Rules on nurses’ use of social media must move with the times

The rules on appropriate and professional use of social media should give nurses the scope to use these platforms to enhance patient outcomes

Nurses are increasingly expected to move with the times and make effective use of digital technology in the workplace.

Younger members of the profession have only ever known a world in which mobile phones and the internet form an integral part of how we communicate with each other.

There are benefits of being able to share information instantly with colleagues, but there are also risks, principally around breaching confidentiality. So the findings of a survey on how NHS staff use instant messaging services makes for interesting reading.

Easy to be critical

Of the 800 people who took part, 43% said they use instant messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. For the uninitiated, these are internet-based social media systems that allow individuals or groups to share text, pictures and videos.

Some respondents admitted taking photos of patients without permission, sharing X-ray images or revealing confidential information to colleagues.

It is easy to be critical of such behaviour, as there are unequivocal guidelines from the Nursing and Midwifery Council on the use of social media.

There can be little room for compromise when patients’ personal information is involved. However, it is important that those who define the rules on appropriate and professional use of social media move with the times and allow nurses the scope to use these platforms to enhance patient outcomes.