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6 Social Media “Dos” and “Don’ts” for Nurses

6 Social Media “Dos” and “Don’ts” for Nurses

Social media is powerful tool for sharing information, research and news. It’s a fun platform for sharing vacation videos and cat photos. For nurses, social media is not without risk.

Just about every hospital and healthcare practice has a social media policy. Some policies are stricter than others. At the very least, nurses should understand their employer’s social media policy and HIPAA regulations, and the consequences of improper behavior on social media.

Here are six basic “dos” and “don’ts” that can be applied almost universally across the nursing profession.

1) Do: Talk about yourself, your profession, family, friends and interests.

Use social media in the way it was intended. Post photos of yourself, your kids, your pets and your meals. Share information about a big event coming to your area. Show off your dance moves in a video from your friend’s wedding. Talk about the great work nurses are doing and lift up your profession.

2) Don’t: Talk about patients. Ever.

HIPAA rules exist to protect the private health information of patients. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t mention a patient’s name, condition, treatment, doctor, etc. However, you can still get in trouble if you don’t use specific information.

For example, if you tell a story about caring for 5-year-old boy with leukemia and discuss his family, there is a risk. Even if you don’t mention his name, you might be sharing enough information to identify the boy. If it’s not a HIPAA violation, it could be a violation of your employer’s policy. Of course, any insensitive comments could be grounds for dismissal.

3) Do: Post on social media on your own time.

Social media can be a distraction that puts patient health at risk. Use social media as much as you like – when you’re not at work. If you’re friends with your co-workers, it’s okay to share posts that involve them on social media – when you’re not at work.

4) Don’t: Take photos or videos of patients with your personal devices.

Photos and videos are often automatically backed up by mobile carriers and online storage platforms and then shared with other applications. Maintain patient-nurse boundaries at all times. As a general rule, avoid taking any photos or videos while on the job to eliminate the risk of unintentionally capturing private information.

5) Do: Understand who may view your social media posts.

Social media platforms have privacy settings, but it’s safer to assume that everything you post can be seen by the general public and traced back to you. Very little information on the internet is 100 percent private or anonymous.

6) Don’t: Make disparaging remarks about co-workers or employers.

This is true in most industries. This type of posting is unprofessional and degrades the nursing profession. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in patients, even if you don’t mention your employer or co-worker by name. Many nurses won’t identify employers in their social media profiles to avoid being connected to disparaging comments made by others.

Social media is constantly evolving. Just when you think you know everything, a new platform appears out of thin air. As a nurse or nursing student, it’s important to understand the benefits and risks to you, your patients, co-workers, employer and the nursing profession as a whole.

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