Social media is a powerful tool. It lets you communicate, and share information and content with others instantaneously. Some people have even used it to build their professional networks and secure career advancement opportunities. If used incorrectly, however, the consequences can be dire. Nurses in particular are responsible for a great deal of sensitive patient information. Sharing this recklessly could spell trouble for your facility and future career prospects. With social media becoming an integral part of the lives of millions, it would be impractical to try to get all nurses to stop. Instead, they have to learn how to use these platforms responsibly, at all times.
With the following tips, HCPs can harness the power of social media without compromising their personal or professional lives.
1. Do not share patient information
Sharing workplace photos could be a gross violation of healthcare ethics if you are not careful. Per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), nurses need to maintain patient privacy at all times. Whether you are posting on a public account or a private group chat, any posts that involve a patient should come with written consent. Without their permission, videos or photos of patients, patient gossip, or posts that leak sensitive patient information could qualify as a criminal offense. Your facilities will also be held liable since they are expected to ingrain this respect for patient privacy onto you.
2. Observe your facility’s social media policies
Facilities are growing privy to the dangers of social media misuse. This is why they will have their own policies on the matter. Unfortunately, these rules are commonly not as well-defined as the ones on HIPAA. For example, a lot of hospitals will have rules that discourage talking negatively about your work on social media. Whether or not a post falls under this definition, as well as the severity of the punishment will depend on the facility. When you can, it is best to err on the side of caution.
3. Think twice before you post
Everything that is posted on the internet stays on the internet. Even if you delete your Twitter or Insta story, anyone can save a screenshot or access an archive on sites like the Wayback Machine. That content also stays in company servers, which attorneys can access with a subpoena. If you post something that leaks sensitive patient information or is culturally insensitive, you could be harming your career prospects down the road, if not in the immediate future. As a nurse, you want to give some extra thought to each of your posts.
4. Set boundaries with your patients
If a patient adds you on social media and you accept, you must approach each interaction with professionalism. Even on social media, patient and employer confidentiality should be observed at all times. When you talk outside of work, avoid discussing anything related to their condition, health history, and case. This could be a violation of workplace policies and even patient privacy if you are not careful. Simply posting that you are their nurse may be a breach of confidentiality in and of itself. You can, however, discuss and answer health-related questions, provided they are not directly related to their case.
5. Avoid cyber bullying
Many hospitals also have policies in place to deter bullying. Making fun of or disparaging your co-workers online could constitute cyberbullying. This treatment often has an overall negative effect on morale and energy, and can negatively affect the cohesion of a healthcare unit. It is harder to stay motivated for your work when your entire team has turned against you. Bullying has long been a problem in healthcare, and social media provides an outlet for it if HCPs do not observe due diligence.
6. Join the conversation
Within reason, social media allows you to join productive and passionate discussions about healthcare practices. This lets you spread public health awareness while connecting with like-minded nurses who have their own valuable insights. In this article, we have gone over the potential pitfalls of social media. When used responsibly, these platforms can be just as effective in doing good.