Nurses in the U.K. have always had to think twice before posting on social media, recording TikToks, and flaunting their opinion. Unlike America, the freedom of speech act doesn’t apply, and a simple post on TikTok could lose you your license. Now, they might want to think twice about uploading risqué images and videos of themselves on OnlyFans as a way of making some extra cash. Midwives and nurses in New South Wales recently received an email from the Nursing and Midwifery Council of NSW warning them not to post to OnlyFans, which is known for hosting NSFW content, as it may jeopardize their careers.
The statement, obtained by VICE Media, says that “if a practitioner is the content creator, then being recognized or publishing photographs in uniform, then they could be reported for their conduct.” The organization received a complaint calling the conduct, in this case providers using the platform, “unprofessional” and “a distraction for patients.”
“The role of the council is to protect public safety,” the organization said when asked about the email. “This involves the Council proactively informing practitioners of current trends and promoting compliance with professional standards, including how inappropriate conduct on social media can lead to complaints of unprofessional conduct or misconduct.”
The email includes several scenarios in which nurses and midwives may find themselves in if caught using the platform at work, including one where a male senior manager recognizes a junior female employee from OnlyFans and then blackmails her for “special treatment” in exchange for “preferential rostering” at the hospital.
In another scenario, the council said a nurse promoting her OnlyFans side hustle to her colleagues would create “conflict in the workplace.”
In the last scenario, a patient recognizes a nurse from their OnlyFans account, which would create a “difficult situation” in the workplace. The email goes on to say another nurse could snitch on them for using OnlyFans if they feel it is “below the expected standards of a registered nurse and that her behavior has brought her profession into disrepute.”
But critics say the email is meant to shame people, particularly women, for engaging in sex work and that sexual harassment can happen to anyone in the workplace even if they aren’t on OnlyFans.
Michael Whaites, assistant general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), the union for the organization, told reporters, “There is no excuse for sexual harassment, especially within a workplace.”
“Because someone chooses to participate in online platforms like OnlyFans does not excuse this, not from managers or employers, or from customers or patients,” he said. “Nurses or midwives shouldn’t automatically be prohibited from subscribing to, or lawfully participating in particular social media platforms.”
The council said it will continue to review how a provider’s social media usage can affect their practice and professional reputation.
But can employers fire someone just for using OnlyFans?
According to the U.K.’s Fair Work Commission, an employer has the right to supervise the private activities of employees in “exceptional circumstances”, but “it is not sufficient for the employer to simply assert that the conduct will in some way affect the employer’s reputation.”
Anna Boucher, an associate professor of public policy and comparative politics at the University of Sydney and a practicing solicitor, said only high-profile public figures should be held to such reputational considerations.
Nursing is a public role, she said, but it isn’t a high-profile one.
“Unless they are a really important figure in the hospital, I don’t really understand why it matters,” Boucher said. “Does anyone who has a role where other people might see them have to create an alternate reality to be accepted in the workplace? It is unreasonable.”
But she said the council has the right to inform providers of the professional risk that comes with using these platforms.
“I do think that is sex shaming,” Boucher said. “It is her private time. She wasn’t advertising this. It was a nosey former patient. The only argument you can make is it is hurting some perception of what the profession is.”
Many nurses use social media to generate extra income because they aren’t making enough money to make ends meet. And Boucher said nurses shouldn’t be penalized for trying to pay their bills.
“We know the cost of living is rising, and inflation is at almost 8%,” she said. “You can understand why a nurse would want to go and do that work. They might think, I’ve been striking for a pay increase for a long time, and it hasn’t been delivered. I can do this in my own time … and it is better money than nursing. Do you really have the right to deny someone that opportunity … if you are only paying them $60,000 a year?”
The council said it does not object to practitioners having profiles on other social platforms and earning a second income, but it encourages nurses and midwives to familiarize themselves with AHPRA’s Social Media Guidance “regardless of whichever social media platform they engage with.”