Social media has opened people up to endless sources of entertainment, information and opinions. However, if you are a licence-holding professional, it is vital that you understand how your social media statements and activity could compromise your licence and livelihood.
Missteps to avoid
We have the right to say whatever may be on our minds on social media, but that does not mean we are free from the consequences. Thus, if you are a professional and do not want to find yourself with your licence in jeopardy, consider avoiding missteps, including the following:
- Posting information or photos that violate a patient’s or client’s privacy
- Making unethical statements
- Initiating inappropriate exchanges with clients or patients on social media platforms
- Sharing offensive or illegal content
- Promoting controversial services or products
- Badmouthing patients, employers or colleagues
These actions can trigger serious professional consequences, even if you engage in them thinking you are doing so anonymously or on a personal account.
Depending on the nature of an alleged statement or act, governing bodies could hand down a range of penalties.
In one case early this year, the group responsible for overseeing practicing psychologists required a psychologist to undergo social media re-education and coaching, at his expense, after making several controversial statements on Twitter and a podcast.
Other possible consequences a licenced professional might face for online behaviours range from fines and lawsuits to mandatory completion of education programs and licence suspensions.
Confronting issues when they arise
If you do find yourself at risk of losing your licence or professional privileges due to an issue with social media, acting immediately to protect yourself is crucial. The sooner you act, the more options you might have.
Talking to an attorney, issuing an apology or removing problematic content could go a long way in shielding you from the harshest penalties.
When used responsibly, social media can be a way for people to connect and teach people we might never have encountered otherwise. However, when you are a licenced professional, it is essential to consider how your virtual interactions might very well impact your real life.