Health professionals: Speak your mind, but…

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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.

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?

(This post also appeared on #hcsmca)

Photo credit: derfelphotogen on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/67UYEa

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