The use of Facebook to connect and support members has exploded over the last 18 months. There are now almost 100 closed RCN Facebook groups, including one for nearly all the professional nursing forums, as well as those for branches, regional reps and students.
They can provide a great space to share news, seek advice, promote events and discuss nursing issues. But more than anything, they can help further your reach as an RCN activist, engaging members in ways not accessible before the advent of social media.
For Liz Jeremiah, Chair of the RCN Portsmouth branch, it’s enabled better support for members with almost instant results.
“We’ve had members ask questions about, for example, revalidation,” she says. “One asked how she could access online learning as she was part-time and wanted to study in a way that suited her home and family life. Within a couple of hours a number of other members, including learning reps, practice educators and others in similar positions, had responded with some really great advice.”
Bad language will not be tolerated
Though a small patch, the Portsmouth branch Facebook group now has nearly 500 members. But while Liz is keen to encourage healthy debate, she has a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to moderation.
“If a member has posted something with bad language I remind them that it will not be tolerated,” she says. “Members are not to post anything which may be regarded as inflammatory or disrespectful and I will remove comments and posts, if required.”
Simply be sensible
Liz is guided by the principles set out in the NMC’s publication on using social media responsibly and is supported by RCN Regional Communications Manager Helen Wigginton.
“We do check that those requesting to join the group are members and ask questions to avoid accepting people who may wish to post about their own agenda or act in a way detrimental to others, the RCN or local employers,” says Helen.
For the most part, however, discussions are positive. “We really haven’t had to moderate very much,” she assures. “The group is a safe and friendly place to talk about workplace issues and for members to seek support from each other.
“My advice is simply to be sensible. Though the groups are closed, anything posted on there can still be copied and shared. So long as members behave as they would do in a professional work setting, using language as they would if face-to-face, treating others as they would in person, and not breaching the NMC code, then social media and all its benefits should be embraced.”
What does the NMC say?
The NMC’s guidance on using social media gives clear advice on how to behave online. It says you put your registration at risk if you act in any way that is unprofessional or unlawful including:
- sharing confidential information inappropriately
- posting pictures of patients without their consent
- bullying, intimidating or exploiting people
- inciting hatred or discrimination.
It’s part of the NMC code to treat people with kindness, respect and compassion and maintain effective communication with colleagues. Think before you post, the guidance urges, and always protect your professionalism and reputation.