You never know who is lurking

Chillaxing in the sun this summer, you might have noticed that privacy has been much in the news (and I’m not just talking about David Cameron struggling into his swimmies on a Cornish beach).

You are probably not too concerned about whether or not the USA’s National Security Agency is actively monitoring Haemnet, but you might have noticed the case about a children’s hospice nurse who was suspended from work after posting offensive messages on Facebook.

Apparently, she believed that messages she posted on Facebook would only be seen by her friends, and that anything she said there had nothing to do with her professional life.

No so. She made a number of direct and indirect references to her workplace, many of which were seen by the families of patients at the hospice and by the wider public. Someone reported to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which ruled that her comments were inappropriate and had called into question her judgment and integrity.

As a registered nurse, said the NMC, it was her “duty to uphold public confidence in the profession”. It judged that her remarks had brought the reputation of the profession into disrepute and undermined public confidence in the profession, and so imposed a half-year suspension order.

Many haemophilia patients and their carers are active users of social media, as are many nurses. Perhaps you post on those forums, or lurk on them, to get an idea of what people are saying about your service. Nothing wrong with that, provided you are careful about what YOU say (even if you hide behind witty user name).

When we first set up Haemnet, we used to describe it as a “sort of” Facebook for nurses that was only open to nurses. We guessed we’d never make millions, but we are now nudging 300 members who have started 368 different conversations, each of which has generated on average 2 replies. Nearly all conversations have been professional: lately people have been discussing the haemophilia dashboard, peritoneal dialysis in haemophilia patients, and the various training courses.

That’s a lot of knowledge sharing, suggesting a need for this forum. But we also know (because just like the NSA we have ways of monitoring these things) that many more people log on and lurk rather than post.

It’s good to be cautious (there’s a children’s hospice nurse in Wales who would agree with that!), but the there’s also nothing to be frightened of – nothing has been said on Haemnet that would remotely trouble either the NSA or the NMC!


Mike Holland founded Haemnet and SixVibe. He is a medical writer, editor and event organiser – find him at Google+ or Driftwood.