April 07, 2020
Our colleagues enjoy the same freedom of expression as everyone else. But because we are a healthcare system, and must protect the privacy of our patients, we also have guidelines for how our employees use social media to talk about their work inside our facilities.
We recognize the importance of social media for our organization and our 280,000 colleagues. As a company, we use social media to engage with our patients, colleagues and stakeholders. We also foster its use by our colleagues while they are at work, allowing access to social media on both company devices and their personal devices. We sensibly regulate its use in these circumstances and have not changed our policies for the COVID-19 pandemic.
To this end, our guidelines cover the use of social media by employees: 1) on behalf of our organization; 2) while at work; and, 3) when discussing patient care issues on private time.
We understand that our colleagues, like nearly everyone, routinely engage on social media in their private lives. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is only natural these discussions might include their work circumstances, including personal protective equipment and other public issues. At the same time, we expect our colleagues to protect the privacy of patients and colleagues by not disclosing patient information or information that could be used to identify a patient and/or diagnosis, and by not posting about their colleagues’ work without seeking permission.
Like other companies, we also routinely monitor social media for mentions of HCA Healthcare so we can see what is being said about us. We do not monitor our colleagues’ private Facebook posts.
Recently, some have misstated our policy and its intent. The context in which the policy is enforced is important. The issue with a nurse at West Hills Hospital in West Hills, Calif., arose because colleagues expressed concerns about her Facebook post with specific information, including room numbers of possible COVID patients, to a Facebook group used by nurses in the unit that included former employees. This action on her part caused enough concern among some of her co-workers that they reported it to management. Her posts about masking policies are not at issue.
Following a brief investigatory suspension, during which we determined her posts were an inadvertent violation of policy, she has been reinstated, with no loss of pay.
We appreciate our colleagues who are on the frontlines of this unprecedented pandemic, and we are doing everything we can to protect our patient care teams so they can provide safe, effective care.