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Lately, some of my colleagues have been gossiping about clients and co-workers on Facebook and other social-networking websites. Are they allowed to do this?
Discussing clients on websites such as Facebook is a breach of client confidentiality. Nurses are expected to keep health information that a client discloses confidential. It should only be shared with other health care providers directly involved in the client’s care and with others whom the client consents to share information.
Generally, if certain ways of referring to clients and colleagues are inappropriate in the practice setting, they are inappropriate in the public sphere, including the internet. Anyone with a computer and internet connection can access Facebook and other social networking sites. Airing grievances about co-workers and complaining about workplace issues in these public forums does little to constructively resolve conflict. In fact, such actions could exacerbate conflict. As professionals, nurses are expected to address work concerns with the appropriate authority (e.g., a manager).
Nurses also need to determine if their employer has a policy that includes guidelines on what is acceptable for staff to discuss on social-networking sites.
While the College rarely turns its attention to member behaviour outside the practice setting, it may intervene when a nurse’s conduct outside of the workplace creates issues with their practice. Nurses are responsible for advocating for the profession and maintaining an appropriate image of nursing. The public holds nurses to high standards of behaviour. What a nurse does outside of the practice setting can affect how she or he is perceived professionally.