Social media usage has exploded over the last decade, with sites like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram becoming a part of daily life for most people — nurses included. While it is an excellent way to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues, as well as an avenue for sharing pertinent public health information, nurses may find themselves in trouble if they are not careful.
What Are Some Social Media Don’ts for Nurses?
Violating a patient or institution’s security and privacy is a serious offense that could jeopardize your patients, career, colleagues or employer. If you are a healthcare worker, avoid doing the following when online:
Sharing any patient information. Many nurses feel that sharing a patient situation online is okay, so long as they edit out protected health information (PHI), such as names or images. However, there is still a possibility that the patient will be identified based on the information you do share. It is best to refrain from referencing any patient details so that there is no breach of confidentiality.
Posting to social media at work. Cell phones’ portability makes it tempting for nurses to hop on social media during a lunch break or between caring for patients. Not only is this a distraction from your duties, but it is also likely a violation of your employer’s social media policy. Play it safe and do not post anything to social media during your work hours, even when on unpaid breaks.
Get stuck in negativity. Keep your postings neutral or positive and abstain from talking negatively about your employer, colleagues and patients.
What Are Some Social Media Do’s for Nurses?
The don’ts may seem limiting, but there are still ways for you to be active on social media without any serious repercussions. To ensure you are appropriate and responsible, remember the following:
Know your employer’s social media policy. Each employer has its own social media guidelines that they expect employees to abide by. Read through the policy and ask questions if anything is unclear.
Check your privacy settings. Privacy settings offer you some control over who sees and shares your information and activity. While this is not a free pass to post without caution, it helps restrict overall access to your social media content.
Add a disclaimer. Consider adding a brief note in your profile bio to indicate that your views are separate from your employer’s. “The opinions expressed here are my own and are not reflective of my employer” is often sufficient.
Promote the nursing profession. Nursing is part of who you are, and it is perfectly acceptable to want to share this side of your life online. Use your platforms to educate and engage others by offering tips on topics like flu prevention and how to improve nurse-patient relationships.
Why Must Nurses Be Cautious Online?
Although you can often delete or edit some components of your virtual footprint, it is difficult to ensure complete erasure. For example, other social media users may have already taken screenshots and shared your content on their own profiles — a cycle that could snowball until the post or comment racks up dozens or millions of views. Posting without thinking through the consequences can be disastrous, even if you mean no harm.
These consequences include:
- Irreparable damage to patients, colleagues and employers (causing emotional, psychological and social repercussions for patients whose information is widely disseminated without permission)
- Loss of your personal and professional reputation
- Reduced public trust in the nursing profession
- Disciplinary actions by your employer, such as suspension, demotion and termination
- Revocation of your nursing license
Social media has become integral to daily life. But for nurses, unintentional mistakes made online can lead to significant ramifications, including termination and loss of licensure. Using a cautious approach and the tips outlined above, you can remain active on social media and still protect your livelihood.