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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)

  • In a previous job I became aware that other members of staff had been chatting to patients on social network sites, and to each other about patients and I believe names were given. This is an obvious breach of confidentiality. Those members of staff were given warnings by management. In the meantime, concerns were raised about something I said to a patient which came to the attention of management. I had to attend a disciplinary hearing. I was cleared. Is it fair that I had to go through months of anxiety whilst my colleagues got off with a verbal warning (as far as I am aware)?

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  • 'you just don't get it' is a cliché which has appeared in our language and is meaningless. those who use it show a total disregard for, and lack of respect, for the opinions of others.
    I think many of the nurses and the public, myself included share and support the views that Susan expresses very well.

    Other very different views can also be respected and even supported if they are expressed clearly and with the civility one expects from mature and educated professionals.

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  • I am surprised at the outrage sparked by the NMC producing these guidelines; as the NHS Trust I work for has an agreed policy in relation to use of social networking sites which includes use when not at work; I don't think this is unusual and many none health related organisations also have policies or guidelines relating to their use by staff.

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  • susan | 14-Jul-2011 11:24 am

    "The public and other nurses need the assurance of a strong watchdog to represent us"

    You just don't get it do you?!!! That's what we're trying to make you understand! WE DON'T HAVE A STRONG WATCHDOG!!

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  • The NMC does not represent Nurses. It is the regulator for the profession.

    Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 11:59 am
    You are aware, aren't you that you are using cliches yourself?
    "..lack of respect,..." and "...Other very different views can also be respected.." to name but two. But that's okay.

    You have displayed a lack of tolerance for those disagree with you by seeking to reprimand them. Wishing to be treated with respect, does mean having respect for others in this debate, which you " a total disregard for,..".

    There's nothing wrong with lively debate. Just stop taking it so personally!

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  • Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 11:59 am

    "Other very different views can also be respected and even supported if they are expressed clearly and with the civility one expects from mature and educated

    if you read the whole post correctly!

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  • Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 4:11 pm

    "lively debate" is not a cause or excuse for disdain.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 5:01 pm

    "....mature and educated
    professionals."......another cliche! And I did read the post correctly. Something you may consider doing yourself.

    and ( I know that you and the above are one and the same)

    Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 5:05 pm

    "...."lively debate" is not a cause or excuse for disdain."

    So why do you express disdain for others? Why not be honest and admit that you just don't like it when people don't agree with you? It is not hard to see why certain types support the NMC in its current form. It is all about imposing control for the sake of it, without analysing what that means and the ultimate implications for our patients.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 5:40 pm

    I wrote both those comments and didn't deny it.

    unlike some journals and newspapers, there is no edit facility here to add something after you have submitted it so an alternative is to add another one below. Maybe, for clarity, I should have stated that it came from the same source.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 10:28 pm

    to say to another 'you just don't get it' really shuts down any further discussion because the person saying it appears to be expressing frustration that the other person doesn't agree with them, may be too dim to understand their point and it is a clever tactic as a red herring and a big put down.

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