Boundary Crossing Scenario Social Networking

boundary crossing scenario
social networking

You have been providing nutrition care to Jennifer through her difficult prenatal period. She has been a pleasure to work with. After the birth of her baby, Jennifer updates her Facebook page and sends you an invitation to become her friend. You will be involved for some time still on her postnatal dietetic needs. How should you respond?

Dietitians must separate their personal and professional life when using social media. It would not be appropriate for a dietitian to accept clients as friends under their personal social networking profiles. Accepting the invitation, even with strict privacy settings will involve the dietitian in Jennifer's private life and will expose some information about the dietitian’s non-professional circumstances. Also, accepting the invitation characterizes the relationship as social, as well as, professional. In the interest of maintaining a good professional relationship and open communication, the dietitian may wish to send a polite response or to discuss personally with Jennifer at her next visit, if it is soon, why the social networking invitation was not accepted.   

Any dual relationship has the potential to have the other relationship interfere with the professional one. Even selling non-health products such as cosmetics or insurance to clients can lead to problems (e.g. if the product does not perform as expected or if the client thinks that the price was too high). It is best to avoid dual relationships whenever possible. Where the other relationship pre-dates the professional one (e.g. a relative or friend), it's best to refer to another practitioner. Where a referral is not possible (e.g. in a small town, where there is only one dietitian in a facility), take special precautions.

A dietitian (or their organization) may create a professional social networking page (e.g., on Facebook, Instagram, etc.) that outlines the services and/or posts nutrition info/videos/articles/ resources, etc. Clients or members of the public can “like” the page, receive updates, comment on any postings, and ask questions, etc. This professional page should not be connected to the dietitian’s personal social networking page (if they have one).