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NMC issues Facebook and Twitter warning

  • 106 Comments

Nurses who use social networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In, have been warned they could be struck off the nursing register if their usage is deemed inappropriate by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The regulator has confirmed that “a number” of nurses are currently being investigated for their activity on such websites and, as a result, it launched guidance specifically on social networking this week.

The guidance recommends that nurses ensure they use privacy settings when visiting such sites, and that they do not post anything they would not want others to see. In a few previous cases, the NMC said nurses had used such sites to pursue inappropriate relationships with service users, or posted photographs that breach patient confidentiality.

A spokesman for the regulator told Nursing Times: “The last thing we would want is a mass exodus from using these sites. They are useful for services and for nurses, but nurses need to continue to uphold the NMC code online as they do face to face.”

In an NMC statement on the guidance, the regulator’s chief executive Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes said: “The NMC 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 NMC advice on social networking sites 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.
  • 106 Comments

Readers' comments (106)

  • So Anonymous | 19-Jul-2011 2:18 pm

    You seriously don't think that inappropriate behaviour should be reported? Things must be great where you work, just turn a blind eye do you like so many of the nurses these days and then blame poor staffing levels for the poor standards of care and patient abuse.

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  • There is nothing malicious about reporting poor conduct to the NMC but there is definitely something wrong and very worrying about someone who thinks there is.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Jul-2011 3:32 pm

    Typical of you to be so short-sighted BB. I didn't state that one should turn a blind eye to breaches of conduct. But of course you hadn't noticed that. You JUST JUMPED to that conclusion. In addition, you made further erroneous assumptions. I am not surprised that you would incorrectly read and digest my post, and therein lies the lesson. Be very careful about the assumptions you make before reporting someone to the NMC. Particularly if you do it out of malice. (which was the point of my post). People like you, who sit as judge and jury are the real danger here. Oh and by the way, I work within a terrific team. See? You were wrong again.

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  • And...Anonymous | 19-Jul-2011 3:36 pm

    See above.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Jul-2011 12:22 pm
    and
    mike | 18-Jul-2011 2:41 pm

    Both of you make very good points. As long as people are not operating outside of the law or breaching confidentiality, then who has any right make judgement on their private life?

    Some of the commenters here, have displayed very judgemental behaviour. I wonder what is meant by behaving in accordance with the code of professional conduct "at all times"? (as quite a few have posted). Facebook, etc. aside, does this imply that I can't go home and moan to my husband because a drunk slapped me across the face in the course of my work? Does this mean that I can't go out on a night out, (nothing to do with work and in my own time) and have a photograph of that posted on Facebook?

    As someone posted earlier, there are those who seem to take offense at anything, and this could leave the door open for malice, as stated by Mike and others. I'm sure that there is absolutely no one who has posted here, who has led a blameless life. Given the criteria that some feel should exist for NMC reporting, we all probably should be up before the beak!

    What about the NMC? Not even fit for purpose it would seem, and yet people are happy for the status quo to exist, rather than look to change things. Hmm.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Jul-2011 3:32 pm

    what an extreme accusation to make! a bit of an ott reaction to a bit of criticsm.
    " just turn a blind eye do you like so many of the nurses these days and then blame poor staffing levels for the poor standards of care and patient abuse." where's your evidence?

    most nurses are trying to do the best they can in very tough times "these days"!

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  • Anonymous | 19-Jul-2011 1:47 pm, you are making a huge assumption there aren't you? An erroneous one at that. In the particular case I was referring to, the 'friends' both agreed with each other and were sounding off about an aspect of work to each other, and were reported to management by a THIRD PARTY who simply saw the conversation after the fact. Have you never not complained to a friend about crappy shift patterns? About the stress? about ... anything? I may be wrong, but seriously doubt you haven't.


    Anonymous | 19-Jul-2011 6:24 pm absolutely agree!!! "does this imply that I can't go home and moan to my husband because a drunk slapped me across the face in the course of my work? Does this mean that I can't go out on a night out, (nothing to do with work and in my own time) and have a photograph of that posted on Facebook?" Unfortunately that is exactly what it means, because ANYTHING can be reported and interpreted in ANY way the NMC choose.

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  • Mike, "'friends' both agreed with each other and were sounding off about an aspect of work to each other, and were reported to management by a THIRD PARTY who simply saw the conversation after the fact"
    Not very private if someone saw it after the fact is it? Have you not realised yet that Facebook is not meant for private conversations.
    Of course I have sounded off to colleagues before but I am careful to make sure it is in private. I would not have such a conversation in a busy pub or on a bus and certainly not on facebook where the contents can be seen by numerous people that can also print off copies to show to managers and NMC.
    Having a photograph of you posted by someone else on facebook is unfortunate but as a responsible "professional" should we be doing things in our private lives that we would not want our managers to know about? Posting photographs of yourself on facebook in compromising situations is just stupid.

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  • Anonymous | 21-Jul-2011 9:34 am again, you missed the point. I personally have realised that, yes. That is the reason I am not on it. I agree with you that yes it is stupid to do so. HOWEVER, the fact is, why shouldn't we be able to do or say things outside of work without people snooping and judging on those things? And that does include comments to friends on Facebook. Why can't I say for example 'I'm absolutely bloody knackered this week, the shift patterns at my place are horrendous' in a message on the wall or whatever they call it, without fearing someone will see that and run off to tell my boss? Like I say, it may be stupid to do so in this current climate, but I fervently believe people should have the freedom to do so! How would you feel if hypothetically someone overheard your so called 'private' conversation (and no one, absolutely no one, is so controlled they can say they will NEVER let a stray comment out when tired or whatever) and reported you? How would you feel if a pic was posted of you drunk at a fancy dress party and wearing an Ann Summers Nurses outfit, hey ho you are suddenly 'bringing the profession into disrepute' (it has happened!)

    I choose to be a professional Nurse, I choose to belong to a profession and will uphold those professional standards in work. However, that does not mean I forego my right to a private life or freedom of expression outside of work.

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  • Mike,

    "Why can't I say for example 'I'm absolutely bloody knackered this week, the shift patterns at my place are horrendous' in a message on the wall or whatever they call it, without fearing someone will see that and run off to tell my boss?"

    Writing that would not be a problem unless you were afraid that your boss might see it. It's something I have said on numerous occasions to my bosses face. Maybe all of these nurses that want to write things on FB would be better off if they would actually talk to the appropriate people that may be able to change the things they rant about instead of sharing it with others that can do nothing about it.
    Its very unlikely that I would dress up in the way you suggested, I am 6'2", male, weigh about 17 stone and have a bald head. I would have to be extremely drunk.

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