Guidance on the use of social media and online forums for vets and vet nurses has been published by the profession’s regulators.

The RCVS’ guidance was created by its standards committee.

The guidance – which forms a new chapter of supporting guidance to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Code of Professional Conduct – 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.

According to the RCVS, the guidance – developed by its standards committee – has been issued in response to both demands from the profession and in light of recent decisions by courts and other regulatory bodies, which have demonstrated professionals can be at risk of legal or disciplinary action when online conduct is considered unprofessional or inappropriate.

RCVS advisory solicitor Laura McClintock said: “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.

“While 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 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.”

The guidance, said the college, 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, it said, 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,” said Ms McClintock.

The new guidance can be found on the RCVS website.

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