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Social media scenarios


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.

 Scenario #1: Breaching privacy and crossing boundaries

Ulla works in a pediatric setting. On four occasions over a period of several months, she posts photographs and information about her pediatric clients on her personal Instagram and Facebook accounts. She never posts faces or names but the clients can still be identified by staff, other clients and families in the hospital. A complaint from a parent leads to a workplace investigation.

The investigation finds that Ulla also follows the Instagram accounts of, and maintains Facebook friendships with parents of ​​both current and former clients. It also finds that during this time period, there was a similar incident involving another staff member. This led to the employer requiring that all staff review organizational policies related to privacy and social media use.

Despite this review, Ulla later posted a fourth picture. Ulla’s actions were reported by her manager to the College.​​

What happened next?

Investigative findings led the Inquiry Committee to determine that Ulla’s actions related to privacy and boundaries were unsatisfactory, and that she demonstrated limited accountability and responsibility. She was reprimanded and through a consent agreement with the College, required to complete remedial action including coursework and a consultation with a BCCNP Regulatory Practice Consultant.

She is also required to provide a copy of the consent agreement outlining the findings of the Inquiry Committee and the required remedial actions to her current employer, and to any prospective employers for the term of the agreement.

 Scenario #2: Violating professional boundaries

Dustin works in a primary care centre. While assigned to a client requiring daily infusions, he has several conversations with her over the week. She shares a number of details about her personal life, and Dustin shares some personal information about himself in return.

The following week, on a day off, Dustin logs into his personal Facebook account and searches for her profile. When he locates it, he ‘waves’ hello to her. The next day, he sends her a friend request.

When the client completes treatment, she reports the incident to the centre manager, stating that Dustin attempted to have a personal relationship with her. She said that Dustin asked for and shared personal information, searched for and located her personal Facebook page, and attempted to initiate contact by ‘waving’ to her and sending a friend request. Dustin’s actions were reported to the College.​​​

What happened next?

After investigation, the Inquiry Committee determined that Dustin’s conduct –sharing personal information and initiating personal contact with a client—was unsatisfactory. He was reprimanded and entered into a consent agreement with the College, requiring him to complete remedial action including coursework and a consultation with a BCCNP Regulatory Practice Consultant.

Dustin is also required to provide a copy of the consent agreement outlining the Inquiry Committee findings and required remedial actions to his current employer, including his direct supervisor, and to any prospective employers for the term of the agreement.

 Scenario #3: Crossing the line

Harj follows the public Instagram account of a nursing colleague, Kim. At the end of a recent shift, Kim made a post about her shift that included details about a client she had cared for. The post identified the client’s gender and included a derogatory comment about their physical appearance.

Harj was certain that other colleagues would be able to identify the client, and as Kim’s profile listed her occupation and location (a small town), Harj believed that members of the public might also be able to. Harj believed the post was a breach of privacy, disrespectful to the client, and unprofessional. Believing the best way to resolve the situation was to speak directly with Kim, Harj shared her concerns with her. Kim agreed that she crossed the line, deleted the post and promised to be more thoughtful in the future.

Two weeks later, Harj noticed a new Instagram post by Kim, with detailed, disrespectful comments about two other clients indicating that she disagreed with some of their lifestyle choices. Concerned that Kim’s posts could have a direct and negative impact on clients and the public’s trust in nursing, Harj believed she had a responsibility to act. She took screenshots of the posts and emailed them to her manager, outlining her concerns and her previous conversation with Kim. After a workplace investigation, the manager reported Kim’s conduct to the college. ​​

What happened next?

After investigation, the Inquiry Committee determined that Kim’s conduct – posting disrespectful, derogatory and unprofessional comments on social media about clients in her care – was unsatisfactory. While the clients’ names were not identified in Kim’s posts, the Inquiry Committee was of the view that the comments were such that her colleagues would have been able to identify to whom she was referring and that members of the public may also have been able to. Kim entered into a consent agreement, requiring her to serve a four week suspension; complete remedial education in the areas of patient privacy, professional boundaries, professionalism and ethics in nursing practice; and complete a consultation with a BCCNP Regulatory Practice Consultant.

Kim is also required to provide a copy of the consent agreement outlining the Inquiry Committee findings and required remedial actions to her current employer, including her direct supervisor, and to any prospective employers for the term of the agreement.

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