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NMC issues Facebook and Twitter warning


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.

Readers' comments (106)

  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 8:01 pm

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

    And just what is your point? Are you trying to be intimidating??!! Sinister behaviour indeed. Thank you for demonstrating my point so completely!!

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 10:02 pm

    I am referring to all comments in general in all the pages. I have no idea which your own personal comment was to which you are referring in the above post and why this has provoked such an strange and aggressive reaction from you.

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 7:57 pm

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

    If you mean you would trust the NMC to care for you, then that's hilarious. Please say you don't mean that. The NMC exists to protect the public FROM YOU. It might be worth finding out about the purpose and activities of the NMC before continuing to make such statements.(They have their own website). After all, you hand over your registration dosh to them annually. Or do you? Surely you can't be a nurse and know so little about the organisation which regulates your profession. Oh dear, it just gets worse, doesn't it?

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 10:13 pm


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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 10:18 pm

    the NMC is the regulatory body at the moment and until somebody comes up with a better idea nurses have to abide by their rules.
    but this is about an article on Facebook and Twitter for which they have provided suggestions to stay safe. It is hard to understand what all the fuss is about if professionals stick to what are general commonsense online rules which the NMC alone did not make up.

    and some respect for professional etiquette to other commentators online would not go amiss!

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  • The question is whether the rules are lawful, i.e. are not contrary to the laws of the land. If the rules are contrary to legislation then any instruction based on those rules need not be obeyed as the instructions are unlawful.
    Of course we need to keep certain aspects of our work confidential, but that is no different to when I worked in the defence industry and had access to material that was deemed to be so important that it was classified as secret.

    What concerns me is that the NMC (it could equally be the General Teachers Council or the GMC) decide unilaterally that statements that are not illegal (i.e. are not defamatory or libellous in content) placed into the public domain somehow bring the profession into disrepute (the same argument can also apply to the Football Association's attitude towards players and managers criticising referees).

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  • quite a few commentators appear to disagree with the suggestions offered by the NMC. Does this mean that professionally registered nurses believe that they should be free to use Facebook and Twitter in any way they wish even if it involves patients, colleagues and their work?

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 10:30 pm

    And still you don't get it. Ah well. I suppose it is hard some people to understand. Nice one on the patronising "professional etiquette" comment though. By all means let's maintain that, whilst not worrying ourselves about unimportant details like what the NMC actually does!!

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jul-2011 10:59 pm

    "quite a few commentators appear to disagree with the suggestions offered by the NMC. Does this mean that professionally registered nurses believe that they should be free to use Facebook and Twitter in any way they wish even if it involves patients, colleagues and their work?"

    If you read the comments in the history of this thread, you will see that it is quite the opposite. And perhaps it will help you avoid such ill-informed posts.

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  • The NMC is appointed by parliament to oversee regulation of the nursing profession. It is not about personal choice here. The public expect a regulatory body to do it's duty in protecting the public and to advise nurses for the protection of their registration as well.

    Some of the comments in perverse criticism of the NMC strike me as a general difficulty with the role of authority and it's directives in general.
    The article on the social web sites is about advice to nurses who are expected to be accountable for their actions on and off duty. (It was not an order as far as I can see).
    Members of the public, other nurses and the police have a duty under the law to report a nurse who breaks the law. I'm sorry if some of you think we 'just don't get it'. But revelations of an unacceptable nature on social chat sites are perused by the public and it is often they who report concerns about nurses to the NMC.
    If people have difficulty working with codes of conduct perhaps nursing is the wrong profession for them. Perhaps politics would be in keeping with strong critical views of
    a profession that has thus far with stood the test of time. Statutory bodies like the NMC are non politcal, and in all my years of nursing I've never known them to target or witch hunt people. Such allegations are serious and this is not the forum to make them!.

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