its core it means university staff are free to argue for their personal opinions without fear of censure from their employer. In my experience lots of uni lecturers are barmy – its the price we pay to ensure that arguments are settled on their merits not on who has the backing of the high ups.
Let’s be honest, it’s not like she is going to admit it. Maybe talk to some past students.
I am going to be blunt, Flinders University – not good enough.
I will be speaking to the SA health department first thing in the morning and reporting this. I will be recommending to them that they instruct you to dismiss Ms Palmer from her position forthwith due to the serious breach of confidence in your university teaching – no matter what you claim otherwise. Otherwise I will be recommending that the SA government snip your funding right where it hurts.
I wonder what AHPRA would say about this?
She made it non-personal when she stated she was a health professional.
It begs the question – what other mainstream public health issues does she disagrees with? Flinders needs to be sure she is not posing a risk to public health in her role as a lecturer. It’s bad enough that a seemingly well qualified health professional is able to be mislead by anti-vax tripe.
This is especially true, as with the anti-fluoride nonsense ignores the fact that trace fluorides are present in many natural water supplies and no harm has come of them.
I note she is senior lecturer and curriculum designer in the mental health courses – I would be seriously concerned about what she would be teaching these students about Mental Health treatment options.
Exactly. No university will publicly admit to reviewing their faculty, but if I was an admin there I’d be very closely scrutinizing her courses to ensure every aspect of them is evidence-based.
Maybe we are finally going to see some decent research that finally reveals that all mental health issues are related to fluoride in the water supply and vaccination!!!! After all, I assume that Ms Palmer’s parents were kind enough to vaccinate her, and that she has had her fair intake of fluoride. 🙂
To the anonymous commenter who used a fresh gmail address to provide a glowing testimonial for Christine Palmer, I will moderate your comment through when you use your real name and email address. This occasion demands transparency from the University, and from Palmer’s supporters.
Meanwhile on the Flinders Uni Facebook page, here comes Courtney Hebberman with more “Anti Hank”. Look under Victoria Heale’s comment to the page.
This is embarrassing. I got my Nursing Degree there at Flinders and with my Degree in Psychology I was going to go into Mental Health Nursing. This quack is now going to have my Degree called into question.
I kind of feel sorry for Flinders, Imagine the process of finding the right person for what are positions of huge responsibility, only to find that said person has developed what could actually be a case study for the psychology course she is delivering!?
On the one hand of course university lecturers must have the freedom to have there own opinions and freedom of expression outside of the university – however there has to be limits!
And ultimately I feel sorry for Christine Palmer. Christine Just how sure do you feel about the views you are expressing? are you sure enough to risk your entire career? of course if you are actually right then I would say it is worth it. On the other hand is it not possible you may have become whipped up in the conspiratorial rhetoric? in that case it would be a real shame to your carrier and the establishment that has put so much faith in you.
I have relayed my concerns to the Executive of the ACMHN (Australian College of Mental Health Nurses) the professional body representing all mental health nurses in Australia requesting that they issue a statement in order to defend our ethical and professional credibility from this snake oil saleswoman.
I’m told that Palmer has finally taken her credentials off the public domain on her account on Facebook.
As an (off campus) student in both of Christine Palmer’s abovementioned 2015 courses in Mental Health Nursing I can say two things with certainty.
1) I am shocked, embarrassed and dismayed that an academic institution would not immediately seek to remove to remove this staff member from their midst if they wish not for their student cohort to be associated with this individual.
2) There were no links I personally found between the course and associated materials designed by Christine Palmer and completed by myself and other students regarding her (quite frankly disturbing) anti-vax/fluoride views.
This being said, the actions of the university and Christine as a “health professional” are extremely disappointing. It is frightening to think that a whole group of students who have spent significant time and effort (not to mention the addition to already substantial HECS debts) may now have their knowledge and professionalism questioned.
This is outrageous! Thanks for bringing it to our attention reasonablehank and that something is done about it.
Great news! On May 20, 2016, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia decided that her conduct was unprofessional and took action. What it was I don’t know, but action was taken. Excellent news in my email from the AHPRA!
Thanks for the update!