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As student nurses should we be wary of facebook and twitter?

  • Comments (8)

We have an obligation to conduct ourselves in a professional manner.

Throughout our studies we have the ever-present realisation that we are accountable to the Nursing and Midwifery Counsel (NMC). Obviously there are numerous ways in which a student nurse can exercise self-control and professionalism, both outside our studies and in practice but today I’m going to talk about social networks.

Today, every action we undertake can be traced or documented. Many student nurses have just emerged from college where sites like Facebook and Twitter feel like a social necessity. Students eager to avoid the incredulous looks from their peers after saying they weren’t ‘online’ quickly start to document every aspect of their daily lives. For the most part this would be harmless trivia, but as we move on in our professional training, is it wise to be cautious?

I don’t want to dissuade people from using social sites. After all they have brought great benefits to many, facilitating relationships in a way that was never thought possible just a decade earlier and they can indeed be a great resource for learning. What I am trying to get across is a message of caution.

I’m sure we have all heard of the employers who trawl the internet to find incriminating photos of potential employees before making their decisions, but as potential nurses our online personas must be even more carefully regulated.

Consider carefully the image that you are presenting and be aware that pictures and messages that you think are private may be far from it and all it could take to expose these to the world is your name and location.

This ability to delve into your innermost thoughts isn’t just reserved for potential employers. Patients and relatives could easily do the same and depending on what they find, this could create some genuine problems for you. I will consider a general rule of thumb to be that if you didn’t want the patient, relatives or ward manager to find out about what you did over the weekend, then the safest bet would be to not talk about it on social media.

I understand that this can all be a bit overwhelming. As is generally the way with technology, we have found that Pandora’s box has been opened. Everyone now has the unrestricted ability to share everything before we have developed the understanding of how to use it ‘safely’.

So what’s the answer? Should we attempt to purge ourselves from our online personas and try to resist the lure?

I would have to say no. Despite some peoples’ opinions, social networking and technologies ability to log every facet of our existence is here to stay. Just as we have had to learn how to conduct ourselves professionally in our physical encounters, we should remember to exercise that same level of consideration for our online presence.

You can change your privacy settings or update your password, but the surest way to guarantee that nothing incriminating or untoward ends up online is to think twice before posting potentially sensitive material.

Technology has given us the gift of being able to reveal our most personal and intimate feelings to the world before we have developed the self- control to know when to use it. We are student nurses who will one day become qualified nurses and as a friend said to me; “we gain a professional qualification for a professional manner”. I like that sentence so much that I am going to make it my new Facebook status.

  • Comments (8)

Readers' comments (8)

  • I started my training last week and we've been warned about the "perils of facebook" every day so far! Whilst I agree that extra care needs to be taken to avoid posting anything that could be liable to misinterpretation, or anything obviously offensive, I think what holds for nursing is applicable to people in many professions and that people in general need to take a common sense approach to what they post on the internet. I can't believe the type of personal information/semi clothed photos many people seem to divulge on social networking sites, things that they'd never dream of sharing in real life. I also know of more than one person who has lost their (non health related) jobs due to "I hate my job" type facebook posts. I think, however, that many internet resources provide a valuable way for information sharing and encouraging discussion. I think that people need to be encouraged to remain mindful of the many ways they are known and that as a professional, particularly within a health care role, sensitivity and professionalism need to be considered at all times.

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  • Maz Wilson

    I agree with Ellie, very well put. As a Nurse Educator, I am astonished at how many students in their third year of training do not access the NMC Website where there is a dedicated section for students that contains guidance on the use of social websites and general professional guidance. I also advise them to access the hearings to find out how registered nurses end up as professional misconduct cases. I feel a greater input in the way of professionalism during studentship would aid the students understanding of the profession and may even decrease the number of cases coming up before the NMC.

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  • Little One

    I do think that as students, and RNs, we must be wary of what we put on social networking sites. Personally my Facebook is as private as it possibly can be so that patients and relatives cannot even search for me to find. I also deliberately use my old last name, so only people I know will know who I am, rather than getting strangers trying to befriend me.

    We are supposed to be professional all of the time and it is important to remember that when we are posting online. I have had a friend who posted work information online, it was seen by her manager and she was given a Disciplinary for it.

    I do not see why complaining about the odd bad day at work is a problem, we all have rough days, and I certainly am not Mary Sunshine, but remember that even when we are complaining about having a bad day, it should be done in a professional manner and not effing and blinding about having a *@!" day at work.

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  • Anonymous

    I believe student nurse educators should also think twice about adding themselves to their students 'friends' on facebook, and setting their privacy settings to 'Private'.

    I was horrified I could read all about my lecturers on facebook. I have even seen lecturers make comments on students walls and they have see the shenanigans and foul language of their students unfold on messy weekends.

    Students 'Liking' their university facebook page is also another no no.

    Perhaps they should practice what they preach

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  • Little One

    Anonymous | 14-Feb-2012 4:10 pm

    "Students 'Liking' their university facebook page is also another no no."


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  • michael stone

    As an 'outside opinion', my advice would be to be very cautious - because regulators are not known for their application of common sense.

    Logically, it strikes me that nurses are pretty-much entitled to express any honest opinions, provided it isn't possible to directly link anything expressed to specific patients (although criticising your employer, although necessary for 'constructive change', probaly wouldn't go down very well).

    I only see a major problem, if you breach patient confidentiality - but, as I have said, regulators tend to follow tick-box rules, and nobody can sack me, whatever I write !

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  • Aaron

    The same advice about nurses on facebook is usually good advice for most people anyway, as others have said, we've entered an age where people put themselves on display online to millions of potential viewers...the more you share the more vulnerable you become.

    Becoming or being a nurse is a large part of who you are, its impossible for some of that not to leak out onto your interactions online and in real life...but as long as we don't do anything stupid like put pictures of ourselves in uniform alongside that night we had too much tequila or break confidentiality, we should be fine to be honest.

    Just remember that story about Gossip when posting anything online. - spill feathers into the wind and its impossible to get them all back.

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Ellie and Maz

    I think you're both right. I would hate to see a situation where our fear creates a sort of self-censorship but similarly certain amount of extra consideration is perhaps required due to the work that we do.

    Little One–it looks like you share my view that there should be dissent available but we need to consider the manner in which we do that. I have personally had a few close calls with social networking that I'm eager not to repeat.

    Anonymous–you touch on an issue which has been brought up in many local trusts around the country. I have heard of staff befriending patients on sites like Facebook. While the intention may be perfectly harmless it does raise more than a few eyebrows. In relation to liking your university's Facebook page I'm sure the university would actively encouraged that. Nothing helps the University more than being liked by its students!

    Michael–Of course you're right. An example of this tick box system may be the Twitter joke trial (Google it).

    Aaron - in a sense I think you are repeating what I feel. A large part of operating safely and sensibly online is mainly common sense.

    Thanks to everybody who has commented it's really great to read your feedback.

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