Keep yourself safe online
Published: 24 November 2011
Social networking can be fun but what you say online could put your nursing career at risk. Read RCN advice on protecting your professional integrity
You’ve done a tough shift. You get home and you’re drained, and would like a bit of sympathy. Why not share it on Facebook or Twitter? All your friends will see and empathise. Just don’t say where you work or patients’ names, and there won’t be any problems. Right?
Just because no-one has been named, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of breaching patient confidentiality or defamation. There is also a risk of being accused of bullying or harassment.
Chris Cox, the RCN’s Director of Legal Services, says health care employers are becoming increasingly aware of comments made by their staff online.
He says: "Comments about the organisation, clients or colleagues can bring the employer into disrepute and there are risks of legal claims against the employer who can be liable for the actions of its staff. Nursing staff are also expected to uphold the reputation of the profession in their daily lives, so inappropriate behaviour outside work may be considered misconduct in certain circumstances. The best advice is just to not post anything about your work on the internet."
If in doubt, refer to the RCN’s Legal advice on using the internet at work (PDF 253KB) [see how to access PDF files] which says:
- never identify or make disparaging remarks about your employer, its clients or colleagues
- never post explicit, offensive or discriminatory remarks or make any comment or air grievances that may embarrass your employer; and do not post photos that depict you or your colleagues in irresponsible poses or situations
- at work, never visit personal sites or inappropriate ones like gambling sites or those with sexually explicit content
- never identify patients or post information that may lead to their identification
- observe your employer’s bullying, harassment and dignity policies when composing emails to colleagues and avoid sending emails to ‘all users’ or large numbers of staff when criticising a colleague
- take time to compose replies to emails that have made you angry or upset, and consider talking to a colleague first if you intend to be critical.
If you find yourself in trouble and need urgent advice, call RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 who will be able to help you between 8.30am and 8.30pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year.