The proposed @nmc-uk Code makes reference to use of social media in the following paragraph:

114. You must ensure that you use social networking sites and other forms of electronic communication responsibly and in line with our guidance, in particular by not referring to employers, colleagues or past or current people you have cared for.

Social media is a form of expression, it is communication and establishes relationship with others through the various different media platforms. The current Social Media platforms may continue to exist or transform as technology and approaches develop. As such this paragraph fails to support the essence of nursing and has a number of potentially unintended effects, which I believe make the Code impracticable.

Firstly, as written, it means that no registered nurse, from a Nurse Director to student, could make any reference to their employer. That means the current practice of using social media could not be possible, for example:
Referring to the positive news on ‘Nurse Day’
– Nurse & Midwifery consultants would not be able to publicise any work they are doing to benefit patients, as such having a negative impact on health education and disease prevention.
– What would this mean for research? what about a nurse who is working collaboratively with other health professionals, s/he could not make reference via Social Media on the exciting work they are doing.
– Health promotion work, currently established through Social Media could not continue from nurses. How is that benefitting patients?

Secondly, it means that others, not employed could use Social Media. One could refer to other hospitals; it’s their employer, as such would not be in breach of the Code.
– It disadvantages nurses & midwives. No other regulator specifies explicitly not to make reference to employers, but to use social media to the benefit of patients
– Independent Nurses and other health professions now have an advantage over those ’employed’ and while hey are not in the majority, it means that the NMC as Regulator will have to identify who is employed, where and when to assess any ‘breaches’ before considering what sanctions it would apply.

Thirdly, this clause is dangerous as it stands. It means that any registered nurse or midwife could be referred for saying something factually accurate, but the entity does not like. For example, making reference to a strategic change, merger or other issue which is part of either consultation or review. An employee nurse/midwife would have their freedom of expression limited for fear or referral.

Imagine if only 5% of nurses were referred for “making reference to their employer” something like 32,000 referral a year, within 3 years the purpose of the NMC, ‘to protect public through setting of standards’. could be thwarted by a bulge of referrals.

I suspect para 114 is written in response to potential use of Social Media for ‘whistleblowing’. If that is the case, then paragraph 66 needs strengthening.

66. You must raise concerns if you believe a person in your care is vulnerable or at risk and in need of extra support and protection, taking all reasonable steps to protect them from neglect or abuse.

Whether intentionally or not, I believe this is just one of many issues we should review before the Code become live because as it stands it is not workable.

Social Media is here to stay, it is now referenced by academia and a form of signposting to excellent resources; it is used by patients, health professionals and organisations to reach hard to access people. Nurses too use this viral media to enable contact with people and patients who may normally be hard to reach. As such it should be harnessed to form virtual communities and draw on its benefits.

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