The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has recently published new guidance for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses on the use of social media and online forums.
Forming a new chapter of supporting guidance to the College’s Code of Professional Conduct, it sets out the professional standards expected of veterinary professionals, as well as providing advice on good practice, how to protect privacy, maintaining client confidentiality and dealing with adverse comments from clients.
The guidance has been developed by the Standards Committee, partly in response to demands from the profession and partly in light of recent decisions by the courts and other regulatory bodies which demonstrate that professionals can be at risk of legal or disciplinary action where their online conduct is unprofessional or inappropriate.
“Although the concept of professional standards and conduct within the veterinary profession is well established, the application of such principles in the age of digital connectivity remains relatively new and the inherent risks are not necessarily obvious,” says Laura McClintock, RCVS Advisory Solicitor.
“Whilst social media is likely to form part of everyday life for veterinary professionals, who are just as free as anyone else to take advantage of the personal and professional benefits that it can offer, its use is not without risk, so vets and vet nurses should be mindful of the consequences that can arise from its misuse,” she says.
The new guidance outlines the responsibilities expected of vets and vet nurses to behave professionally offline, online as themselves or online in a virtual capacity. Demonstrably inappropriate behaviour on social media may place registration at risk, as the professional standards expected online are no different to those in the ‘real world’.
“Understanding and applying our new guidance should help vets and nurses to meet their professional responsibilities and reduce the risks of receiving complaints from clients or others, as well as potential civil actions for defamation,” adds Laura.
The new guidance can be found on the RCVS website at: www.rcvs.org.uk/socialmedia
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