Like! Love!! Repost!!! - RNs Using Social Media

I love social media.

I do. It's obvious. I use Instagram, Facebook, Blogs (Follow/Like/Read New Thing Nurse!) & listen to sooooo many podcasts.  A 2014 study of nurse social media use found that approximately 94% of participants reported using some form of social media. It is happening. Nurses are using social media to network, educate, advocate & respond to issues in real time. It can be so useful & efficient. Many large health organizations - like the CDC, the WHO, ENA, AACN & so many more letter combinations - have their own social media accounts (that you should be following). It is an incredibly easy & fun way to stay up-to-date with healthcare trends.

But with all the good, comes the bad.

As healthcare providers, we nurses are responsible for many things & are held accountable for what we say & do while on & off the clock. In addition to all laws that we have to follow (ahem - HIPAA), we are representing our ourselves, our unit, our employers & our profession at all times whether we realize or not. This extends to our online presence. Many employers are starting to monitor social media accounts for potential & current employees. Plus almost all facilities now have a social media policy in addition to a professional policy that all employees must follow. Check out the policies of your facility.

While one of the main words in social media is social, nurses also have to keep the social posts professional. The risks for not doing so include potential professional repercussions from employers or state licensing boards. In plain speak, you can lose your job or your RN license. Not worth it.

And are you a student? This applies to you too! Universities check social media when looking at student applications & almost all educational institutions have both the social media & professional policies in place for their students. So think thrice about your next post.

How do I use social media without getting in trouble?

I know you're thinking - "Great. Now I can't post anymore. THANKS A LOT!"

Relax. I am not going to leave you high & dry. You can still use social media, but I just want you to review your posting practices & think about it from a professional point of view -

Would this content be concerning if I were an employer?

Does this make me look like a competent nurse... or human?

Would my patients feel good seeing me drinking those six shots 6 hours before my shift starts?

How would my grandma feel about that dress?

With these points in mind, let's review some social media best practices for nursing professionals.

Privacy Settings

The first step to making your online presence more secure is to max out your privacy settings. Try to Google yourself & see what comes up. If you don't like your results, consider increasing the privacy settings on your accounts. All social media platforms have privacy settings which frequently change, so it's a good practice to recheck yours every 3-6 months. This does not mean that you are excluded from the "professional posting" rule. People can still see what you are posting. This will just decrease the possibility of your boss randomly stumbling upon your birthday party bus posts.

Use A Different Name

Like increased privacy settings, using a different name WILL NOT protect you from unprofessional posts. However it can deter unwanted folks from finding your more personal social media activity. Some nurses that I have met have a personal social media account with a nickname & a professional social media account with their legal name. Again you still have to keep it professional, but it is a common approach to enhancing your privacy.

Would You Be OK with the Whole World Seeing This?

You should just assume that EVERYONE is going to see what you just posted. Would you be ok with your grandma & your boss checking that outfit from last night? If not, you might want to make some choices on what you're posting. Also consider that if 94% of nurses are using social media, you can assume 98% of patients are too. If they didn't like their care or something you said, bet your Christmas bonus that they are going to try to find you online & find other things that they don't like. Then they are going to file a complaint. It happens. Don't let it happen to you!

Photos of Work

Don't do it. Just don't. I know you think that it will be ok, but I feel really strongly that you should never post specifics about your job, photos from work, what happens on shift or complain in any way about your employer or patients. Never post photos of you socializing in your scrubs. Don't post your badge. Don't post where you work unless it's a professional profile used for specifically professional purposes. I know that I have not been perfect about this. Facebook went public while I was in college, & we all had to learn. But photos & posts about work can be very quickly turned against you. My motto - just be positive about work or don't mention it at all.

HIPAA & Posting

Patient confidentiality is a BIG DEAL & federally protected by law. You need to be really careful about telling stories, posting on social media or texting out any tales from the patient care world.
Think about it! Even if you change patient identifiers, don’t most people know where you work? Plus what kind of floor you work on? & how hard would it be to figure out the day this happened? That’s a lot of identifying information. I used to work in a small town & some of the Nosey Neds & Nancies of that town could figure out a lot from less than that.

Many Schools & Employers Do a Social Media Check

We touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating. It is happening. During job & school application processes, many institutions are doing social media checks on their applicants. I recommend doing a review of what's out there on you before applying to schools or new jobs & consider deleting questionable photos (especially with nudity or alcohol), de-tagging yourself from off color status updates or de-activating accounts while in the application process.

Social Media & Professional Policies

I know that we touched on this topic briefly, but this also is super important. Social media & professional policies are documents that clearly define an organization's expectations for online & professional conduct. Some are super detailed while others are more vague. You need to read the policies of your facility. When you become an employee or student at an organization, you are agreeing to follow their policies. If you are found in violation of these policies, you can be in deep trouble. Save yourself the pain & find out what the expectations are for you.

More Resources!!

While I like to think of myself as an awesome resource, please DO NOT JUST FOLLOW THIS POST FOR YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA RECOMMENDATIONS. There are many other resources out there. First & foremost, FOLLOW THE POLICIES OF YOUR EMPLOYER, FACILITY & EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS. For further reading, here are a few other resources for you to review -

National Council of State Boards of Nursing - A Nurse's Guide to the Use of Social Media

C. Lee Ventola - Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices

Nancy Spector, PHD, RN & Dawn M. Kappel, MA - Guidelines for Using Electronic and Social Media: The Regulatory Perspective

Remember - Social media can be awesome. Just make sure to keep it professional & follow the policy.

- Sarah @ New Thing Nurse

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