Nurse selfies – naughty or not?


Last weekend some young Sydney nurses found themselves at the centre of a ‘selfie’ scandal, perhaps even facing dismissal. In case you hadn’t noticed, the ‘selfie’ has become a social media phenomenon – since smartphones became ubiquitous a few years ago, young people (and some older, eg. K Rudd) have been posting posed pictures of themselves – taken by holding the phone at arm’s length – to sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The ‘selfie’ has become something of a running joke – each selfie-taker adds their own punchline.

But the explosion of social media now also makes it all too easy for your ‘joke’ to go viral and end up in front of the wrong audience.

A straightforward nurse ‘selfie’. [from Eat to the Beet]

When the Daily Telegraph uses words like ‘saucy’ and ‘cheeky’, as they did with this story, we have to suspect that they are trying to whip up a controversy where perhaps none exists.

Obviously patient privacy should never be compromised and nurses and midwives need to be conscious that they are accountable for what they do in work time and in work uniform.

But nurses are far from the only workers to be taking selfies – under the hashtag #work selfie, Instagram brings up thousands of photos of people in all sorts of occupations – pilots, chefs, salespeople… Doubtless there’s even a doctor or two amongst them.

Another type of health-related selfie! [from Idiosyncratic Fashionistas]

What do you think? Are selfies just a way of getting some lighthearted relief from a stressful job – or are they a negative distraction, even potentially dangerous?

Previously on Nurse Uncut: Nurses should embrace social media- carefully

We suggest you read the Nurse Uncut commenting guidelines and our social media terms of use [scroll down the page to find them].

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia’s information sheet on social media can be found here.

The Australian College of Nursing’s social media guidelines are here.

If you work for the NSW Department of Health, this is their Code of Conduct.


  1. When, as a profession, we are struggling to lobby for adequate nurse to patient ratios and award negotiations, this incident does nothing for our cause, in fact it probably sets us back a few steps. It also highlights the glaring obviousness of uneven workloads – who in a busy surgical ward has time to take selfies? I’ve had graduate nurses answer their mobiles whilst supervising a medication round with them – in front of the patient or at the bedside. The standards have certainly dropped as a profession.

    • I totally agree. This undermines the profession. One of the most important things we do in nursing is to behave professionally and with integrity so that we can build trust with our patients. I hope the matter is dealt with in a serious manner. I would be disillusioned with the profession if they failed to discipline appropriately those involved.

  2. Have a look at the Twitter feed of the Tele’s editor – the “naughty nurse” and “saucy selfies” headlines were deliberate strategies to drive newspaper sales and website hits. Kind of amusing that there’s still a reward for characterising our profession in Benny Hill clichés.

    The article cited a case of a nurse photographing a patient and sharing it on social media with disparaging comments. If that actually happened (hard to believe a nurse would be so ridiculously stupid) it will be fair enough if the person who did it faces significant consequences – s/he is compromising our profession’s “brand” of ethical integrity and trust.

    Overall though, the examples given in the story were mostly harmless, meaningless fluff – much like the Daily Telegraph itself.

  3. “Profession?” Don’t kid yourself …

    What ‘profession’ sees their members abused and humiliated by managers of the same profession – all as part of the established ‘culture’?

    Eg. The slightest error of judgement – local manager creates ‘incident report’ (no education or corrective support). Proceeds to ‘fact-finding’ meeting, which becomes a Personnel File recorded event.

    Real professions treat their members with greater respect and educate rather than ‘prosecute’ … ( and I’m not talking about ‘killing’ patients etc. I mean, little stupid things, like sending an internal email with one or two words in block letters – this has been deemed as ‘shouting’ and called ‘unprofessional’ and a breach of the employer’s Code of Conduct. )

  4. It’s just a photo of yourself in a moment of downtime.
    Provided you’re not breaching anyone’s confidentiality or dignity, or any other protocols, then what harm is there?

  5. Selfies are just part of the contemporary social media landscape. The issues emerge when they violate professional boundaries or conditions of employment. I’ve been involved in two cases in my area where nurses have been dismissed because of what they posted on Facebook. One was a picture of a patient in an ICU bed, the other was a nurse who called in sick and posted pictures and comments on her Facebook page about going to the beach on her sick day. In both cases (separate employers), management received anonymous prints of the Facebook posts from someone the nurses had ‘friended’. So remember: once you put it on your social media site, it’s there forever, even if you delete it, and if you have 150 ‘friends’ and what you post can only be viewed by them, just remember that by Facebook’s own estimates, around 130 of those are only infrequent associations and it shouldn’t be assumed they can be trusted like genuine friends.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here