Ever taken a picture of a really interesting leg wound and shown it to a friend at a party?
Ever uploaded a picture of yourself and a patient on Facebook? Ever tracked a service user down using social media? All of that may leave you spiralling into orbit at the suggestion that you’d behave with such disregard for patient confidentiality, dignity and your own professional status. But there are nurses who have done all of those things. The NMC is investigating an increasing number of referrals about nurses’ fitness to practise in relation to their social media usage. So much so that last week it issued guidance about how nurses and student nurses should behave on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn .
According to the NMC’s Andy Jaeger, assistant director, professional and public relations, who wrote the guidance, the rise in inappropriate usage is down to a lack of understanding about just how public the information you share in cyberspace really is and how to manipulate your privacy settings. He confirms the NMC is investigating “several” cases around social media usage.
Despite policies about mobile phone usage, often nurses have their mobiles on them at all times, giving them the ability to photograph, share information and relay opinions without taking a moment to stop and think whether they really should. In the US, nurse Doyle Byrnes posed with a patient’s placenta and posted it on Facebook, while in the UK, nurse Timothy Hyde was struck off the register last year as a result of misconduct involving Facebook.
The NMC suggests that with around 78,000 UK Facebook users listing their profession as nurse, midwife or health visitor (and it believes 355,000 Facebook users are from the professions), such cases are only likely to increase. So think carefully about what you upload. Sounding off about a bad day may be tempting, but it could be construed as breaching patient confidentiality and land you in hot water. You may be a model nurse in the workplace, but make sure you are in cyberspace too.