Social media: treading carefully when it comes to sharing exciting news about your job versus breach

by Belmore Nurses     Posted on 07 January 2015

Just over a week ago a midwife went on facebook to post about the birth of a baby in Waikato hospital New Zealand, saying it’s possibly the biggest in the country ever born, at 6.8kgs. The nurse in question named the baby and his exact weight, sparking a discussion about patient confidentiality.

Waikato District Health Board communications director Mary Anne Gill said the hospital did not have consent to comment about a baby of that weight and the midwife in question has since deleted her post.

Nurses who share the highs and lows of their chosen profession often do so without realising they’re breaching their patient’s confidentiality and so awareness of guidelines and policy is essential.

In relation to this recent breach of confidentiality in Waikato hospital, the midwifery council said all midwives have a code of ethics and are guided by the health information privacy code and Privacy Act itself.The New Zealand College of Midwives Code of Ethics states that confidential information should be shared with others only with the informed consent of the woman, unless otherwise permitted or required by law.

When it comes to Australia, AHPRAdeveloped and published the Nursing and Midwifery social media policy, which states that when using social media, health practitioners should remember that the National Law, their National Board’s code of ethics and professional conduct (the Code of conduct) and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services (the Advertising guidelines) apply.

Complying with confidentiality and privacy obligations involves not discussing patients or posting pictures of procedures, case studies, patients, or sensitive material which may enable patients to be identified without having obtained consent in appropriate situations

It goes on to say how posting unauthorised photographs of patients in any medium is a breach of the patient’s privacy and confidentiality, including on a personal Facebook site or group even if the privacy settings are set at the highest setting.

So next time you’re tempted to post something patient related that is exciting, interesting or shocking on facebook, twitter or any social media medium, think again.