Nurses and nursing students have been warned to think carefully before allowing employers, other nurses, doctors and allied health professionals access to their personal information on social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace.
The warning is outlined in a new draft guide developed to help New Zealand nurses and nursing students maintain their professional standards online.
Statistics show more than 1.8 million New Zealanders are communicating via social networking sites, ranging from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, blogs and forums to personal websites but nurses are being warned inappropriate online behaviour can damage their integrity and their relationship with patients and colleagues while jeopardising future employment opportunities.
The guide, Social Media and the Nursing Profession: A Guide
to Online Professionalism for Nurses and Nursing Students, outlines examples and case studies of nurses and health workers who have landed in hot water for breaching professional standards.
In one case, seven nurses and doctors in the United Kingdom were suspended from a hospital after posting photos of themselves on Facebook playing the ‘lying down game’ on hospital premises.
The guide also covers issues of confidentiality, defamation, nurse-patient boundaries, colleagues’ online conduct and privacy settings.
It also warns that employers, universities, polytechnics and wananga can access online information about nursing staff or students with “potentially career-damaging outcomes”.
“This is not to say that nurses should avoid using social media, because their use can be personally and professionally beneficial,” the guide states.
“But traditional expectations regarding the conduct of the nursing profession still apply in this non-traditional context; nursing students and nurses always have a duty to patients and the community to maintain professional standards, including when using online social media.”
An NZNO spokesperson said the guide was being finalised and would be submitted to the organisation’s board for approval before the final guide was released.
“NZNO received very constructive and supportive feedback from throughout our membership groups,” she said.
The draft guide can be accessed at: http://www.nzno.org.nz/home/consultation/articletype/articleview/articleid/1168/social-media-and-the-nursing-profession-a-guide-to-online-professionalism-for-nurses-and-nursing-students