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The tool that aims to help nurses use social media professionally

Online behaviour doesn’t always reflect nurses’ knowledge of the issue, says OU researcher

Online behaviour doesn’t always reflect nurses’ knowledge of the issue, says OU nurse researcher

A tool has been developed to help nurses determine what constitutes unprofessional activity on social media
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A tool developed by a nurse researcher could help nurses assess what constitutes unprofessional activity on social media.

The Awareness to Action (A2A) 3Cs tool was developed by Open University (OU) nurse researcher Gemma Ryan to promote understanding about the distinction between professional and unprofessional social media activity for nurses.

‘We know that people are aware of unprofessionalism, but what they were actually doing didn’t necessarily reflect that,’ Dr Ryan said.

Analysing examples of social media posts

From January to November last year, the OU undertook research with 45 nurses to gauge the tool’s effectiveness. The nurses were presented with five examples of social media posts illustrating behaviour such as drinking alcohol or using profane language, and asked to use the A2A tool to assess how they would categorise it.

The tool guides users to ask questions grouped under the following three themes, called the 3Cs:

  • Clarity – Does the behaviour explicitly breach policy and/or guidelines?
  • Context – Can you explain/describe the context of the situation, when and where it occurred?
  • Confirmability – Can you be sure that the professional who took part in the activity shown on social media while they were in a professional capacity? Can you confirm the consequences and the outcome?

Varied opinions across age groups

Dr Ryan said there were some ‘significant differences’ of opinion in what constituted professionalism, varying with participants’ age and length of time registered.

She added that the tool could be used by nursing managers to assess online incidents, or as part of educational nursing student programmes.


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