Another thought: How far should an organization go in setting guidelines for relationships outside the office. We’re a children’s hospital , and parents often become donors. Should a fundraiser decline an invitation to have coffee or dinner with a donor who also happens to be a parent of a patient? The whole idea is developing relationships, so why would social media be excluded from that?
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Our policy discourages it, but does not forbid it. Our compliance officer would like it if we did not friend any patient families. However, the foundation in particular develops close relationships with families, especially those who play an official role as ambassadors, like our Children’s Miracle Network “champion” selected each year. Because foundation staff members play no role in delivering care, some use their personal judgment and “friend” some families.
I don’t think that many staff members seek out these relationships, but when a family you’ve become close to asks you to connect with them on Facebook, it can be awkward to say no (or to send them a cold response like “I’m sorry, but hospital policy says…” My FB friends are a combination of professional contacts and personal friends, so I don’t see any conflict with having a handful of patient families as friends.