Section 4b: Social media usage guidelines


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These guidelines on social media will help you make appropriate decisions about online exchanges regarding your school and patient care rotations. They will help you interact respectfully and knowledgeably with people using the Internet. These guidelines also prevent negative sentiment and misinterpretations of your ideas that could affect the privacy, confidentiality, and interests of you, your classmates, the School of Pharmacy, and your patient care rotation practice site (including colleagues, employees, and clients). Note that these guidelines apply to the School of Pharmacy and practice sites and are not meant to infringe upon your personal interaction or commentary online. As a future professional pharmacist, it is your responsibility to understand and live by the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) Code of Ethics. 

Legal liability:  Recognize that you are legally liable for anything you write or present online. It must be noted that anything published on the web is NOT confidential. Students can be disciplined by the School of Pharmacy for commentary, content, and/or images that are defamatory, pornographic, proprietary, harassing, libellous, and/or that can create a hostile work environment. You can also be sued by any individual or organization that views your commentary, content, or images as defamatory, pornographic, proprietary, harassing, libellous and/or creating a hostile work environment. 

Social media:  Social media sites include, but are not limited to: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, chat rooms, online discussion forums, and blogs. 

Guidelines for interactions with preceptors and School of Pharmacy staff & faculty on social media

  • Follow principles outlined in the Professionalism  and Confidentiality section of the patient care rotations manual
  • Obtain consent for photographs: Taking and sharing photographs without consent is a breach of confidentiality. Practice sites increasingly use photography for professional consultation, research, and education purposes. Familiarize yourself with your practice site’s policy regarding photography including any limitations on its use
  • Consider the short-term and long-term ramifications of each post. Anything you post online is a reflection of your professional image and may be available to the public permanently. It may also be widely disseminated to a larger audience than you originally intended.
  • Stick to the facts.
    • You are encouraged to write knowledgeably and accurately using appropriate professionalism.
    • Despite disclaimers, your web interaction can result in members of the public forming opinions about the School of Pharmacy, your patient care rotation practice site and/or their employees or patients.
  • Be professional. Engaging in gossip, speculation, rants, and/or other non-constructive behaviour against the School of Pharmacy, your practice site, your practice site’s patients, and/or your practice site’s employees will reflection negatively on all the parties involved (i.e., you, the pharmacy profession as a whole, the School of Pharmacy, and your practice site)
  • Identify your personal opinion.
    • If you are developing a website, social networking group, or writing a blog that will mention the School of Pharmacy, your patient care rotation practice site, and/or their employees or clients, identify that you are a student and that the views expressed on your blog or website are yours alone and do not represent the views of the School of Pharmacy and/or patient care rotation practice site. 
    • Unless given permission in writing by either the School of Pharmacy or your preceptor, you are not authorized to speak on behalf of either the School of Pharmacy or your patient care rotation practice site. 
  • When in doubt, double-check with the affected parties. If you are developing a site, group, or writing a blog that will mention the School of Pharmacy, your practice site, and/or their employees or clients, let the School, practice site, RCC, and/or preceptor know as a courtesy. Provide a clear statement of your goals and content. Representatives from the School of Pharmacy, your RCC, and/or preceptor may choose to visit from time to time to understand your point of view. 

Guidelines for interactions with patients (past and present) on the Internet

  • Maintain appropriate professional boundaries. Do not “friend” your patients (current or past) and do not allow your patients (current or past) to “friend” you. 
  • Protect patient confidentiality.
    • Do not use messaging on websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to contact your patients or respond to patients who may have contacted you. These sites are not secure. 
    • If you choose to communicate with your clients by email, please be aware that all emails are retained in the logs of your and their Internet service providers. While it is unlikely that someone will be looking at these logs, they are, in theory, available to be read by the system administrator(s) of the Internet service provider. 
  • Maintain professional and ethical behaviour.
    • All email communication with patients should be of a professional nature and not involve personal discussions and/or disclosures of any kind.
    • Only use your professional (i.e., practice site or Waterloo) email address to communicate with patients. 
    • Do not discuss details of your rotation with patients.
  • Protect your personal privacy. Become familiar with the privacy controls on social media networks. Ensure that the general public cannot see personal details of your life you would prefer to share only with your immediate friends and family. 
  • Communicate clearly in audience appropriate language and practice evidence-based medicine. You are encouraged to write knowledgeably and accurately using appropriate professionalism.

Organizational confidential information

You may not share information that is confidential to the School of Pharmacy, your patient care rotation site organization and/or patients and colleagues. If you have any question about whether information has been released publicly or doubts of any kind, speak with the Associate Director of the School of Pharmacy, the Experiential Coordinator for Clinical Rotations, or your preceptor before releasing information that could potentially harm the School of Pharmacy, your site organization and/or their employees or patients. 

For further guidance, please refer to the OCP eLearning module on Social Media.

(Some content adapted from the University of Waterloo, Renison University College, School of Social Work, MSW Practicum Manual)

Academic and non-academic offences as outlined in University Policy 33 — Ethical Behaviour will follow the disciplinary procedures outlined.

Section 4a: Professionalism and confidentiality  |  Section 5: Student responsibilities before patient care rotation