Nursing and Social Media: A Quick Guide For Proper Use
Traditionally, healthcare has been slow to adopt the use of social media, but since the pandemic, it has become a fun new way for healthcare professionals to share helpful information, connect with others, and be an outlet for support.
With that said, and having hashtags like #nurselife going viral with over 4,888,978 posts, it’s important to not get wrapped up in the “social-hype” and forget that healthcare organizations have clear policies governing the use of social media in the workplace.
Now, it’s good to keep in mind that these policies are not there to be a “kill-joy” to the employee experience, but they are there to protect employees as even the best intentions can lead to licensure removal and legal repercussions.
As social media creates lots of opportunities for nurses to share, connect, and ultimately have fun, we wanted to create a quick guide for social media best practices to help you navigate the space so that you can make an impact in a way that keeps you, your patients, and the facilities you work for safe and happy.
Let’s take a look!
Nursing and Social Media: A Case Study for Impact
Now, before we get into best practices, we want to share a quick hypothetical story to show how quickly a simple post can impact your nursing career:
Brianna is a nursing student who has worked in the pediatrics unit for the past two months and has really connected with Joel, a 7-year-old boy recovering from a severe car accident injury. Over the past two months, Brianna has built great rapport with Joel’s family and has created a relationship with Joel in his healing process. As Joel recovered, Brianna wanted to take a picture of them together as he was being discharged. Later, Brianna posted about her experience and how fulfilling it was to help Joel’s family on her Instagram feed.
The next morning, Brianna went into work, and her supervisor asked to talk to her about the post. Even though Brianna had an excellent student record and had the best intentions, she unfortunately was expelled from her nursing program, and the program was barred from using the pediatrics unit for their students.
What We Can Learn
Now, we don’t share this as a scare tactic but to really reiterate that social media does matter and needs to be thoughtfully considered as it can lead to serious consequences. We need to break the mindset that social posts are “simply posts.” Whether it’s deleted or not, a post can be a breach of patient confidentiality and a violation of Federal privacy laws, so it’s important to not let emotions and fleeting moments be in the driver’s seat of your career.
If this story and this article as a whole help you remember one thing, we hope it’s this: Social media does not change a nurse’s responsibility to protect patient information.
With that said, we hope you can carefully follow these best practices to keep social media fun, appropriate, and safe for everyone involved — even for you!
Let’s take a look at the list!
Nursing and Social Media: A Quick List of Best Practices
Social media platforms can be a fun way for nurses and healthcare professional to express and connect, but to avoid pitfalls, look to these best practices:
Avoid HIPAA Violations
Effective nurse-patient relationships are built on trust, which in turn is based on patient privacy, which is where HIPAA comes into play.
The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted by Congress in 1996 with the intent of giving people control over how their information is shared and stored. In terms of protecting healthcare information, HIPAA sets guidelines that protect patient health records and personal information. These guidelines have made the use of social media tricky.
For example, nurses cannot directly contact patients through social media as this would violate the privacy and confidentiality regulations outlined by HIPPA. To avoid privacy violations, remember the following guidelines for using social media:
- Avoid any discussion of patients, even in general terms.
- Avoid talking about conditions and treatments.
- Avoid practicing medicine online by responding to patients offline.
Let the Hippocratic Oath Lead Your Content Creation
One of the first ethical policies you agree to as a nurse is to “do no harm.” When taking the Hippocratic Oath, you promise to treat others with kindness, mutual respect, and attentive care.
You should hold those same values as you create content online in order to avoid social interactions and engagements that can hurt others or that could be seen as discriminatory in nature.
Do Not Offer Medical Advice
Although you are a medical professional — equipped to answer queries online better than the general public could — it’s best to avoid sharing medical advice online. Patients come in with specific medical histories, and you cannot know that information from behind a keyboard; therefore, this type of advice can lead to liabilities.
If you are to share medical information online, it’s best to share general educational tips and explicitly state that it’s general information. You should also get in the habit of encouraging people to see a medical professional to find a solution specific to their needs as everyone is different.
Avoid Conflicts of Interest
With the rise of content creators, brand ambassadors, and influencers, it’s important to think through any conflicts before agreeing to paid social posts. On top of that, it’s also important to understand FDA rules about advertising.
If you are getting paid for promoting a product or even an idea, you must reveal this fact as a nurse content creator. Marketing partnerships should not be hidden in a small hyperlink.
Additionally, consider the ethical implications of your endorsements, and make sure they are consistent with current standards of care and evidence-based medicine.
Separate Personal and Professional Opinions
Social media is all about sharing opinions, but oftentimes people can get in trouble for not distinguishing what is personal and what is professional.
If you are wanting to share your personal thoughts and feelings about a certain topic, it is smart to make a clear distinction between your personal thoughts and the official position of the facility where you work.
When sharing a personal thought online, get into the habit of stating that something is your own thought, opinion, or feeling and does not represent the medical facility you work for.
Be Proactive and Ask for Permission
When in doubt, ask someone! It cannot hurt.
Whether it’s sharing a personal post that you are hesitant about or being asked to speak on a local panel, just ask. Supervisors will know guidelines and will have good feedback for you on how to proceed.
When it comes to representing yourself as a nurse at events, oftentimes you will need permission from your employer as facilities will want you to follow specific media talking points on stances and policies they have — for example on topics like COVID-19.
Before you say yes to any events or social media engagements, ask your medical facility or supervisors for proper procedures and ultimately for permission.
Don’t Be Afraid to Have Fun
In this article, we have talked a lot about rules and regulations, but we need to always remember that social media is all about being social and ultimately having fun.
Sure, topics need to be treated responsibly, but you can definitely have fun when the context is appropriate. For example, you can go all out with the following ideas for social media posts:
- Post about your unit’s Halloween costume contest.
- Model your new scrub set.
- Raise awareness on topics that matter to you.
- Share a list of your favorite nursing accessories.
- Represent your unit if you are doing a walk for cancer.
- Within the work-hour policies, make fun videos with fellow staff members.
- Share nursing puns.
The list of creative possibilities is endless, so if you can create educational, engaging, and entertaining content that keeps things private and appropriate, set out to take on the social media world!
Best Practices: Good Things to Know
Social media can benefit the healthcare industry in a variety of ways; specifically, when it comes to the lives of nurses, it’s a great way to express feelings, find support, have fun, and educate the public.
Social media can be a fun place for content creation and exploration as long as these are done properly. We hope this quick guide allows you to navigate the digital space with confidence.
For more resources, look through Nursa healthcare’s extensive resource library, which features all types of guides and materials for medical professionals to thrive in their career development.