Guidanceon usingsocial mediaresponsibly

We’re the independent regulator for nurses, midwives andnursing associates. We hold a register of all the 690,000 nursesand midwives who can practise in the UK, and nursing associateswho can practise in England.Better and safer care for people is at the heart of what wedo, supporting the healthcare professionals on our register todeliver the highest standards of care.We make sure nurses, midwives and nursing associates havethe skills they need to care for people safely, with integrity,expertise, respect and compassion, from the moment they stepinto their first job.Learning does not stop the day nurses, midwives and nursingassociates qualify. To promote safety and public trust, werequire professionals to demonstrate throughout their careerthat they are committed to learning and developing to keeptheir skills up to date and improve as practitioners.We want to encourage openness and learning among healthcareprofessionals to improve care and keep the public safe. On theoccasions when something goes wrong and people are at risk,we can step in to investigate and take action, giving patientsand families a voice as we do so.

This guidance should be read together with The Code:Professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses,midwives and nursing associates (the Code).Nurses, midwives and nursing associates should refer to thisguidance along with any guidance issued by their employer onsocial media.This guidance is not intended to cover every social mediasituation that you may face, however it sets out broad principlesto enable you to think through issues and act professionally,ensuring public protection at all times.As the nature and scope of social media is constantly evolving,we will review this guidance as necessary and reapply theprinciples of the Code to new situations that emerge.Nursing and Midwifery Council1

IntroductionIf used responsibly and appropriately, social networking sites canoffer several benefits for nurses, midwives, nursing associates,and students. These include: building and maintaining professional relationships e stablishing or accessing nursing and midwifery supportnetworks and being able to discuss specific issues, interests,research and clinical experiences with other healthcareprofessionals globally, and b eing able to access resources for continuing professionaldevelopment (CPD).This document provides guidance for nurses, midwives andnursing associates on how to use social media1 and socialnetworking2 sites responsibly and in line with the requirementsof the Code.The principles outlined in this guidance can also generally beapplied to other kinds of online communication, such as personalwebsites and blogs, discussion boards and general contentshared online, including text, photographs, images, video andaudio files. ocial media: “Websites and applications that enable users to create and shareScontent or to participate in social networking.”2 Social networking: “The use of dedicated websites and applications to interactwith other users, or to find people with similar interests to one’s own.”2 Guidance on using social media responsibly1

How the Code can be applied to social media useThe Code contains a series of statements that taken togethersignify what good nursing and midwifery practice looks like. It isimportant that you display a commitment to these standardsincluding:“Use all forms of spoken, written and digital communication(including social media and networking sites) responsibly.”(The Code, paragraph 20.10)Nurses, midwives and nursing associates may put theirregistration at risk, and students may jeopardise their ability tojoin our register, if they act in any way that is unprofessional orunlawful on social media including (but not limited to): sharing confidential information inappropriately; p osting pictures of patients and people receiving carewithout their consent; posting inappropriate comments about patients; bullying, intimidating or exploiting people; b uilding or pursuing relationships with patients or serviceusers; s tealing personal information or using someone else’sidentity; encouraging violence or self-harm; and inciting hatred or discrimination.If you are aware that another nurse, midwife or nursingassociate has used social media in any of these ways, it might behelpful to refer to our guidance on raising concerns (NMC).This sets out your professional duty to report any concerns youhave about the safety of people in your care or the public, andthe steps you should take to do this.We highlight the relationship between social media use and theCode on the next page.Nursing and Midwifery Council3

Prioritise peopleThe Code emphasises the importance of putting the interestsof people using or needing nursing or midwifery services first.You should always make sure that your behaviour on social mediais in line with this.“Treat people with kindness, respect and compassion.” (TheCode, paragraph 1.1)Do not post anything on social media that may be viewed asdiscriminatory, does not recognise individual choice or does notpreserve the dignity of those receiving care.“As a nurse, midwife or nursing associate, you owe a duty ofconfidentiality to all those who are receiving care.” (The Code,paragraph 5)It is unacceptable for nurses, midwives or nursing associatesto discuss matters related to the people in their care outsideclinical settings. If you refer to your work or study on socialmedia you need to demonstrate respect and professionalismtowards all your patients or service users by respecting theirright to privacy and confidentiality. This is regardless of whetheryou believe that there is a risk they could be identified.Sharing confidential information online can have the potentialto be more damaging than sharing it verbally due to the speedat which it can be shared and the size of the potential audience.It is important to remember that although some informationmay not directly breach a patient’s right to confidentiality whenanonymised, people may still be identifiable and this behaviourmay be inappropriate.4 Guidance on using social media responsibly

Practise effectively“Always practise in line with the best available evidence.” (TheCode, paragraph 6)As a nurse, midwife or nursing associate, you have aresponsibility to ensure that any information or advice that youprovide via social media is evidence-based and correct to thebest of your knowledge. You should not discuss anything thatdoes not fall within your level of competence and you shouldavoid making general comments that could be consideredinaccurate.“Maintain effective communication with colleagues.” (The Code,paragraph 8.2)You must work cooperatively with your colleagues and thisincludes communicating in an appropriate way when you usesocial media.Preserve safety“Act without delay if you believe that there is a risk to patientsafety or public protection.” (The Code, paragraph 16)Social media should not be used to harass or victimise someone,or to attempt to prevent or discourage someone from raisingtheir concerns.Promote professionalism and trust“Stay objective and have clear professional boundaries at alltimes with people in your care (including those who have beenin your care in the past), their families and carers.” (The Code,paragraph 20.6)Nurses, midwives and nursing associates should not usesocial networks to build or pursue relationships with patientsand service users as this can blur important professionalNursing and Midwifery Council5

boundaries. It is important to be aware that even without engagingwith patients or service users on social media, they may still beable to access your information.“Act with honesty and integrity in any financial dealings you havewith everyone you have a professional relationship with, includingpeople in your care.” (The Code, paragraph 21.3)As a nurse, midwife or nursing associate, you have a responsibilityto ensure that you declare any conflict of interest around materialthat you post on social media including financial or commercialdealings.How to use social media responsiblyBe informedMake sure that you familiarise yourself with how individual socialmedia applications work and be clear about the advantages anddisadvantages.Think before you postIt is important to realise that even the strictest privacy settingshave limitations. This is because, once something is online, it can becopied and redistributed.Protect your professionalism and your reputationIf you are unsure whether something you post online couldcompromise your professionalism or your reputation, you shouldthink about what the information means for you in practice andhow it affects your responsibility to keep to the Code.It is important to consider who and what you associate with onsocial media. For example, acknowledging someone else’s postcan imply that you endorse or support their point of view. Youshould consider the possibility of other people mentioning you ininappropriate posts. If you have used social media for a number ofyears, it is important to consider, in relation to the Code, what youhave posted online in the past.6 Guidance on using social media responsibly

The nursing and midwifery regulator for England,Wales, Scotland and Northern IrelandRegistered charity in England and Wales () and in Scotland ()7 Raising and escalating concerns: Guidance Nursingfor nursesandandMidwiferymidwivesCouncil7