Expert advice

Workplace: how to protect yourself and patients when using social media

I have been approached by nurses who are worried that their use of social media could cause problems at work. Do you have any advice?

I have been approached by nurses who are worried that their use of social media could cause problems at work. Do you have any advice?


Employer organisations may have specific guidance relating to the
use of camera phones at work. Picture: iStock

Social media enables health professionals to network widely and is a useful tool. But there are pitfalls and hurdles that need to be navigated when using sites such as Facebook and Twitter. 

Guidance issued by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) clearly states that nurses who act in an unprofessional or unlawful way on social media put their registration at risk. This includes posting pictures of patients and people receiving care without their consent, and posting inappropriate comments about patients. 

Be cautious 

One nurse who posted a selfie with patient details clearly visible in the background was given a written warning that remained on their record for 6 months. Another who used inappropriate language in a tweet to describe a conversation with a patient got a final written warning that was placed on file for a year.

So the golden rule is to be cautious. Don’t make impulsive comments, use unacceptable language or vent your frustration about work, colleagues or patients.

Most employers will have their own guidance on using social media, so as well as breaching the NMC code and putting your registration at risk, you could face disciplinary action from your employer. 

Employer organisations may also have specific guidance relating to the use of camera phones at work. Familiarising yourself with this and adhering to it will prevent you getting into trouble.

And remember that your employer – and any future employer – may see your posts or tweets, so always tread carefully to protect your patients and yourself. 


About the author 

Zeba Arif
Zeba Arif is a committee member of the RCN nursing in justice and forensic healthcare forum and was an RCN steward for 23 years

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