The Ethics of Confidentiality: Nurses on Facebook

Published: 13th July 2010
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"I am currently in Barcelona and enjoying the great view here; husbands still asleep." With just a single post, social networking sites are becoming like a household tsunami or an office enemy these days as millions of people find themselves updating their friends and loved ones wherever they are. Normally, we can effortlessly identify what social networking site is regularly visited and heavily spent time with. Name it and we have Facebook on the top of the list, then Twitter, followed by MySpace, and the Asian counterpart of Facebook, the Friendster. These social networking sites were aimed at bringing people together, finding their lost relatives anywhere in the world and reconnecting with them using the omnipresent internet.

Yet, cases has been filed and recorded in every corner of the world claiming of isolated murder, information or identity phishing, online stalking, sexual abuse, etc. Each blames pointing to Facebook and other social networking sites. In Australia, a teenage girl has been stabbed to death by a man she befriends on Facebook when the latter asked the former to hook at a close by place. In America, there are isolated cases of murder, sexual abuse and stalking that indirectly involves Facebook and other similar networking sites used as means of communication.

Even in the business world, Facebook mainly has become a big issue starting from over spending on the site while at work and using the company properties to access personal accounts on Facebook. Employers worry that when employees spend more time on Facebook than on work would equal to financial catastrophe. Thus, Facebook, if could be considered a drug, is something many would regard as addictive. But Facebook is just another internet website.

Social networking sites have found their ways to the hospitals too. Thanks to the patronage of doctors, nurses in scrubs uniforms, hospitals, medical and nursing organizations etc. Facebook has become the official at some degree social sites of the hospitals inviting their previous patients to "Like" the institution. FB as often regarded by many, has now become an instrument for nurse as outlet of their burdens after their shift. But it seems that the supposed "friend" has become a terrible source of grief as many patients are becoming concerned that confidentiality can be jeopardized because of the said site.

The latest article in the online edition of Scrubs Magazine featured a story about nurses in uniforms and scrubs that has been fired because of sharing some information regarding their recent participation in an operation or their heartfelt comments about their cancer patients that did not make it. All these remarks have become an issue of ethics to most practitioners and an issue of compromised confidentiality for patients. However, don't nurses have the right also to express their thoughts and at some point ease their emotions in preparation for their next shift? In one forum site a debate has been started about a moral obligation whether it is right to add a patient Facebook. The result was quite typically obvious; many answered yes.

The moral on the part of the men and women in medical scrubs was something to protect. As long as names of the patients are preserved and that the comment was not posted on the patient's wall, this can't be consider as immoral and unethical.

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