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Social Media Guidelines For Health Care Practitioners


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Draws on the RCGP Social Media Highway Code, the IMO Position Paper on Social Media and the Nursing and Midwifery Code to the Use of Social Networking Sites.

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Social Media Guidelines For Health Care Practitioners

  1. 1. Social Media Guidelines ForHealth Care Professionals
  2. 2. The professional standardsexpected of health careprofessionals do not changebecause you arecommunicating throughsocial media.However, social media doesraise new circumstances towhich the establishedprinciples apply.
  3. 3. Reminds doctorsand students of theirdigital footprint:“Anything that hasonce been typed orposted andimmortalized on theinternet can alwaysresurface.”
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  5. 5. NMCPractical guidancefor students, nursesand midwives usingsocial media. If you identify yourself as a nurse or midwifeon Facebook, you should act responsibly at alltimes and uphold the reputation of yourprofession. Even if you do not identify yourself as a nurseor midwife, be aware that your conduct onlinecould still jeopardise your registration if itcalls your fitness to practise into question. If you receive a friendship request from acurrent or former patient, Facebook allowsyou to ignore this request without the personbeing informed, avoiding the need to giveunnecessary offence. Do not discuss work-related issues online,including conversations about patients orcomplaints about colleagues. Even whenanonymised, these are likely to beinappropriate.
  6. 6. NMCAdditionalguidelines Never post pictures of patients or serviceusers, even if they ask you to do this. Ourguidance on record keeping states clearly,"you should not take or keep photographs ofany person, or their family, that are notclinically relevant" (NMC 2009b). If yourmobile phone has a camera, you should notuse it in the workplace. Protect your own privacy. On Facebook, youcan adjust your privacy settings at group levelto share different levels of information withdifferent kinds of friends. Remember that everything you post online ispublic, even with the strictest privacy settings.Once something is online, it can be copiedand redistributed, and it is easy to losecontrol of it. Presume that everything youpost online will be permanent and will beshared.
  7. 7. GuidingPrinciples10 guiding principles toencourage HCPs tomake greater use ofsocial media, while atthe same time ensuringthey meet theirprofessional obligationsand protect theirpatients.1. Be aware of the image you present online andmanage this proactively.2. Recognise that the personal and professional can‟talways be separated.3. Engage with the public but be cautious of givingpersonal advice.4. Respect the privacy of all patients, especially thevulnerable.5. Show your human side, but maintain professionalboundaries.6. Contribute your expertise, insights andexperience.7. Treat others with consideration, politeness andrespect.8. Remember that other people may be watchingyou.9. Support your colleagues and intervene whennecessary.10. Test out innovative ideas, learn from yourmistakes – and have fun!
  8. 8. GuidingPrincipleBe aware of the imageyou present online andmanage this proactively Act as though any information andimages you post online will remainthere forever and might bedistributed, shared, commentedupon and accessed by anyone,including your patients, family,colleagues or employers (even manyyears later). Learn how to promptly delete postsand other information you haveuploaded in error, as this mayreduce their distribution – butunderstand that even deletedmaterial may be recovered or remainpublicly available in somecircumstances.
  9. 9. GuidingPrincipleRecognise that thepersonal andprofessional can‟talways be separated• Consider how the total body of informationand images you post online contribute to theimpression that others might form of you,both professionally and personally, and howthis in turn can influence how your futureonline and offline behaviour will beinterpreted.• Clarify when you are commentingprofessionally or personally about an issue –although commenting personally does notexcuse you from your professionalobligations.• Maintaining an appropriate balance betweenyour life as a private individual and yourresponsibilities as a professional will requirethe application of judgement and experience.
  10. 10. GuidingPrincipleEngage with the publicbut be cautious ofgiving personal advice General comments and signposting toauthoritative and appropriate sources ofinformation sources of information aregenerally fine, but do not be tempted intogiving online consultations. If a request for advice comes from one of yourpatients, direct them to your practice/hospitalwebsite, telephone, email or appointmentsystem as appropriate. Occasionally you may receive an urgentrequest for help from a patient that requiresan immediate response. As with all „GoodSamaritan‟ acts, you must act in the bestinterests of the patient and follow yourprofessional obligations.
  11. 11. GuidingPrincipleRespect the privacy ofall patients, especiallythe vulnerable Do not discuss real patients, their illnesses,conditions or any of their personalinformation in public, except with explicit andinformed consent of those concerned –otherwise you are at risk of breaching theirprivacy. Be aware that even if you change one or twodetails in a case, such as the age or sex of thepatient, the patient or their family may still beidentifiable from other details. Remember that even though revealing anisolated piece of information may not in itselfbreach confidentiality, when put togetherwith other items of information it might doso.
  12. 12. GuidingPrincipleShow your human side,but maintainprofessional boundaries Try to maintain a separation betweenyour personal and professional onlineprofiles – direct your friends andfamily to the former and your patientsand colleagues to the latter. Should you receive an inappropriatesocial media contact from apatient, politely re-establishprofessional boundaries and explainyour reasons. Remember that friendrequests are usually well-meaning andpatients might not understand whyyou can‟t accept them.
  13. 13. GuidingPrincipleContribute yourexpertise, insights andexperience Use your position as a healthcareprofessional responsibly to challengeand inform as appropriate, justifyingyour views with evidence. Discuss the use of social media in yourwider healthcare teams andorganisations as a means forcommunicating more effectively withspecific sections of your localcommunity, such as younger people,who may be hard to reach throughmore traditional means.
  14. 14. GuidingPrinciple #7Remember that otherpeople may be watchingyou Social media is a public space. Any comments youpost in social media sites may be regarded aspublic property and may be quoted in other media,including the national press. Assume that online dialog on any platform has thepotential to be seen by everyone‟s eyes. Professional bodies can sanction you if they deemyour behaviour to be a risk to their reputation orto the reputation of the profession as a whole; evenif your original posting was made in a privatenetwork or in a non-professional context. Be aware that journalists may routinely monitoractivity in social media sites for potential stories.All conversations should be regarded as „on therecord‟.
  15. 15. GuidingPrincipleSupport your colleaguesand intervene whennecessary Looking after colleagues is an integralelement of professional conduct, so if you feelthat a friend or workmate has postedinformation online that could be damagingfor them, consider letting them know in adiscreet way (such as a personal email, textmessage, or phone call). If the colleague doesn‟t make amends and youbelieve the breach is serious, report it to theappropriate bodies. If you are responsible for leading or educatinga healthcare team, consider arranging atraining session on the use of social media.
  16. 16. GuidingPrincipleTest 0ut innovativeideas, learn frommistakes – and havefun! Remaining professional does notmean you can‟t allow yourpersonality, passion or sense ofhumour to show through. Using social media should be afun and enjoyable experience!
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