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Along with everyone else, nurses are texting, emailing, blogging and posting on social media and networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram... 

There are benefits to personal and professional social media and technology use. However, the same sharing, networking and access that make social media and communication technologies convenient and effective, also pose risks. Nurses must be aware of and manage these risks, especially as technology evolves and use increases.

Using social media responsibly

At BCCNP, the complaints we receive about nurses’ use of social media and technology relate to boundaries, privacy and confidentiality, professional integrity, and publi​c trust. The issue is not social media or communication technology itself, but how it’s used—personally and professionally. The following are the expectations for nurses using social media. Keep reading»

Complaints to the College

The following scenarios illustrate the types of complaints the College receives about privacy breaches and boundary violations by nurses using social media irresponsibly. These scenarios and outcomes are hypothetical. Depending on the actual nature and circumstances of the complaints received by the College, suspension or other significant outcomes for the nurse may be appropriate.

In considering appropriate outcomes, BCCNP’s Inquiry Committee has the challenging task of balancing professionals’ right to self-expression with the need to ensure public safety and confidence in the profession. Keep reading»

Protecting privacy and maintaining boundaries

Within the nurse-client relationship, the client is often vulnerable because the nurse has more power than the client. The nurse’s power comes from the professional position, access to the client’s private information and need for care. Breaches of privacy and confidentiality and/or boundary violations can damage the professional relationship, the client’s trust, and the client.

As the nurse, you are responsible for setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries at all times. Clearly established boundaries help you manage the power imbalance between you and your client, and meet the client’s therapeutic needs within a safe interaction. You are responsible for recognizing when a professional relationship is slipping into the nonprofessional realm and taking immediate, appropriate action.

The Professional Standards, along with the Privacy and Confidentiality and Boundaries in the Nurse-Client Relationship Practice Standards, highlight requirements related to client confidentiality, privacy and professional boundaries. These requirements apply at all times—whether in person or online, on or off shift.

Maintaining professional integrity and public trust

While employers may not have policies specifically addressing social media use outside of the workplace, nurses are expected to conduct themselves as professionals at all times. BCCNP investigates reports of conduct that falls outside the practice area if the alleged behaviour breaches BCCNP Standards or undermines the public’s confidence in the profession. Examples include:

  • Sharing confidential information online
  • Posting comments or blogs about clients, coworkers or colleagues (for example, identifying a client by name, nickname, diagnosis or room number)
  • Pursuing personal relationships with current or former clients or service users
  • Using social networking sites to bully and/or intimidate clients, colleagues or co-workers
  • Distributing sexually explicit material
  • Using hateful, racist, homophobic or other language that could be seen to threaten equal access to nursing care
  • Engaging in any other behaviour interpreted as a breach in the standards of practice

It’s important that you conduct yourself in a manner that safeguards the confidence of your clients and the public. You should always consider the risks of using social media and social networking sites and the potential impact this may have on your clients and the public.

Thank you to the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba and the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Manitoba for allowing us to adapt their document Social Media and Social Networking. ​​