9. Social networking and nursing
Matter for discussion submitted by the RCN UK Stewards Committee
That RCN Congress discusses whether social networking sites are good for nursing
Submitted by: UK Stewards Committee
Council lead and committee assigned: RCN Council
Committee decision: None
Members involved: None
Final summary update May 2012
This discussion looked at the changing ways in which we communicate in the 21st century, and asked if the use of social networking had positive effects for nursing. The risk of nurses’ private information becoming available to the public was discussed, as were the benefits of social interaction that social networking websites can provide to patients.
As this was a matter for discussion there were no specific actions to take forward.
Lisa Falconer from the UK Stewards Committee investigated the changing way we communicate in the 21st century in this matter for discussion. The growing popularity of websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was highlighted as Lisa asked if social networking was good for nursing.
Lisa warned of the dangers of private information becoming available to the public and said that nursing staff may face an investigatory hearing if inappropriate comments were made on social networking websites. This concern was shared by David Jones who asked delegates to remember of once information has been made available on a website, you cannot remove it.
Dave Dawes said there were advantages and disadvantages to this method of communication and said that it was up to the individual to manage the dangers. Don’t post anything you don’t want your friends, parents, managers or the NMC to see, he advised. Making reference to the RCN Discussion Zone he said that the advice and interaction available here was the equivalent to having Congress every week.
Delegates gave Vicky Keir a standing ovation after she made an emotional speech about the benefits that using the Facebook website brought to her mother when she was very ill. She described how the social interaction with her online friends gave support to her mother who used the website right up until the day before she died.
Patricia Kemish told delegates about a time when a colleague became very distressed after the father of a patient posted comments about his work as a nurse on a blog. She warned that a social network can be an unfriendly and dangerous place.
To protect staff Penny Mannings stressed the importance of ensuring that employment policies include a reference to using social networks and Lynda Bailey suggested using Facebook for RCN elections.
The popularity and use of social networking websites – including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace – have grown hugely in recent years. Not since the invention of the radio or television has a medium so dramatically revolutionised the way we think about communicating. The numbers relating to social networking speak for themselves:
- 500 million people are currently on Facebook - if the website were a country, it would be the world’s third largest
people spend an incredible 700 billion minutes on Facebook each month
- more than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums and so forth) are shared each month
- more than 50 million tweets are posted each day on Twitter, many of which are commenting on breaking news in real time, as it happens.
The message is clear – social media is not a fad or a fashionable trend, it’s a genuine shift in the way people communicate. News is breaking on Twitter, being shared on Facebook, and when events happen these are filmed for YouTube.
So what impact does social networking have on nursing staff? How does this information revolution affect those working on the frontline? What are the risks and opportunities?
There have been a number of reported cases in which nursing staff have come into difficulties after the inappropriate use of social networks. In 2009 the RCN published guidance on using the internet (Royal College of Nursing, 2009), with a particular focus on social networking websites and the ‘do’s’ and don’ts associated with them. The guidance advice included:
- don’t make disparaging remarks about your organisation, its clients or fellow employees on a social network site
- avoid any identification of your employer on your profile page of a social network site
- don’t make any remarks on a social network site that may embarrass your employing organisation. In particular, do not air your grievances where countless others might be able to read all about it.
However, social networking websites do present real opportunities for nursing. Because these sites connect millions of people to one another, they afford nursing the chance to come together in a way the profession hasn’t seen before.
The RCN’s Facebook page, for example, is a busy and dynamic place where nursing staff across the UK are posting comments, uploading photos and links, and interacting with one another. If used properly, there is no doubt that nursing has a key role to play in the development of these sites and the various opportunities that lie ahead.
References and further reading
Royal College of Nursing (2009) Legal advice on using the internet for RCN members, London: RCN.
Available at: http://www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/272195/003557.pdf