In response to the increasing number of nurses using social media for professional, networking and social purposes, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has published guidance in its NMC Code of Conduct, outlining the need to use social media and social networking sites responsibly. Although this guidance is aimed at nurses, the principles within it provide a foundation for the safe use of social media for all staff working in health and social care and can be adapted for use within your own service. Read on to find out more about this new guidance document and how you can use it to ensure your staff use social media responsibly.
Guidance on using social media responsibly reminds nurses to ensure that they use all forms of communication (including social media and networking sites) responsibly. It also points out that they may put their registration at risk if they behave in a way that is unprofessional, or unlawful, on social media, including:
- Sharing confidential information inappropriately.
- Posting pictures of patients and people receiving care, without their consent.
- Bullying, intimidating or exploiting people.
- Building, or pursuing, relationships with patients or service users.
- Stealing personal information or using someone else’s identity.
- Encouraging violence or self-harm.
- Inciting hatred or discrimination.
Although many of your own staff may not be subject to professional registration, any of the behaviours described above could bring your service into disrepute and are likely to be regarded as gross misconduct by the staff member concerned. Having in place your own guidance will reduce the chance of misconduct on social media and safeguard your reputation.
3 Steps to Promote Safe Social Media Use by Your Staff
- Social media policy. Have a clear and up-to-date policy on social media use available to all staff, outlining your expectations. Ensure your policy includes practical examples of unacceptable use, such as those in the NMC’s Guidance on using social media responsibly, in order to aid understanding.
- Induction. Discuss social media use at induction, to ensure that new staff understand their responsibilities from day one. Staff who are new to social care, in particular, may inadvertently share information inappropriately, or post damaging comments, if clear guidance is not offered.
- Monitoring. You cannot possibly monitor the social media activity of all your staff but many of them will be connected to each other and will be aware of individual colleague’s posts. Encourage self-monitoring amongst your staff team so that any concerns can be brought to your attention at an early stage and more serious issues prevented. Being able to speak to a member of staff to make them aware that their posts have caused concern and to remind them of your social media policy, can prevent more serious problems arising.