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The dangers of social media

The dangers of social media

Nurses and midwives need to be cautious about their online presence.

Like four out of five people in Australia, you’ll likely use popular social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.

You might also use emerging platforms such as TikTok or Yammer.

They’re all a great way to connect with family, friends, and like-minded strangers, however it’s wise to be cautious and keep your workplace out of your personal posts and profiles.

Getting into trouble

Social media has blurred the lines between our professional and personal lives, and some of the cases ANMF have dealt with include:

  • A member disciplined for expressing views about mask wearing on social media.
  • A member received a warning for videoing themselves on night duty on Tik Tok. While no location was identifiable, they were in their work uniform. Despite posting to a closed group it was seen by their employer who felt it reflected badly on the reputation of the organisation.
  • A member received a first and final warning for repeatedly posting COVID-19 denier conspiracies on Facebook.
  • A member miscalculated their annual leave request and mistakenly booked an overseas flight for their last rostered day of work, so the member took a personal leave day to make the flight. The member ‘checked in’ at the airport and a colleague on their friends list mentioned it to their manager.
  • A member was terminated and referred to AHPRA for secretly videoing and making disparaging and culturally insensitive comments about an elderly patient. The video was shared with colleagues who raised it with their employer.

AHPRA case studies

Some other examples (noting these are not specifically ANMF members) where a notification to AHPRA has been made:

  • A nurse regularly posted anti-vaccination views on her Facebook, including that vaccinations cause autism, and other misinformation contradicting evidence and public health programs. After consulting the Code of Conduct for guidance, a colleague made a notification about the nurse’s conduct to AHPRA.
  • A mother posted an update about her daughter’s admission to hospital, following a car accident. The mother tagged a nurse friend who was on duty at the ward in a complimentary post about the care received at the hospital. The nurse responded publicly to the comment, thinking it was a private message and inadvertently provided information about the daughter’s recovery and the status of the other passengers. Parents of the other passengers made a formal complaint about the privacy breach.

What regulates your use of social media?

There are several documents you and your colleagues need to be familiar with to avoid getting into trouble on social media.

  • Workplace: you should read and understand how your employer’s local policy applies, so you don’t breach it unknowingly. There can be serious consequences for you, and in worst scenarios, your career.
  • NMBA: has a guideline which also clearly articulates the responsibilities registered health practitioners have when posting in any public forum. You should be familiar with these, noting the website has many additional examples of notifications relating to the use of social media.
  • ANMF: the ANMF Vic Branch also has a social media policy [PDF] available on our website.

Do’s and don’ts

Some important tips on keeping yourself out of trouble on social media:

  • Patient privacy is paramount, never post photos from your workplace or in your uniform
  • Familiarise yourself with your workplace’s social media policy and the NMBA Guideline
  • Avoid venting about your workplace or co-workers online
  • Regularly monitor and manage your profile, don’t include your workplace
  • Check your privacy settings
  • Consider which friend requests you accept, and don’t befriend patients
  • Be careful what you like, favourite or re-tweet. If they have a negative impact on your employer’s reputation, your employer may be entitled to take action
  • Avoid excessive personal social media use at work
  • If you are going to post – review content and consider who will see it.
  • Consider how your online footprint might impact your professional reputation or future career opportunities. Many health services are now reviewing prospective employee’s social media as part of recruitment

Remember – NOTHING on social media is private!

Always ask yourself before posting anything is “How will I feel if my NUM, MUM or manager sees or reads this?”