Blog » Social Media for Nurses – Rules of the Road
In the digital times we live in, if you're not on social media, you're out of the loop. The past 10 years have brought an explosion of social media and other electronic communication like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, and others.
While these social media sites are an excellent way to share and discuss information on virtually every topic, if used inappropriately, nurses can find themselves in significant legal trouble. They could even face losing their nursing license.
Nurses must be very careful with the information they share on social media sites. Nurses will find themselves in trouble if they mention patients by name or provide enough information that patients might be identified in a social media posting.
You could also be in hot water with your employer if you inappropriately mention the hospital or something about current working conditions.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) gives patients rights over their health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive patients health information. It is illegal and finable for nurses and other healthcare professionals to purposely or accidentally release information about patients while using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
As a general rule:
By all means, nurses can participate in social media, just be careful about what conversations you participate in. Use social media to uplift the nursing profession. You can also talk about yourself, family, hobbies, and interests.
Social media discussion groups provide nurses with a useful outlet to connect with other healthcare professionals for personal, emotional, and educational reasons. From getting tips on how to cope with workplace stress to answering questions about advanced nursing degree programs, there are many nurse-specific online groups to join or participate in.
Realize that nothing online is ever really anonymous and don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say in front of your boss or human resources.
You can also use social media platforms, like LinkedIn, to increase visibility and advance your career, which could lead to a higher position or a raise. Many nurses also use Twitter, for example, to follow health care news.
An increasing number of healthcare employers are developing and implementing social media policies, including the American Medical Association, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Kaiser Permanente. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) also offers a white paper titled “A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media.”
Some employers require employees to post a disclaimer that "the views expressed are not those of XWZ." In other words, whatever you post is your opinion as an individual and you are not speaking on the hospital's behalf.
Social media is an exciting and valuable tool when used wisely. Does your employer have a written social media policy?