The Nursing and Midwifery Council of United Kingdom has issued a warning on health workers specifically nurses and midwives to be extra careful when using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The advisory was issued because the regulator is increasingly receiving enquiries about online conduct and improper use of Facebook in particular, which have already lead to a number of nurses and midwives being investigated and even struck off.
It comes after a community psychiatric nurse was struck off for “conducting an inappropriate relationship with a former patient”. He had contacted the woman on Facebook two weeks after meeting her in the course of his work, but then “blocked” contact with her after they had a sexual relationship.
According to Prof Dickon Weir-Hughes, chief executive of the NMC, “The Nursing and Midwifery Council is committed to public protection and ensuring nurses and midwives make the welfare of those in their care their first priority at all times.
“I would advise nurses and midwives to exercise caution when using social networking sites. They could risk their registration if they share sensitive information, make inappropriate comments, or befriend patients online.”
The Nursing and Midwifery Council estimates that 355,000 of its 660,000 registered nurses and midwives use Facebook.
10 Tips for Responsible Social Media Use
The NMC advice on social networking includes the following suggestions:
- Never put confidential or sensitive information on social networking sites, especially if it identifies patients.
- Whether or not you identify your work role online, be aware that all your activity online can reflect on your professional life.
- Don’t accept friend requests from patients, or use social networks to build or pursue relationships with patients or clients, even if they are no longer in your care.
- Do not post pictures that have patients in them.
- Keep personal and professional social networking as separate as possible.
- Consider everything you post as public, even in ‘private’ Facebook discussions.
- Social networking sites should not be used for whistle-blowing or raising concerns – instead follow the NMC’s guidance on raising and escalating concerns.
- Don’t discuss work online, and especially avoid talking about patients or colleagues.
- Don’t simply accept the preset privacy and sharing settings on Facebook, think carefully about what you want to share with different kinds of friends.
- Remember you can take action if you find you are the target of abuse; there are options available for blocking people from interacting with you.