Company Policies vs The Public

Glenwood Gardens. Image courtesy of KPIX and CBS. Above Promotions Company. Tampa, FL 2013.
Glenwood Gardens. Image courtesy of KPIX and CBS. Above Promotions Company. Tampa, FL 2013.

On Sunday morning I watched the TODAY Show share a story that went national and outraged many. A story that disturbed the public and one that made me wonder, even as a publicist who studies and practices crisis communications techniques, is there a right way to discuss a company’s policy once it is facing the public? Can the brand survive the public’s feelings?

Here’s the story.

Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old resident of Glenwood Gardens, an independent living facility in Bakersfield, California that is owned by Brookdale Living, died after a nurse refused to conduct CPR on the patient. Now we will never know if CPR would have saved Ms. Bayless, however, the outright refusal of a nurse during a 911 call does not settle well with the public. In spite the operator begging the nurse to help the 87-year-old woman by administering CPR, the nurse would not do so nor, allow anyone else in the facility to attempt the life saving technique. Here it is, someone who is thought to help maintain and preserve life, not doing what their job typically entails.

According to the nurse during the call, it is against Brookdale Living’s policy to perform CPR. In fact they released a statement providing condolences to the family, but said its “practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives.”

This isn’t something you would expect a facility to say since they employ health professionals, however, after some reading online on other homes, this isn’t an anomaly and perhaps if you have family members in a home, you should learn their policy prior to them taking residence there.

Nonetheless, the twist of the story is that Bayless’ daughter is a nurse and is satisfied with her mother’s treatment. However, the public is not and has taken to the internet to voice their thoughts on the topic.

The public court is loud and fickle. Mistakes in personal or business judgment seem to roll off much easier than policies going against the preservation of life or happiness. Think about PG&E and Chromium VI (the case that made Erin Brockovich famous) and their practices that led to people getting sick. Or what about something as simple Yahoo’s announcement of no more employees working from home. The public has a way of wanting to help others decide how to run a business.

So what does a business owner do when they’re faced with a potential loss of business over their own internal processes? In most cases you’ll find the business, like this one did, say they will carefully review what happened to find out if things were conducted properly. That’s in the basic pr toolbox. With the use of the internet, that excuse only holds for a short period of time. Businesses must be prepared to show why their policies benefit their customers or be prepared to change their services or practices.

It will be interesting to see how Brookdale Living recovers from this death and news story. With facilities across the U.S. they will need to do some extensive crisis communication steps to recover with minimal loss to revenue.

What do you think? How should Brookdale move forward?

Please comment below with your thoughts. They may be used for future articles.


Above Promotions is a full service publicity, marketing and promotions company, founded with the purpose to serve an array of clients that are looking to expand their presence in the marketplace. From a local to international market, Above Promotions Company can provide the exposure that goes above your expectations. Visit today.


Ebony T. Grimsley is the Creative Director and Owner of Above Promotions Company. She is also the recent author of “Because You’re Small: Effective Marketing Strategies for Immediate Implementation.” To find out more information on the book, please visit or purchase online at Amazon, Booktango and other online bookstores.



6 thoughts on “Company Policies vs The Public

  1. Wow, this is a tough call. Of course my first reaction is first and foremost save a life but not everything is as simple as a media headline.
    So many circumstances to consider…I guess the big question that comes to my mind is why an employee is instructed to call 911 rather than to help in dire need.
    If in fact this is a stringent policy, the employee was acting in the only way they should therefore the fault is with the policy and not the employee…but the media makes the nurse sound as “cold as ice” and then some.
    Then I think, “would I just stand by and watch someone die regardless of policy?” The answer to that question would be no.
    I hope there are so truly thoughtful considerations to the policies at Brookdale Facilities and again, I hope that media starts practicing solid journalism instead of media sensationalism.
    At any rate, May Lorraine Bayless rest in peace and I hope she was not aware of the acute act as she was passing.
    Brenda Ellison

  2. Policies are put into place to typically protect the consumer, ocassionally the employees, but always the company. There are a number of reasons to not perform CPR, but there is one big reason under what many look at as a simple desire to preserve life that should be considered.

    The nurse’s responses were unemotional as compared to the 911-operator. This perhaps fused the feelings of wrong doing to many that listened to it. To even flip the whole story around, one would wonder how long should an operator attempt to convince someone to do the right thing before moving on to the next caller who is in need of help for themselves or another.

    There is probably no right response to an existing policy for the nursing home. However, considering the number of facilities they oversee nationwide, the least they can do is to create a big campaign to show how the facility/corporate office cares for its patients and life and death emergencies rarely occur.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. You provided some great thoughts to consider from all angles.

  3. Interesting. Crisis communication seems like the toughest part of PR. I’d say release a written statement describing the contract which the nurses are under as well as maybe a quote of the daughter saying she believe the nursing facility did what they were supposed to and was happy with the care they provided to her mother while she lived there. Either way its a tough situation.

  4. It is the toughest part of the public relations profession. They seemed to have explained their policy and gotten the daughter to publicly admit to being satisfied with the service provided. Their next steps are crucial.

    As you mentioned, it’s a tough situation.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

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