Social Media: Do’s and Don’ts for Healthcare Professionals


Nurses - over 1 year ago

Over the years, social media has established itself as a valuable platform for healthcare professionals to keep up with current events, share information, highlight wider health issues and connect with their peers.

While most connections and engagements can be positive and enriching, there’s also the chance that the boundary between professional and personal can blur, whether that’s sharing identifiable information about a patient or getting embroiled in a political debate. However, the negative side of social media can be easily avoided through common sense and following guidance such as that taken from the British Medical Association (BMA). Although written for doctors, the following guidance can be applied to all professionals working in the healthcare sector. 

Protect confidentiality

What you say online always comes down to your judgement, but if you’re posting about medical issues or experiences from your day, then ethical and professional standards will clearly apply. Respect the privacy of patients and colleagues and take a cautious approach to anything that you think could affect your professional standing. This extends to messages in a private social media group which could be shared by someone else.

Consider consent

If you want to share images online that feature your patients or those associated with a specific case, then you’ll need to obtain explicit approval from the subject. Even if you want to share an image of your workplace, take care not to capture anything or anyone that could breach confidentiality.

Maintain professional boundaries

Maintaining a professional distance between you and your patients is vital. Those working in small communities may have friends who are or have been patients, which can’t be helped, but it’s advised that any online interactions with them remain limited.

Be cautious in giving medical advice

Healthcare professionals operating in a broad range of fields can possess a powerful voice in debates and when it comes to providing authoritative information to the public. While answering general questions is unlikely to cause a problem, there are significant risks in delivering personalised health advice via social media to members of the public.

Check before sharing

Not only should you check your own comments before you post them to ensure you don’t ‘say’ something you’ll regret, but you should check all sources before sharing them. This goes for news, commentary pieces and reports that could potentially be fake, or express a controversial opinion that you don’t share and could negatively impact your career if you align yourself with it.

The advice detailed in this blog can be generally applied to all healthcare professionals but do remember that every workplace is likely to have their own social media policy that you need to read and adhere closely to.

For more tips and advice for professionals working in the NHS or private healthcare sector, stay tuned to the MCM Medical blog.