Speaking out safely - Dos and don’ts for social media and media  

11 September 2019

Did you know? 

  • Whatever you publish on social media sites like Facebook is considered public, even if you have your privacy settings set to the highest possible level.
  • It is not unusual for employers to trawl Facebook to see the kind of commentary a potential employee is posting. 


You have every right to voice your opinion as a private citizen and we would encourage you to speak out on a topic that you are passionate about, particularly if it has the potential to benefit our health care system, our profession/s and/or your patients.  And if you are eager to  put your opinion out there—whether that is through a letter to your local newspaper, a Facebook post or even speaking directly to the media—here are some tips to guide you on speaking out safely. 

1. Be across the rules relating to your profession and your workplace
Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s media and social media policies. AHPRA’s social media policy can be viewed at www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au and outlines guiding principles applicable to all registered health professionals. SA Health also has policies relating to the use of social media and media. 

2. Understand the difference between commenting as a private citizen and as an employee of a specific organisation
You can exchange views and other content on social media platforms as private individuals, provided you do so in accordance with your employer’s social media policy and relevant code of conduct. 

You can also speak out in the media, provided you are:

  • doing so as a private citizen; not as an employee of a workplace
  • not sharing information not in the public domain. 

You might better understand the difference when you consider the below social media posts:   

Example 1 – will likely result in disciplinary action
I work at the Modbury Hospital. Last night, a patient, Mrs Jones fell on the floor and wasn’t noticed for 6 hours because we were too busy to check on her. The hospital doesn’t care. It’s an absolute disgrace and the Minister and the department should be ashamed of themselves. 
Jane Citizen, RN, Modbury Hospital 

Example 2 – acceptable way of speaking out on an issue as a nurse or concerned citizen
As a nurse for more than 20 years, it breaks my heart that the system is not supporting nurses to provide safe patient care. The Government needs to take seriously the concerns of those working at the bedside. These concerns are real. Patients need to be put first. 
J Citizen

3. Be smart, protect yourself
To clearly demonstrate that your views are your own and not representative of your employer:

  • Remove any reference to your workplace from your social media profile;
  • Make sure your comments only draw on information that is general or publicly available; and
  • Do not make any comments that:
    • suggest you are commenting on behalf of your workplace;
    • identify your workplace, your colleagues or your patients;
    • denigrate your employer; or
    • include defamatory statements. 

4. Don’t be fooled by Facebook’s privacy settings 
As frustrated as you might be after that shift you just finished, resist the urge to post Facebook comments about your employer, your work colleagues or your patients even if you think your page is private and the comments won’t be seen. Social media has enormous draw backs if you post confidential or defamatory content. 

5. ‘Liking’ and sharing information from your union on social media
Liking or sharing any social media posts is permitted, provided this is done in compliance with your organisation’s social media policy. Any commentary you make in the course of sharing our material should also clearly convey that you are commenting as a private citizen—not as an employee of a particular organisation—and not divulge confidential information. The below examples may help provide clarity in this regard:

Example 1 – will likely result in disciplinary action
Every day in the RAH ED where I work, we are abused and hit – and do you think SA Health cares? Our manager Jane Citizen just ignores us and tells us to suck it up. 

Example 2 – acceptable way of speaking out on an issue as a nurse or concerned citizen
As a nurse who has been on the receiving end of violence numerous times throughout my career, this is a really important change that needs to be happen.

REMEMBER: Using any form of media to denigrate or abuse your employer or workplace will at best result in disciplinary action, at worst in dismissal.