Monday, April 5, 2010

Facebook for midwives: how to enjoy Facebook and stay out of trouble

It is clear that Facebook is becoming increasingly popular with midwives as a way of networking, communicating and sharing information. But midwives have also been getting into trouble on Facebook. There are concerns in some professional quarters about a perceived increase in conversations about clients, patients and colleagues that breach legal and professional confidentiality requirements.

So how can midwives be 'professional' in Facebook but still have fun? Here are a few thoughts, comments and tips.

1. Think carefully about how you want to use your Facebook account
Do you want it to be a professional page where you clearly identify yourself as a midwife, maybe to attract or communicate with clients? Or, do you just want to hang out with friends and family? Even if you are not using your account in a professional capacity, be mindful all the time what you are doing...who you are linking to...who you are becoming friends with...what pages and groups you link to.

2. Pay attention to your privacy settings
Remember that the default privacy settings for Facebook are now open, so you may wish to re-visit your settings and restrict access to the people you choose to be friends with. But remember, even with the most restricted access your 'friends' can still take screen shots of what you have said or done.

3. Pay attention to what you say or do
You cannot beat this advice...every time you post a comment, or upload a video or photo, imagine that your midwifery lecturer, manager or a patient has seen it...have a think about what would they think or say.

4. Six degrees of separation
The world is a very small place and even smaller in Facebook. So your comment may very quickly wing its way beyond your immediate circle of friends to someone you would rather not hear about it.

5. Remember that you can be tagged by others
This point is very similar to the previous one. You have no control over what others upload onto Facebook. So that photo of you doing the 'funky chicken' dance at your birthday party may end up on Facebook and you are not even aware of it.

6. Responding to criticism
Never get into a slanging match with clients about your midwifery actions or performance, even if you feel you are being slandered. In my opinion, you are better off completely ignoring negative comments. However, if you feel you are being unfairly treated and are in danger of having your professional reputation endangered, seek advice from your professional organization - it will be able to advise you about how to proceed.

7. NEVER talk about clients, patients or colleagues on Facebook without their express permission.
This includes up loading photos or videos.

8. Think about who you accept as your 'friend'
It's worth considering whether you should accept friendship with clients or patients - are there professional boundaries that you are crossing? Do you really want them to know the ins and outs of your private life? How do you feel about the merging of your private and professional lives?

9. Giving out professional midwifery information and advice
Have a think about the possible legal ramifications of giving midwifery advice and information to pregnant women - is it appropriate to be giving that information online, or would you be better to have a face-to-face consultation?

10. If in doubt, don't do it

If you are not sure about the comment you are about to make or photo you are about to upload, just don't do it to be on the safe side. Be sure you know what your professional and legal obligations are so you know you are not breaching any rules or regulations set down by law, professional body or employer by your actions on Facebook.

11. Concerns about Facebook
Be aware that there are widespread concerns about Facebook. There are a number of campaigns to encourage people to leave Facebook because of the owner's attitude to privacy and personal information, as well as the difficulty in deleting an account. Ask yourself if and why you want a Facebook account, and think about alternative options for networking. (Here are instructions for deleting your Facebook account).

Having said all that, I do believe Facebook is a great place for connecting and informing midwives, and I actively encourage midwives to engage with Facebook and other social media. So don't be put off using Facebook......give someone a poke...join a mafia war but follow that immortal advice from Hill Street Blues...

..."Let's be careful out there"...

What tips or comments would you make about midwives or any other health professional using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc?

12 Ways to Use Facebook Professionally
. Judi Sohn.

Managing Facebook as a Mental Professional. Keely Kolmes.

The Facebook Guidebook. Mashable.

Should you 'friend' your doctor on Facebook? Elizabeth Cohen.

How to use social networking sites safely. Jo Carlowe.

Image: 'Be careful!' Samout3


Thinkbirth said...

Thanks for posting this reminder and wise advice Sarah. Transparency and boundaries are two aspects of professional practice that can, at times, appear to collide.

The reality is that no one should put anything on facebook or in an email that you would not want on the front page of their country's national newspaper!

Sarah Stewart said...

Great advice, Thinkbirth...and thanks for the timely reminder that these tips relate to any form of electronic communication.

As you know, I have the opposite approach...completely open about what I do online. That does trip me up some times, but with this 'open' approach what you see is what you get.

starpath said...

Common sense rules. People who post are in control of what they post and can use the privacy settings to their advantage.
Understanding electronic communication is the key and early blunders are just the 'getting to know how it works" phase. Thanks again for sharing, Sarah, and for the good advice.

starpath said...

Another thought Sarah, people who have permission to access your restricted access page may choose to distribute your information. Scary.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for the extra comments, starpath. Your last comment is another reason why I prefer the open access route...complete transparency reduces errors in my mind.

InfoMidwife said...

a good reminder Sarah of the pros and cons of the internet..... I think people get caught up in the social side and therefore the boundary becomes blurred and thats when mistakes happen.....really you never put anything on Facebook unless you want the world to is not a private forum... however great for passing on information and catching up on the little things that matter... like me taking the grandkids to the movies....delightful times.

Melissa Garvey said...

Great post, Sarah! I can't remember who I heard this from, but I like the advice: if you don't want a particular group of people to see what you're saying or doing on FB, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you act ethically, you should be able to be pretty open. I like the "what you see is what you get" approach.

Anonymous said...

You can adjust your settings so that you can't be tagged. I've done that to avoid being linked to something that might be professionally embarrassing (and I'm not a midwife, but I am a professional and want to control what information is available online about me). I can't fully control it, but not allowing tagging can be helpful in that regard.

Sarah Stewart said...

infomidwife: I like FB because it allows me to show a slightly more human side than I am able to show on my blog, which I think is good for building relationships.

Melissa: I must say that this whole conversation does beg the question: are midwives ever allowed time off...why can't we behave unethically once in a while?

Anonymous: thanks for much for information about tagging - I didn't realize that - great to know :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Anonymous: can you tell me exactly how you stop people tagging you on FB, cheers Sarah

Anonymous said...

After looking at it more closely, I see that you now can't prevent tagging, which I think is a change (but I could be wrong). You can't stop someone from tagging you, but you can control it in two ways:

One, you can control who can see tagged photos of you on YOUR profile. You can adjust that by going to Privacy Settings -> Profile Information. Under "Photos and Videos of Me" you can choose a restricted group, or "Only Me" if you don't want tagged photos of you to show up on your profile to anyone but you.

Then, you can adjust your account settings so that you are automatically notified anytime anyone tags you in a photo or video. Go to Account Settings -> Notifications and the tagging notification options are the second section.

Once you're notified that you've been tagged, if you go to the photo that you've been tagged in, you can remove the tag. The person tagged and the person who uploads the photo are the only people who can remove tags.

Also, only your friends can tag you. So if you have a friend who doesn't respond to requests to stop tagging you (or stop tagging donkeys with your name because they think it's funny) you can always unfriend them if necessary.

That's more annoying than being able to prevent people from tagging you entirely, but at least you maintain some control over it and over what's displayed on your FB account. Sorry to send you on a wild goose chase!