Lawsuit Pending Against Florida Dental Hygienist
A lawsuit is pending against a Florida dental hygienist who is being sued by her former employer for claiming the practice was involved in financial wrongdoing on Facebook. Here, Dimensions’ expert on ethics and risk management, Michele Carr, RDH, MA, chimes in on the ethical use of social media.
As we speak, a dental hygienist in Florida is being sued by her former dentist employer. The hygienist resigned from her position and turned to social media to post defamatory remarks about the dentist and his financial practices. She is alleged to have interrupted the dentist’s relationship with his employees and his patients. As a result, the dentist recently filed suit claiming libel, slander, and interference with business relationships and employees. He is asking for a restraining order against the dental hygienist to stop all social media postings, and suing her for irreparable damages, costs, and attorney fees. The case is awaiting a jury trial. Regardless of the outcome, this case it is a strong reminder that there are consequences to what we post.
Social media is a primary means of how we communicate today. We do this through websites and other online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and others. These platforms can be a powerful tool and some studies show 70% of the US population use some form of social media. Social media platforms are great to socialize, advertise, share information, and promote business, but inappropriate use can lead to ethical and legal violations, as this case clearly demonstrates.
As health-care providers, we have a responsibility to the patients we serve, and we have the trust of the public. With this comes a level of professional responsibility and we must adhere to our own profession’s code of ethics and core values, especially respect, confidentiality, and societal trust. Other examples of inappropriate use include posting information about patients, posting inaccurate information about yourself or your practice, or posting information that misrepresents a product or service you provide.
It is obvious as health-care providers we cannot breach confidentiality by posting details about patients, but we should not post anything that poorly portrays the profession or even “LIKE” any comments that are derogatory toward the profession, employees, or employers. This directly undermines the public’s trust and confidence in what we do. It is so easy to hit that “like” button, but this can come back to haunt you. Even if we disagree with our colleagues, as we know can occur, we should always try to maintain harmonious relationships and never post derogatory comments on social media, even if you think it is private! There is no such thing as full privacy!
We should also keep in mind, that when we do not communicate face to face, the way a message is received or interpreted is affected.
Be professional at all times.
Your online image and personal profile can affect your professional life.
Do not accept friend requests from patients. Keep your private and professional lives separate.
Do not give professional advice over social media platforms. You do not know the clinical circumstances and it can be held against you.
Never misrepresent your qualifications or offer recommendations outside of your scope of practice.
Think about what you are posting before you post it. Everything you post stays there and can affect your future.
Know your employer’s social media policy.
Maintaining professionalism and adhering to ethical uses of social media will save you from what is happening in the Florida case…think before you post.