School time has rolled around again (just me or did that disappear really fast?) and I am once again back at university. We’ve been dropped in at the deep end – which I love – and I have loads to be getting on with. But one topic that kept coming up was that of professionalism and professional boundaries. Which got me thinking –
as a future health care professional, is talking about my mental health issues openly online a professional thing to do?
To be honest, I don’t have a clue, I started blogging long before changing my career and it’s a very helpful part of processing and reflecting on my thoughts and emotions. Yet after a few discussions and a little reading I’m still in two minds about whether it’s a professional thing for me to do. It seems it’s a bit of a contentious subject.
The College of Occupational Therapists [COT] Code of ethics and professional conduct which regulates my study and future profession says:
4.1: As practitioners you are not just accountable for your competence, but also for your actions and behaviours, both inside and external to the workplace.
4.1.3: You must be aware of and take responsibility for your conduct when using any form of social media. The content of this Code should be applied to social media
use, whether for work or personal purposes.
To me, this implied that anything I share on social media (blog included) needs to be something I would happily take responsibility of and standby if it was discussed in a professional setting. So far so good, the things I write I feel are open, honest and clearly express my point of view.
However, it also states:
4.2: You must act with honesty and integrity at all times. You must not engage in any criminal or otherwise unlawful or unprofessional behaviour or activity which is likely to damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.
Now, this is where it gets tricky. I openly discuss my mental health – the good and difficult aspects. For some people learning that I have a mental health condition will damage their confidence in me simply because of the stigma that exists in society. Others, of course, it won’t. Yet because everyone is individual and has their own thoughts, prejudices, experiences, and expectations of healthcare professionals there are bound to be a lot of differing opinions on the topic.
Still unsure on where I stood I had a chat with one of my lecturers about it. Her opinion was that as long as I am sharing my views in a professional manner (which I think I am, right?) then it is simply adding to the literature available and enhancing the lived experience dialogue. I did, however, need to consider that future employers will search social media when vetting candidates so I would need to be upfront about my condition.
That isn’t a problem for me, deciding to blog about my mental health meant that family, old school friends, work colleagues and new friends all had the ability to read about my experiences. Which is often extremely scary but for me worth it in the long run. I don’t believe that my blogging on this topic can be seen as unprofessional but as always I do still have those little niggling doubts.