Nurses who raised concerns about lack of PPE targeted by online trolls

Nurses report vicious, and often misogynist, online abuse, with some needing to enlist police action, after sharing safety concerns about lack of personal protective equipment on social media

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Nurses who are raising safety concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) on social media say they have experienced vicious abuse and trolling that has led some to enlist police action.

One nurse, who spoke to Nursing Standard anonymously, said she had been targeted by trolls with ‘a barrage of abuse’ after sharing anxieties about going to work, and another nurse friend had closed her social media accounts for the same reason.

Online bullying during pandemic leaving nurses ‘scared for personal safety’

‘It is really upsetting and I have got enough to deal with at the moment,’ she said.

‘I have found nursing through this pandemic totally different and very emotional.’

She said one nurse friend recently had to intubate her own colleague, who later died.

‘There is a lot of sadness and upset around. The fact that people are choosing to go online and intimidate and bully me to make me feel scared for my own safety is very distressing.’

Gender-biased attacks and abusers posting nurses’ personal information online

As well as issuing personal attacks and threats, such as of referring her to the nursing regulator, some abusers have posted personal information about the nurse online. 

She believes there is a gender basis for the attacks.

‘This is definitely misogyny – and it doesn't seem like the same thing happens to doctors,’ she said.

The Fawcett Society, a charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights, said that one of the effects of the lockdown was that more time spent online would equate to more online abuse.

Targeting nurses during COVID-19 crisis ‘truly shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’

Society chief executive Sam Smethers said: ‘The fact that during this crisis nurses who are putting their own lives on the line can be targeted in this way is truly shocking.’

RCN national director of nursing, policy and practice Susan Masters wrote a message expressing support for nurses affected.

‘Trolling nurses for highlighting shortages in PPE they are personally experiencing is unacceptable,’ she said.

‘Nurses have enough to deal with without feeling fearful of social media.’

View our COVID-19 resource centre

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