The Nursing and Midwifery Council uses social networking sites to engage with nurses and midwives, students and the public, and they have been leading the UK’s health and social care regulators in developing our online communications activity. They are active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and they have thousands of subscribers to their regular email newsletters. At the same time, they are seeing an increasing number of cases before the fitness to practise panels which involve the use of social networking sites and other online activity. Even as a student it is important that you conduct yourself professionally at all times and in all places, real and virtual, in order to justify the trust the public places in our professions.
Used properly, social networking sites such as Facebook are a great way to find old friends, join interest groups and share information. However, nurses and midwives should remember that anything posted on a social networking site is in the public domain and could be read by patients or even future employers. Be careful what you post and who you post it to. What may be considered to be letting off steam about a situation at work can potentially be read by someone who may take offence at the content of a posting. Nurses and midwives could be putting their registration at risk if posting inappropriate comments about colleagues or patients or posting any material that could be considered explicit. The NMC believe there is a clear relationship between conduct in the real world and conduct online.
In referring to the Code (2015) in the NMC social networking advice, the NMC set out a clear expectation that both online and offline conduct should be at a similar high standard.
The NMC; nor the School of Health & Society at the University of Salford do not advocate blanket bans on nurses, midwives or students joining or using social networking sites. Both support the responsible use of social networking sites by nurses, midwives and students through their advice and guidance. As a School we encourage you to use social networking responsibly and remind you of your responsibilities to the NMC, and hence direct you to the NMC advice and other relevant standards and guidance.
The NMC has published guidance on using social media and students are encouraged to explore this information. This guidance should be read together with The Code: Professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives (The Code) (NMC, 2015). Nurses and midwives should refer to this guidance along with any guidance issued by their employer on social media. This guidance is not intended to cover every social media situation that you may face, however it sets out broad principles to enable you to think through issues and act professionally, ensuring public protection at all times. As the nature and scope of social media is constantly evolving, guidance is reviewed and updated as necessary and the principles of the Code are re-applied to new and evolving situations. Given the large proportion of the population using social networking sites, healthcare providers and universities can derive benefits through engaging with social media, both at a corporate and individual level. Having a corporate presence on social networking sites can also lend credibility when engaging students, nurses and midwives around these issues, and can provide a platform for encouraging responsible use.
It is difficult to understand why some student nurses and midwives choose to engage inappropriately with social media. Despite the pitfalls of social media being carefully explained to them in the early stages of their professional lives some individuals potentially jeopardise their futures in the profession they aspire to join through their ill-chosen and unacceptable contributions to social media. Stay safe when using social media by following the “top tips” in the chapter entitled “Professional values and decision making” by Ruth Chadwick in Nursing: Decision-Making Skills for Practice (2013) edited by Karen Holland and Deborah Roberts, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-964142-0
Social networking sites should not be used for raising and escalating concerns (commonly referred to as whistleblowing). The NMC has guidance about Raising Concerns (NMC 2015) which sets out your professional duty to report any concerns which put the safety of people in your care or the public at risk, and the steps you should take to do this.
Seek out Nursing Students at the University of Salford on Twitter @nursingSUni or WeNurses @WeNurses for examples of how social media can be used in a positive manner to share knowledge and stimulate ideas with the objective of sharing the best evidence based practice for the enhancement of client care.
Think before you post via any social media; T – is it true? H – is it helpful? I – is it inspiring? N – Is it necessary? K – Is it kind? Answering these questions should increase your confidence that what you intend to post will be valuable to others.
But there is one final variable when thinking about social media which is just as important: YOU. If you would not read it, if you would not comment or share or click, do not post it. Real people get hurt in the real and virtual world. Use your words to inspire and not to destroy. Treat your online conversations as if you were talking with people in a public space where you can be seen and overheard.
This week the UK Government has launched an Internet Safety Strategy green paper; please consider responding online or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts about the proposed strategy and help to ensure that the safest place in the world to be online is Britain.
All NMC related images are used with the permission of the Nursing & Midwifery Council.