Guide for Nurses on using Social Media
How Nurses can benefit from social media without risking their NMC registration
21st June 2010
There seems to be a great deal of confusion surrounding the use of social media for anyone in the healthcare profession, but particularly for Nurses. It can be especially confusing if you want to participate in social media activities in your professional capacity to know where the limits are.
We’d love to hear more from the Nurses who connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and on our blog, so in an effort to clarify the rules according to the NMC we’ve been through the code of conduct and put together some simple guidelines.
NMC Code of Conduct
The main sections of the code that apply are,
“You must respect people's right to confidentiality”
“You must cooperate with the media only when you can confidently protect the confidential information and dignity of those in your care”
“You must uphold the reputation of your profession at all times”
To read the code in full you can visit the NMC website.
How you can stay within the code
It’s tricky to interpret exactly how these parts of the code can apply in specific social media situations, but there are some basic points you can follow to make sure you don’t break the code of conduct.
1. Don’t post any personal information about a patient.
This also includes posting info that may allow someone to deduce the patient’s identity. E.g. Don’t post things like, “Just got back from work, had an elderly gentleman admitted to *insert ward* with *insert condition*”. This is too detailed and may allow someone reading it to deduce who you are talking about.
2. Don’t mouth off about what a crap day you’ve had.
If it’s obvious from your profile on a social media site that you are a Nurse, don’t post status updates that include any information about what a crap day you’ve had, how disorganised the shift was, or how awkward another member of staff was. That all constitutes bringing the profession into disrepute.
3. Don’t post pictures of yourself in a clinical environment or in uniform.
Not only is this probably against your employer’s code of conduct, it could also give away the exact location of where you work.
4. Don’t give out any of your own personal information.
Nurses can occasionally suffer from being followed on the internet by obsessive patients, so under no circumstances post your address, phone number or email address on a public page. Also make sure that you’ve turned on all the privacy settings, particularly in Facebook, and selected your page to be private from search engines.
What the NMC says on the subject
The NMC has not issued specific guidance on the use of social media for Nurses, it simply says that Nurses should make an informed decision based on the points given in the code of conduct. The guidance page can be found here.
Steps to take right now
1. Check your Facebook profile is removed from search engines by going into settings and un-ticking the checkbox labelled ‘Enable public search’
2. Check that only your friends can view your details and photos. This keeps anyone not connected with your from viewing your information
3. Take care who you are connected with. It’s often impossible to hide any part of your profile or status updates from someone you are friends with
4. If you blog about healthcare issues or the profession, make sure that you keep it objective, well written and correctly researched. Slanderous or libel comments are likely to get you into trouble
5. If you blog about training to become a nurse, make sure you also remain objective and do not post any specific details about placements, patients, mentors or any other members of staff.
Please remember, that while this article offers guidance on using social media, any specific enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information contained in this article is correct at time of posting.