The NMC is urging nurses, midwives and students to use the internet and all forms of social media responsibly. Its revised advice (NMC 2011) aims to address an increase in the number of complaints on fitness to practise that involve the use of social networking sites and other online activity. Upholding the reputation of the profession at all times is a requirement of the NMC code, which equally applies to conduct while online.There is no question of a blanket ban on using social networking sites, and the NMC is committed to using social media to engage with nurses, midwives and students. The advice is designed to help encourage and support their responsible use. Organisations must set out clear policies for staff and students on the use of social networking sites. Any manager responsible for enforcing these polices should understand them and enforce them consistently.
People could put their current or future registration at risk in a number of ways. These include sharing confidential information online; distributing sexually explicit material; posting inappropriate comments about colleagues or patients; and using social networking sites to bully or intimidate colleagues. Key steps are outlined in the advice – maintaining strict boundaries between professional and private lives, and being cautious about taking part in work-related discussions online.
Even with the strictest privacy settings, people should remember that anything posted online is in the public domain and could therefore be shared with others. The average Facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events.