Posting, tweeting, liking, sharing, Snapchatting, using Instagram, the list goes on. Social media has become an inherent part of most people’s lives, regardless of their occupation. Unlike everyone else, nurses (and others in a healthcare profession) should be extremely careful when they are using social media. Here are some quick tips on professionalism and privacy that can allow you to still be present on social media without potentially endangering your career.
No matter what your job is, you should be mindful of what you post on your social media accounts. Anything you publish online can be viewed by anyone, including your employer. Yes, there are privacy settings that you can and should use. However, Facebook and other social media platforms are infamous for their continuous changes to their privacy settings. Even if you make full use of the privacy settings available and update them frequently, here are a couple of tips to follow that can help you keep an professional online presence:
- Do connect with other nursing and healthcare professionals. Social media is an excellent platform for professional networking, which is one reason why maintaining professionalism online is so important. By connecting with other nurses and healthcare professionals, you can exchange ideas and possibly use those connections to advance your career.
- Don’t complain too much. If you’re already on Twitter, you may have noticed that “#nurseproblems” or “#nurseprobs” are hashtags that are used frequently in the nursing community. Liking, retweeting, and posting your own tweets with these hashtags are okay in moderation because they are usually meant to be funny. They are also typically about nursing as a whole, with the “nurseprobs” being something that all nurses have experienced. It is important that you never complain about a specific person or the hospital/institution you are working for, even if you mean it as a joke. Getting too specific can come across as an attack, rather than a joke, which can backfire and negatively affect your career.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) has provided a free Social Networking Principles Toolkit, complete with more great social media tips and practices for nurses.
Again, anything you post online can be seen by the public. Let’s say a patient that you are tending to has a really cool/gross wound that would do well on Instagram, or they say something funny, crazy, nice, or all of the above that you want to share on Facebook. Should you post that picture or tell their story? The answer is a resounding “no.” If you absolutely must post something that a patient or their family said/did, use extreme caution. Do not use any names, or include any details that could in any way be connected to the patient you are talking about. Honestly, it’s just best if you don’t post anything relating to your patients. HIPAA is in place for a reason. Your patient’s privacy is of the utmost importance, and should not be compromised even if they give verbal consent.
It’s also important to maintain boundaries between you and the patient by not “friending” or following each other on social media. Even if they are really sweet and you see them regularly, it is in yours and their best interests to keep the relationship professional and out of social media. Not having patients as “friends” on social media demonstrates your professionalism and will prevent any potential HIPAA violations.
Now that you’ve got the basics of social media professionalism down, be sure to check out our Nurse’s Guide to Social Media. You’ll find links to prominent nursing and healthcare social media accounts, in addition to learning how to expand your online presence.