The NMC’s decision to suspend Allison Marie Hopton for comments she posted on Facebook will make sobering reading for some nurses. As one person commented on the story “I know of several people who are sailing close to the wind with this kind of thing even though my trust recently gave out written info about behaviours expected”.
It is nice to think our work and private life are separate but social media blurs the boundaries and - as the NMC rightly points out - if you identify yourself as a nurse your behaviour has to uphold the standards of the profession.
I often see anonymous comments on our own website that make me anxious about how others will view our profession - not only in terms of the language used but the attitude nurses sometimes adopt towards each other.
Yet nurses are under pressure and need space to voice their anxieties and frustrations. Ms Hopton said at a hearing with her employer that “Facebook is where people vent. Nurses are human”, but as the NMC observed she failed to appreciate the gravity of her actions.
The immediacy of social media has so many benefits but it also enables us to post in anger. We all need to hesitate before we press send.
It is easy to avoid getting into problems. The NMC is very clear about the standards it expects from nurses who choose to identify themselves on social media, and is very clear about the penalty for failing to comply.
If we want to communicate with each other as professionals we need to ensure we do it in a measured and appropriate way. Undoubtedly nurses need forums to discuss their anxieties and our website allows you to do this anonymously. I would love to know how nurses are supported in their trusts?
We have to accept that when people know you are a nurse they expect you to behave in a certain way - and that means we are never truly off duty.