Social media can be a really useful tool as a healthcare professional – as obvious evidence you’re reading this because of social media. But, as a nursing student your are no longer simply a member of the public. While any member of the public ought to be careful of what they post on social media sites, you are now entering a profession and society (and your future employers) expects high standards of you, as does the organisation that decides whether or not you may call yourself a nurse, the NMC. As it happens, the NMC has published guidance on social networking – worth a read, and please follow the guidance – nurses have been suspended from their jobs because of what they posted on-line – see below.
Don’t let patients see how you behave ‘off-stage’
For examples of where things can go wrong, read this article which includes a story of doctors and nurses who were suspended after posting inappropriate pictures of themselves on Facebook. What do you think of this? Have you posted anything on-line, whether text or pictures, that the public, your future patients and employers, might have access to? Would you be happy for them to see you like that? If the answer’s no, do something about it.
I have to say that I can understand why the doctors and nurses mentioned above were having a bit of fun at work, as caring for patients in the NHS can be stressful and outlets for that stress are important. But don’t, whatever you do, share what could be considered unprofessional or unbecoming behaviour with the world! Patients need to be confident that when they are at their most vulnerable, they will be looked after by competent professionals – this makes them feel safe.
Remember Goffman’s theory of impression management (Lewin and Reeves, 2011) from Fundamental Communication Skills? Did you think, why on earth do I need to know this?! Well, here’s why. If you consider how you ought to behave in different contexts it’s useful to think of yourself as a actor performing various roles. When ‘front-stage’ you are performing your role as a nurse in your clinical area and must act professionally, especially in front of patients. When ‘back-stage’, for example in the staff room, it is acceptable to be more informal, but preparing for your front-stage performance. When you finish your shift you are now ‘off-stage’ – this is the time to let your hair down, and not before! But, also, consider how you might act should you meet a former patient while you’re in the pub…(it does happen!)
So, as I said above, nursing student using social media? You’ve been warned…
Lewin, S., and Reeves, S., 2011. Enacting ‘team’ and ‘teamwork’: using Goffman’s theory of impression management to illuminate interprofessional collaboration on hospital wards. Social Science and Medicine [online] 72,1595-1602