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Health Care Professionals: Speak your mind, but …

January 22, 2016

By Pat Rich (@pat_health)

headshot Pat Rich

Pat Rich

A Saskatchewan nurse puts a post on her Facebook page detailing some concerns (and praise) about the care received by her grandfather while in a specific palliative care unit – Facebook post leaves Prince Albert, Sask. nurse charged with professional misconduct. She now faces disciplinary charges from the provincial registered nurses association for “violation of confidentiality, failure to follow proper channels, impact on reputation of facility and staff, failure to first obtain all the facts, and using status of registered nurse of personal purposes under the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses.

An Ottawa physician posts a blog – 2 Hospital Days – about her husband’s stay in a local hospital documenting the deteriorating conditions he experienced. She names the hospital and talks about how, with the health care system in general “staffing has been systematically decreased, equipment has not been replaced appropriately, buildings have been left to crumble and food and cleaning have been outsourced to the point that these do not meet the standards for nourishment and cleanliness that most health care professionals would want for themselves.” She is widely applauded for the post, especially by her peers.

Both of these cases are true and both have occurred within the last couple of weeks.

They demonstrate the full spectrum of the challenges and opportunities for health care practitioners of all disciplines who want to participate fully in the 21st century.

The former case provides a textbook vindication for nurses and physicians who are deeply suspicious of social media and are convinced their regulatory bodies have little tolerance for any practitioner foolish enough to use social media.

The latter case demonstrates that a credible health care practitioner voice can have a big impact through the use of personal narrative – a well-recognized strength of social media especially when it comes to telling patient stories.

It’s a complex landscape through which we walk.

twitter chat announcement #hcsmca Jan 27 at 9pm Eastern

All credible authorities acknowledge that extra care must be taken on social media to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. But does this extend to an individual who just happens to be a health care practitioner who wants to discuss what has happened to a family member?

Is it appropriate for regulatory authorities or associations who represent nurses to state that it is unethical for an individual to call the profession into question?

And what of issue of whistleblowing and the power of social media to document unsafe, unethical or just plain stupid activities within one’s own hospital or health region?

On January 27 at 9pm ET (time zone converter), let’s open up the #hcsmca floor for debate:

  • T1: Should health care providers have the same rights as others to express themselves on social media?
  • T2: Do you have a personal experience or knowledge of a health care colleague who has felt constrained from telling their story on social media or alternately have effectively used social media channels to document a concern?
  • T3: Is it valid to place additional constraints on health care professionals to maintain the credibility and integrity of those professions?
Photo credit: derfelphotogen on Flickr
8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2016 10:05 am

    great post Pat. Excellent food for thought, not just for healthcare providers or colleagues but anyone in that space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pat_health permalink
      January 27, 2016 9:32 am

      Thanks, Nikki.
      The whole issue of free speech and social media is definitely relevant to everyone. I want to focus this chat on health care providers because of some of the unique regulatory and ethical challenges they face.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 27, 2016 10:30 am

        I would agree with that but I agree provider professional health in the wake of such a landscape is important


  2. Michelle Welsford permalink
    January 26, 2016 10:15 pm

    Great to bring these 2 examples together. I do not know the details of either case, and so perhaps my suggestions were considered/followed. If you are going to speak about your husband or grandmother, it would be prudent to first ensure you had explicit consent from them to do so. As a health-care practitioner AND family member, you need to be careful to speak about their confidential medical history. Second, you need to be professional about your concerns in language and I would suggest that you should NOT share the health care facility or provider’s name. Those direct concerns should go to the facility, provider, or another authority to deal with the concerns in a professional way. However, I think it is very reasonable to comment publicly on general concerns (over-crowding) and shine a light on our health care system.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. pat_health permalink
    January 27, 2016 9:36 am

    Thanks for your comments, Michelle.
    The two main points you mention are ones I would definitely like to get more feedback on
    1) How much explicit consent do you need when talking about family members on social media?
    2) How appropriate is it for health care providers to be speaking specifically about their own institution or to name a specific institution on social media?
    One of the reasons there has been a big debate about the appropriateness of physicians and other providers in the UK being able to be anonymous when on social media is that some people wanted to expose specific faults in the National Health System and feared for their jobs if they could be identified.
    Hope you can join us tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. January 28, 2016 9:31 am

    Reblogged this on Dr. Gail Beck and commented:
    This is Pat Rich’s commentary on health professionals blogging. My blog, 2 Hospital Days, was well-received while a Saskatchewan nurse was disciplined by her college for blogging about her grandfather’s care. Look at the 2 blogs and consider the questions asked by this blogger.
    For those on twitter, you can also go back through the #hcsmca chat from January 27 and see what others thought.


  5. May 28, 2020 12:24 am

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  1. Chat Summary 249: Health Care Professionals: Speak your mind, but … | Colleen Young

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