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Venting on Facebook about work

Case study about social media & confidentiality


Sarah's day on the long-term care unit has been long. She feels stretched by Mrs. Chan's family. Mrs. Chan has been in the care facility for over a year since dementia made it unsafe for her to live alone. Mrs. Chan's family are regular visitors and often stop to ask how Mrs. Chan is doing. They are sometimes critical of her care.

What happened?​​

Mrs. Chan's daughter visits in the morning and questions Sarah  about her mother's care. Sarah does her best to understand and discuss the issues raised. Later when Mrs. Chan's son visits, he asks Sarah many of the same questions. Even though Sarah is running behind, she listens and explains Mrs. Chan's care. An hour later, the unit manager tells Sarah that Mrs. Chan's son and daughter phoned with concerns about their mother's care. They said that when they'd talked to Sarah she was "busy" and "unhelpful."

A Facebook post​​

After her shift, Sarah opens Facebook. After reading her news feed, she updates her status. Her post reads "so much for being patient and listening—some people apparently just don't want to hear—maybe dementia is hereditary?"

What are your thoughts?​​

  • What do you think about Sarah's post?
  • Is it okay to post work-related comments on social media sites?
  • Does it make a difference if names of people and places are not included?

What happened next?​​

Later that evening, Sarah checks Facebook. A colleague has commented on her post, "You must be talking about Mrs. C.'s family. Just ignore them!" Sarah realizes her post revealed more about her client than she knew. She deletes it and messages her colleague, "Sorry! Bad post! I need to find a better way to let off steam!"

What were Sarah's mistakes?

Sarah made two mistakes. The first was posting disrespectful comments about  a client's family. The second was including information that could identify a client.

While Sarah didn't include names of the people involved, she still breached client privacy. Her colleague pieced together the information and knew who she was talking about.

Also, on her Facebook profile, Sarah says she's a nurse and shares where she works. Her reference to "dementia" provides a clue that she's posting about something that happened at work.  ​

What do the s​​​tandards say?

As a nurse, Sarah is required to protect client privacy and confidentiality. The professional standards and the Privacy and Confidentiality practice standard set requirements for nurses' practice.


Use social media with caution and ensure you maintain professionalism and follow ethical and legal standards. Stay up to date on any changes or updates to social media policies and regulations. If you're not sure whether you should post, don't. ​

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