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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)

  • Exactly! Some appear to want an arguement rather than a debate.

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  • Getting back to the debate/argument. The main thrust of the argument is that there are those who have no faith in the NMC's ability to safeguard the public. Issuing edicts/guidelines, or whatever you wish to call them, about internet behaviour, (when the vast majority of people do behave entirely appropriately), deflects from other, much more important issues.

    The persistent and seemingly deliberate misinterpretation by some, on the other side of the argument, that those who disagree with the NMC guidelines must therefore agree with confidentiality breaches, is erroneous and disrespectful. Commenting on the behaviour of others, when their own behaviour leaves a lot to be desired, is disingenuous. They are, of course, free to do so. As we all are. I applaud the fact that we still live in a free society. But they should not be surprised when they are called on it.

    Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 11:00 pm

    Debate or debating is a formal method of interactive and representational argument. And agreeing with yourself (ie.the post prior to this one) is a bit silly.

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  • all commentators here have the right to expect their views to be treated with respect.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jul-2011 8:48 am

    No one here is arguing with that. But some here are choosing to take offence at the fact that someone is disagreeing with them; and using the 'respect' argument instead of making a valid point about the subject of the discussion.

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  • I find it really interesting when our regulatory body issues a guidance in consideration of how we act that has a bearing on our professional role, and the responses that come out of that, as in this thread.
    As far as I can tell the guidance is a reminder about boundaries and confidentiality largely which are expected to be considered in or out of work. Just because we might have left work and taken off the uniform doesn't mean that the responsibility we hold does the same. Neither does that mean that we don't have a right to a life outside of work, that's a response I would expect from a 10 year old. Consider the impact of what you do seems to be the main message.
    Yes the NMC get it wrong. That's why we have unions. Doesn't mean they're completely useless, it does mean they need to consider some important things too about their decisions and ommissions too.

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  • Mags, I took offense at being told like several others that 'you don't get it', which in my view is very demeaning and bad manners. I wonder if this is how some people speak to their managers, consultants, colleagues and patients? If not then they shouldn't do it online either. it is merely a attempt, and not a very clever one, to coerce others into accepting their own views whilst refusing to consider or 'respect' theirs. It also suggests that despite any experience we may have that we are stupid, misinformed (as one commentator told me), or lacking in intelligence.
    I also take offense when people make assumptions about other commentators who have only written a few lines and then pass judgement based on their own assumptions which may be totally wrong such as that of Anonymous | 14-Jul-2011 5:40 pm. imperfect though I am, I try and generalise my comments and avoid making assumptions about others of whom I know almost nothing and, where it does not affect clarity, I avoid using personal pronouns directed at another commentator in an accusatory manner whether anonymous or not.
    I consider there are simple written and unwritten rules of online etiquette to be respected. I also note you reprimanded someone on another site for breaching these rules.
    It is not difficult to have a constructive online exchange of ideas and dispute about issues which generates creative and new ideas without the need to cause offense to another commentator. If somebody doesn't agree dispute it by all means or ignore it and move on to the next but please don't tell others 'you don't get it'. There are many different reasons why someone may not have grasped an issue and they should be treated with tolerance. Maybe they did not understand the point being made, maybe the point made was not clearly expressed, maybe their interpretation of the point is different or they see things from a different but perhaps no less interesting perspective based on their own experience and world view which may be different from that of others. maybe they do not wish to 'get it' in favour of their own or another view, or simply do not wish to accept the other's view at all which is also their right, they may not even have considered the matter important enough to them to even try and 'get'. There are many different reasons why 'they don't get it' so please either clarify matters for them, as most of the reasonable commentators have here no matter what their own point of view, or just let it be! I would have thought nurses, in their role as educators, would understand this already.

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  • tinkerbell

    totally agree with above. A voice of reason, every team needs someone like this.

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  • Has a case with all the issues raised here been presented to the NMC?
    Is there a report available of this with the outcomes?

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jul-2011 12:16 pm

    "Mags, I took offense at being told like several others that 'you don't get it', which in my view is very demeaning and bad manners."

    That is your view and you are entitled to it, and I welcome the opportunity to debate/argue or discuss with you. Where I have a problem is, when, in the very next sentence, you state, " I wonder if this is how some people speak to their managers, consultants, colleagues and patients?" You too are making assumptions about those you accuse of doing the same. You too are displaying intolerance of someone having an opinion, as are some on the opposite side of the argument.

    I suspect that some of those who are stating that they object to being told that they 'don't get it', are merely objecting to being disgreed with.

    One of the other complaints that has been aimed at the discussion is that debate is being 'closed down'. Well you and I ( and others) seem to be wasting a fair bit of time not discussing the article, whilst being bogged down in the issue of people taking offence. That's a shame.

    With regard to your comment about my posting on another thread,
    "I also note you reprimanded someone on another site for breaching these rules."
    I mentioned nothing about any 'breaching' of rules and it is incorrect to misrepresent my comment in this manner. I voiced an opinion, as I continue to state we are all free to do, and it was in another context in another discussion.
    I also think that that's a fairly personal and aimed opinion when you have previously stated, ".... I try and generalise my comments and avoid making assumptions about others of whom I know almost nothing...." Apparently not, it would seem. That's okay though, because that is your view. I would be happy to discuss it further with you on the relevant thread.

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  • Mags | 15-Jul-2011 4:01 pm

    I was referring to your end comment,which I support, although not necessarily the wording used, following the article on cyberspace which is related to this article, but apologies if I misinterpreted it, which was not at all my intention not my intention.

    Mags | 13-Jul-2011 10:48 pm

    "I consider there are simple written and unwritten rules of online etiquette to be respected. I also note you reprimanded someone on another site for breaching these rules."

    you will note that I did not make any personal judgement here or anywhere else in my comment above or aim a personal opinion at you or your comment. I merely stated that I had noted it elsewhere.

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