June 20, 2013

Nursing and Social Media: Understanding the Do's & Don'ts

We live in a world that is connected every second through Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., virtual dialogue broadcasts every second, and pictures can travel around the world in minutes.

Social Media is an exciting and valuable tool when used wisely. It allows us to express our thoughts, feeling and develop personal connections. However, the lines between personal and professional are getting blurred in an age where we are so connected. The very nature of Social Media can pose a risk as it offers instantaneous communication with little time to reflect thought. It carries the added burden that what is posted on the Internet is discoverable by millions even after it is long deleted.

As a nurse it’s always best to be aware of facility and staffing agency policies, code of conduct and professional standards regarding patient privacy, confidentiality and how they apply to Social Media. Though some communications start with good intentions or may appear innocent, they can still be considered a violation of privacy laws or facility and staffing agency policy.

An article published last year offered five good “Do’s and Don’ts” for nurses using Social Media.

  1. Don’t discuss or disclose sensitive or Protected Health Information (PHI). Seems like a no-brainer for health care professionals, however, even “friending” a patient on Facebook or answering a health care question in a public forum such as Twitter can be a violation of patient privacy.
  2. Do exercise judgment when posting personal opinions and photos. It is wise to separate explicit professional details, such as opinions on management, refrain from discussing your colleagues and sharing “OMG” clinical situations from your social media presence.
  3. Do respect HIPAA privacy laws and adhere to policy. Follow your employer’s policy, and exercise good judgment when it comes to social media use.
  4. Don’t expect any privacy when posting on social networking sites. Some reports suggest that employers are now requesting access to your Social Networking sites as well intermittently monitoring content.  Be aware of your Internet footprint and the content associated with your name both personally and professionally.
  5. Do make the decision to use networking/social media sites for educational and professional networking.  Social media sites can be very useful, empowering and rewarding for nurses.  Using networking sites is a great way to stay connected and keep current on nursing trends and topics.

The National Council of State Board of Nursing developed guidelines for using Social Media responsibly. The guidelines go through the use of blogs, social networking sites, and video sites to communicate both personally and professionally with others. They also list several scenarios of Social Media misconduct that would normally seem innocent in nature. Travel Nurse Across America has specific Social Media guidelines that outline our specific policy on Social Media use, which you can obtain through your recruiter or our Director of Human Resources.