In today’s media-driven society, the boundaries between private and professional life are becoming increasingly blurred. In such a fast-moving environment, it’s all too easy to forget that the same standards of professionalism and confidentiality apply no matter what the medium of communication.
Posting inappropriate comments/photographs or describing a patient’s care on a social media site, such as Facebook or Twitter, can damage your reputation and lead to disciplinary action as well as unwanted media attention.
It is advisable not to accept Facebook requests from current or former patients; similarly entering into discussions with patients in an online public forum, such as Twitter, is best avoided.
It is also important to remember when interacting with fellow professionals on dental blogs and social networking sites, or when taking part in forum discussions, is that anonymity is a myth. “You should write everything as if you are signing it with your name.” When posting online, bear in mind who could be reading what you write. Unguarded comments about patients, your lecturers or fellow students could lead to disciplinary action by your dental school or the GDC.
Real life scenario
Mark, a fourth year dental student, saw a young female patient on the restorative department. Mark took a history from the patient, and realised that she was a first year geography student at the same university. Mark saw her for a few more appointments to complete her treatment. They seemed to get on well, so Mark invited her to be a friend on Facebook. After a while, the relationship soured, and the patient complained to the dental school about Mark’s conduct in contacting her and starting a relationship as a result of meeting her as a patient. Fitness to practice procedures were instigated.
As a student, professional boundaries may seem blurred. Students may feel that, since they are not fully qualified dentists, the, the limits around personal relationships do not apply. However, the GDC is clear that dentists and dental students are expected to maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships they have with patients. Think about how you might handle situations like the one above. If you have any concerns, discuss these with your tutors or clinical supervisor.
For more information or guidance around the use of social media or issues you might be facing, call our support and advice line on 0800 952 0442