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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)

  • tinkerbell

    anyway............back to the facebook/twitter thing, if some idiot in the profession is breaking their code of conduct and breaching confidentiality why shouldn't they be dealt with. The NMC have given a warning. Forewarned is forearmed. If you haven't breached confidentiality what's the problem. In an ideal world nothing would need monitoring and there would be no need for warnings but unfortunately we live in the real world where we are all monitored, it may not be right but its the fact that the minority spoil it for the majority.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jul-2011 4:42 pm

    No apology required. However, you pasted, Mags | 13-Jul-2011 10:48 pm onto your comment and that post exists on another thread. Like I said, I would happily comment further in the location and context of my post.

    tinkerbell | 15-Jul-2011 5:00 pm

    Again, my issue and that of others, has been about the competence of the NMC as a regulator. Do we need a regulator? Absolutely. Should people be going around the internet breaching patient confidentiality? Absolutely not. No one has argued for that. Not one post.

    Some here are happy to have a regulator which strikes from the register whistleblowers who have exposed dreadful abuse of the elderly, and do absolutely nothing when a registrant complains about the behaviour of the registered nurses at Winterbourne Hospital. (I am not.) And these same people are happy to label those who speak out about the NMC 'guidelines' as unprofessional, whilst bleating about someone using a cliche.

    Just look at this discussion. How many people have made a comment (on both sides of the debate), only to have it completely misinterpreted? Makes you wonder about that seemingly innocent internet discussion you were having with friends or family that, in your eyes, has nothing to do with your work; doesn't it?

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  • Mags | 13-Jul-2011 10:48 pm

    as I said in my comment above this refers to your comment following the article on cyberspace which I was referring to but no matter.

    Hopefully the matter is now cleared up and the current debate can continue. I would just like to point out that my other comments were not, as you believe, made with the intention to blame or judge anyone. they were just an expression of how I feel when comments are made which in my view show lack of respect for myself and others. I try to be very careful how I word my comments so that they are not open to misinterpretion and backlash but apparently I still have a lot to learn!

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  • Mags | 15-Jul-2011 6:59 pm

    Again, my issue and that of others, has been about the competence of the NMC as a regulator. Do we need a regulator? Absolutely. Should people be going around the internet breaching patient confidentiality? Absolutely not. No one has argued for that. Not one post.

    WELL SAID!!!

    here's some proof of the NMC's shortcomings. the council for healthcare regulatory excellence report on the NMC in 2008.....some extracts....

    "The report identifies ‘serious weaknesses in the NMC’s governance and culture, in the conduct of its council, its ability to protect the interest of the public through the operation of fitness to practise processes and its ability to retain the confidence of key stakeholders’."

    "We have seen and heard evidence of inappropriate and aggressive language by and between council members and between council members and the executive,’ the report says."

    "We have also heard accounts of emotional and aggressive behaviour in meetings. This behaviour is undoubtedly experienced as threatening and bullying by many council members and staff involved,"

    everybody still happy to trust this organisation?

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  • Anonymous | 15-Jul-2011 8:25 pm

    The report you are quoting from was the scathing Special Report for the Minister
    of State for Health Services in 2008. The nature of the culture within the NMC was finally exposed after years. As a result of this document, there was supposed to be an overhaul of the NMC.
    From the latest report last year, there is still room for much improvement.

    "....we remain concerned about the customer service provided
    by the fitness to practise department and the quality and consistency of decisions made and recorded by fitness to practise panels...."

    "...We have concerns about the quality of the NMC’s decision making and recorded decisions."

    "...the NMC believes that it is not appropriate for observers to raise matters at Council meetings, we consider that this could lead to a perception that it is not a transparent organisation and not willing
    to be held to account in a minuted meeting."

    With regard to the receipt of complaints:
    "From feedback we received from complainants about difficulties in accessing a formal complaints process and delays in receiving responses, particularly
    in relation to complaints raised within the fitness to practise department,
    we consider that these arrangements should be put in place as a matter of
    urgency to ensure that public confidence in the NMC is maintained."

    And in regard to security:
    "...the NMC has begun work on the revision of its information governance and security arrangements. We would support the need for the prompt undertaking of
    this work as we have received feedback about confidential papers being mislaid or sent to the wrong parties."

    By all means, let's not breach online confidentiality. But let's pause and consider those who are responsible for passing judgement on us. The regulatory body! NMC dissenters are not immature, uneducated or unprofessional, as they have been accused repeatedly by many in this discussion. I am a serious professional who does not have faith in my regulatory body. That is the fault of the NMC, not me. This organisation lacks integrity and this must change for the protection of of patients and nurses.

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  • Makes comments like:

    susan | 13-Jul-2011 10:44 am

    '...I do not know individual members of the NMC and therefore find it puzzling that so much can be so wrong with it all of a sudden!!..'

    look a little bit silly and ill informed.

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  • Anonymous | 16-Jul-2011 8:23 am
    And that's the problem. If some had done a bit of research instead of crying about being told that thay 'don't get it' (I actually can't believe that a supposed grown up has taken up so much space with that), then they might have 'got it' and understood what other commenters were talking about. Ridiculous.

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  • Tinkerbell, as others have said, part of the problem is about our faith in who is passing judgement on us, many people simply do not have faith in the NMC to do this fairly or impartially. However, it is also about who decides exactly WHAT constitutes a misdemeanour/breach of confidentiality etc. There are no clear cut black and white answers, but the NMC has carte blanche to interpret ANYTHING, ANYWAY they like. Just look at the list of who is currently suspended or under investigation, you'll be shocked at the number of vacuous nonsense people are investigated for. Something that we may think is perfectly innocent may be deemed 'bringing the profession into disrepute', whistleblowing may be viewed as 'breaching confidentiality, etc. There are no lines they cannot cross, and whilst they can interpret anything any way they wish, with no real recourse to unjust decisions (appeals, really?) it simply smacks of witch hunting. Furthermore, as I said earlier, there should be no reason for our professional body to pass judgement on our PRIVATE lives outside of work, yet they do. This is wrong.

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  • tinkerbell

    mike of course your private life should not be judged if you are not breaching any conduct issues, i totally agree. I have never had any dealings with the NMC apart from paying my dues but from the posts here they sound like a right bunch of bankers.

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  • That's certainly my personal view Tink! ha! But apart from that, that is the problem isn't it? Our lives OUTSIDE of work ARE being judged, and monitored. Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg, it can get very sinister, very quickly. As I said earlier, there are no goalposts that the NMC cannot or will not move on their whim alone.

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