Using Social Media in Midwifery Practice
For the savvy, social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) provides an opportunity to spread awareness about the practice group, share information on key issues, and mobilize supporters for advocacy movements.
For inexperienced users, the misuse of social media can have dire professional consequences. For some health professionals, inappropriate use of social media has led to regulatory investigations, expulsion from educational programs, breaches of privacy laws, hospital discipline, termination of contracts, medicolegal risk or harmed reputations.
To walk the line between the two, consider the following:
1. Develop a Policy
Developing a policy on the practice’s use of social media as well as workers’ use of personal social media accounts (this includes midwives, employees and volunteers) can be a useful exercise in clarifying the practice’s standards and goals. Midwives should be discouraged from connecting with clients through personal social media accounts, unless they also have a personal relationship. Rather, direct clients to follow practice group social media accounts to stay connected. However, the practice should discuss how it will respond if someone posts a critical review or comment.
Sample protocols (refer to the Human Resources and General Office section) submitted by midwifery practices, are available on social media for practices to download and adapt. Be sure to tailor the template to reflect current evidence, best practices and practice group/community specific info before use. HIROC also has a Risk Note on Communicating Through Social Media.
Given the growing number of clients posting prenatal and birth posts to social media, it may also be worth having a related policy on audio or video recording during appointments or births (i.e., clients should ask permission of everyone in the recording and not capture other clients in their recording). In developing such a policy, refer to HIROC’s Risk Note on Recording Births and the CMPA's article on cell phone recordings in appointments.
2. Be Clear on the Practice’s Goals
Being clear on the practice’s objectives in using social media will help when deciding what to post and help you establish a voice. Many practice groups use social media to connect with former clients and potential new clients, to support provincial advocacy campaigns, market the practice group to new clients, and to maintain a supporter base.
3. Post Professionally
Be mindful that everything posted reflects on the practice group, its midwives, their hospitals, the community, and the profession of midwifery. When posting, liking or commenting, remember that online posts remain there forever. If it should not be said in person or to a large group of people, it shouldn’t be said online. Even posts in “private” or “secret” groups can be subject to a warrant and it should be noted that a user’s full history on Facebook can be viewed in the Activity Log (accessed through the drop down menu in the top right corner).
Avoid appearing to promote a particular commercial product or service (e.g., doula, birth photographer). If others post links to those services, delete them and explain that they were removed because the page is not intended for advertising.
Posts about clinical content should be avoided: seemingly innocuous or positive statements about a birth may leave a client frustrated with how friends and family learned of their birth or their different perception of the birth. It may also breach client confidentiality. For examples, read one doula’s blog post about “social media disasters.”
Similarly, do not post about the schedules of individual midwives (e.g., baby storms). Clients may question the quality of their care. Anything posted on social media may be subject to a subpoena or warrant. This also helps to protect the privacy of midwives in the practice group. As an example, read the story of read the story of one nurse’s social media posts before and after an adverse event.
Try to have a consistent voice by having one person do most of the posting. If the practice finds it challenging to develop its own content, follow the AOM on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and repost AOM content, supplementing with local information such as events happening in the community.