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Winnipeg registered psychiatric nurses receive Special Volunteer Recognition Award

L-R: Debbie Frechette, CRPNM Vice-President - Larissa Medwid - Jennifer Adair - Pam Kachur, and Leo O'Rourke, CRPNM President.
L-R: Debbie Frechette, CRPNM Vice-President - Larissa Medwid - Jennifer Adair - Pam Kachur, and Leo O'Rourke, CRPNM President. Photo courtesy of the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Manitoba.

BY ANDREA BODIE
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Friday, July 6, 2012

Three Winnipeg registered psychiatric nurses have been singled out for their efforts to raise awareness about the potential risks to patient privacy associated with using social media.

Jennifer Adair, Pamela Kachur and Larissa Medwid received the Special Volunteer Recognition Award from the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Manitoba this past May.

The nurses won the award for creating and delivering a presentation that highlighted what nurses need to consider when using Facebook. The presentation started as a school project for a fourth year psychiatric nursing issues class.

Adair said the students had heard horror stories at the time about nurses who were friending clients on Facebook. One nurse was working as a respite worker and accidentally left their Facebook account logged in. Their client went through it and had access to the nurse's personal information.

"Everything's there. We thought cautionary messages - especially for students - about how easy it was for people to find them and how necessary it is for people to protect their information were important," says Adair.

It was also an opportunity to open a conversation about how a registered psychiatric nurse's personal life does impact their professional life and their profession. "People have to realize that their personal life is not separate from their professional life anymore. Now it's so much easier to blur the line. We are held to a higher standard than the general public," says Adair of nurses and the need for a positive image. "People put their trust in us and it's important that we act accordingly."

The presentation was a hit within their class. Facebook was so new at the time, the students hadn't thought about the potential impact of posting a picture of them intoxicated while partying with friends. Or complaining about work, school or clients in wall posts.

But more than that, the presentation explored respecting patient boundaries. That includes not searching for patients and not being friends with patients on Facebook.

"We talk about boundaries with patients. We brought it all back to talking about a power imbalance. We can't provide respectful care and be friends with patients on Facebook," says Medwid. "It's a different relationship."

None of these issues were concerns before social networking. But considering them ultimately improves care for the client.  "By being aware, nurses are helping to enhance client's privacy and security," says Kachur.

The worst examples of social media misuse have been compiled into a fake Facebook account to illustrate just how inappropriate it is to make these choices. It helps make the presentation fun and interesting but also informative.

Others also paid attention. The trio was invited to present at the World Congress for Psychiatric Nurses in Vancouver. It was a powerful way to start their nursing careers - presenting to nurses and psychiatry professionals from around the world.

That was three years ago. Since then, people around the province have been eager to get their hands on this type of information. The nurses joined up with CRPNM's Ryan Shymko and have been delivering this presentation to facilities throughout the Region.

The presentation has grown over the past three years and is being updated with new examples of people being reprimanded for social media use. Opening a discussion that recognizes some of the benefits of social media - while reminding people of the boundary and ethical issues, which remain the same - is the goal. Discussions can be emotional and heated as people come to realize how their online activity might negatively impact or compromise their professional life.

"We're glad to get people talking about it and people want to discuss it. We ask people what they're getting out of posting something publicly. There is never a safe way to post grievances online - so be cautious and think twice," says Adair.

A new collaboration has recently formed: the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba has joined the conversation about nurses and social media use.

With the World Congress being held in Winnipeg next May, updating the presentation to include other social media such as Twitter and even online dating might provide an interesting look at how things have changed. It's something the trio is considering.

"We hope to continue growing in our career, to try to inspire other people to do the same," says Medwid of receiving the award. "It was very thoughtful of them to recognize us."

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