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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)

  • if the internet and facebook are public domains why would anyone wish to put any private information there they do not wish others to access? it doesn't seem to be a problem and if nurses are not behaving in a professional manner then the NMC or any other authority has such as employers have the right to investigate as practicing double standards in a profession one has chosen to represent is not acceptable.

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  • I think that the NMC is right in reminding us how to act when on these websites. My friends see me in a position of responsibility and trust and if I was to blab about patients then the trust would be gone. We had a student here a few years ago who posted this following statement about her mentor on Facebook. She was subsequently dismissed from the college and finished her training 20 miles up the road. See what you think and tell me if it is appropriate behaviour or should what we sometimes say be regulated.

    "I really hate my mentor. I wish she was dead. If I saw her in a car park I would run her over and reverse over her again to make sure she is definitely dead. But as I am not allowed to do that then I hope she catches cancer or AIDS and dies a painful death."

    Is this responsible behaviour or should we have guidelines as the NMC suggest? Discuss

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  • I would have expected registered nurses to be mature and responsible enough not to need to be told how to behave and have these controls.

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  • Just as a warning, I posted an offhand comment about paying my mortgage in the event of a pay freeze on Facebook that was only visible to my friends & then got a journalist contacting me asking for a quote for an article she was writing about NHS pay.
    So journalists do look.

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  • i sometimes wonder about all the comments we post on this and other similar sites too?

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  • "Social networks 'should do more' on cyberstalking
    Social and mobile networks do not do enough to help victims of harassment online, according to a study handed to MPs.
    Cyberstalking can cause real harm, the study found Photo: ALAMY
    1:43PM BST 11 Jul 2011"

    Facebook and Twitter are not obligatory. One can actually live without them!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 3:47 pm and others.

    You really don't get it, do you? It doesn't matter if you act/behave responsibly. The NMC can't be trusted to make that judgement. They have their own interpretation of the very woolly Code of Conduct, and a complete lack of transparency. Are we so programmed to obey that we don't even question and challenge? That is the most worrying aspect of this thread!!!!

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  • well I know who I would rather trust to care for me if I ever needed it and in just in case "...you really don't get it", that would be Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 3:47 pm and others!

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  • .........and who is to say that the NMC aren't monitoring these comments too?

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  • the NMC is providing 'advice' and 'guidance' and as far as I can see, it is good plain commonsense and what every user should be aware of anyway and for which one should be grateful. If this 'guidance' is followed their should be no grounds for concern.

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