Social media used to be viewed with great suspicion by healthcare employers and many networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were outright banned. However, there has been a dramatic turnaround in the last decade. Most organisations now have a permissive approach to social media and nurses are using it to support their learning and share best practice.
Social media is now such a major part of our lives that it can be easy to forget the risks involved. Several high-profile cases of nurses misusing social media and being struck off by the NMC have surfaced during the pandemic, and these should remind us all to take care in what we share online.
The NMC have published specific guidance on the use of social media. Below are MSI’s top tips to consider when using social media.
How to use social media and stay within the NMC code
Separate your personal and professional profiles
It is easier to manage staying professional online if you use different profiles for different audiences and keep your contacts and discussions separate. For example, you could keep Facebook or Instagram for friends and family and use LinkedIn for professional relationships. If in doubt, don’t add your profession or place of work to any “personal” social media networks.
Don’t post selfies from work
Do not post pictures of yourself in uniform or in a clinical environment on social media. This is probably against your employer’s code of conduct, but could also reveal exactly where you work to unwanted online viewers.
Don’t post any information about your patients
This is probably the most important point, as one of the key areas of the NMC code is respecting people’s right to confidentiality. So do not share any information, videos or photos of patients, even if they can’t be identified or if they have asked you to do so.
Don’t connect with your patients on social media
Do not accept or send any friend requests from or to patients and service users, including former ones.
Do not discuss work online
Do not post anything about conversations about patients and complaints about colleagues. Updates about bad days at work, other members of staff being difficult or employers being disorganised could constitute “brining the profession into disrepute”. It can be tempting to share funny stories of things that happen at work, but these could cause offence to others.
Don’t use social media while you’re working
Make sure you turn off notifications so you are not interrupted while working.
Do keep professional posts objective
Social media can be a great way to share information with your peers, but any posts about healthcare issues or the nursing profession should be objective, well-written and correctly researched. Anything that could be viewed as discriminatory, slanderous or misinformation could get you into trouble.
Manage your privacy settings to limit who can see your posts
It’s always a good idea to limit your ‘personal’ profiles to friends and family only. All social media platforms have robust privacy settings these days, so it’s worth spending some time going through them. You should also never post any personal contact information such as your address, phone number or email address on a public page.
However, it is important to remember that even with the strictest privacy setting, everything you post online is in the public domain and it can be extremely difficult to remove posts or personal information once they have been shared.
If you have any specific questions about using social media, you should always contact the NMC on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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