RCN congress

Dishonesty may put you before the NMC, barrister warns nurses

Nurses should avoid acts of ‘dishonesty’ in their private lives that could bring the profession into disrepute if they want to avoid being referred to the nursing regulator, a barrister has warned.

Ben Rich John Houlihan

The stark warning came from Ben Rich at a fringe session at RCN congress in Bournemouth this week. He said the nursing code of conduct holds nurses to account not just on their ability to nurse but on the way they uphold the reputation of nursing.

He cited examples of cases where the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) had decided nurses' fitness to practise was impaired by behaviour that had brought the profession into disrepute. One example involved a nurse who had altered an annual parking permit to avoid the charges for another year.

‘Anything that smacks of dishonesty is taken very seriously whether or not it impacts on your ability to be a nurse,’ he told the audience.

He said ‘honesty is the key concept’, adding: ‘Any conviction for dishonesty is going to get you an impairment. In most cases you will get a temporary suspension and in many cases you will get a year-long suspension.’

He said nurses may be increasingly facing NMC panels for cases involving acts that have brought their profession into disrepute because the status of nursing has risen as a result of becoming a graduate profession. It is increasingly difficult for nurses to be discreet about their private lives because of the presence of social media, he added.

Also speaking at the fringe, RCN principal legal officer and solicitor Jo Galbraith-Marten gave tips for avoiding inappropriate use of social media (see below).

Here are the RCN’s tips for nurses on using social media appropriately:

  • Do not show pictures of yourself celebrating a drunken night when due to start a shift early the next day
  • Do not share pictures on Instagram about your trip to Ibiza when you are off work due to ill health
  • Do not share disparaging comments about your line manager/colleagues on social networking sites
  • Avoid identification of your employer on your profile
  • Do not air grievances about your employer on a social networking site
  • Always read your employer’s social media policy
  • Keep a firm boundary between your work and personal life
  • Under no circumstances identify patients in your care or post information that may lead to the identification of patients or their families
  • Do not take photos of patients in your care
  • Do not use social networking sites or non-work related sites when you are supposed to be working
  • Never post explicit, racially offensive, homophobic or otherwise unlawful discriminatory remarks on social networking sites