Online social networking – a no-no for health practitioners

I just quickly wanted to share with you this link to an article in The Telegraph in the UK.

What are your thoughts?

When does sharing go too far? Is it really that bad to befriend patients or ex-patients on facebook? When does online activity cross the personal-professional boundary? Do you agree with the nursing board – that nurses and midwives should keep their personal and professional social networking identities separate?

I’m not going to share too much about my personal opinion for fear of getting in trouble, but suffice it to say that I do not have two separate identities in my real life, so why would my online life be any different? If I share stories of my experience of people’s births, I keep them general and would never mention names or identifying data. When I have shared other people’s whole birth stories, it is with their permission, and they are the author!

I share online, in the forum of this blog, in the hope of helping people. Becoming a parent is a monumental time in a person’s life and many look for support and answers online. I hope to provide unbiased, research and experience based information to help people on their journey. I would never want to jeopardise my professional practice by acting inappropriately online.

In saying this though, I can not believe (as written in the article) that a US nursing student was expelled for posting a picture of a human placenta. Is that really such a horrendous act? I can understand that facebook might remove the image as being offensive, but is expulsion from university really necessary? Maybe she didn’t have consent, maybe she had a disgusted face in the photo, who knows? But placenta’s are not generally identifiable as coming from any particular person, so a breech of privacy seems unlikely.

Anyway, there is my little rant. It upsets and scares me that the fear of litigation could hinder attempts to help people in the online form. Yes, we need to be careful what we share, but surely our careers should not be threatened because we have an online presence.

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