​Avoid social media pitfalls for nurses by maintaining professionalism online 

By | 2022-10-10T09:43:54-04:00 December 23rd, 2019|0 Comments

You’ve worked too hard to become an RN and get to this point in your career. God forbid your career is marred by your own social media post.

Social media pitfalls for nurses do exist, and they can make you vulnerable to reprimands and disciplinary action by your employer and your state’s board of nursing.

To make social media work best for you professionally, you need to know what to do and what not to do online.

There are so many social media channels out there. From Twitter and Facebook to LinkedIn, they provide countless opportunities to connect with other people, both personally and professionally. LinkedIn alone has more than 575 million users. In our personal lives, the use of social media can be an entertaining and convenient way to catch up with friends and family.

As professional nurses, we also can use social media to learn what’s new in nursing education, patient care and more. This can mean using it as a networking tool, getting valuable information on job opportunities, learning about upcoming events and knowing what our nursing colleagues and professional leaders are doing.

You also can showcase your expertise, interact with other like-minded people and learn from their insights. Not to mention social media is a great tool for finding content focused on your skills and discovering other organizations in your industry.

Having a Twitter feed or a Facebook page for our personal lives is great, but when it comes to our professional lives, the rules change.

The need for us to maintain professionalism online cannot be overstated. Even something as seemingly harmless as a tweet can give away confidential information or lead to a cyberattack. That’s why it’s so important to recognize these instances as social media pitfalls for nurses and avoid them at all costs.

Stop and think to avoid social media pitfalls for nurses

We’ve all heard the old adage, “think before you speak,” and when it comes to hitting POST or SEND, it’s crucial to stop and think. As is true with the written word, the posted word is forever. You are not just representing yourself and your good name,  but your patients, colleagues, employer and profession.

Since every click means so much, it can definitely be helpful to have a set of guidelines to follow. Lippincott Solutions has some great tips in their “Rules of the Road” on what to do and not do to avoid social media pitfalls for nurses, including:

  • Become keenly aware of your employer’s social media policies.
  • Do not use the employer’s internet to post on social media sites.
  • Do not identify your employer on your personal profiles.
  • Use a personal email address when creating social media accounts, and limit posting to personal time.
  • Never talk about patients or identifiable coworkers online.

I align my own attitude and actions on social media to these standards, as well as those established by the American Nurses Association. Here are a few guidelines I believe we all need to adhere to in order to dodge social media pitfalls for nurses:

  • Be professional in every online interface and encounter.
  • Be sure you’re showcasing yourself in a positive manner each time.
  • Be careful with careless comments about your workplace, coworkers or boss.
  • Be thoughtful about ethical issues that could arise from what you’re posting.
  • Be vigilant regarding possible HIPAA violations.
  • Be cognizant of the dangers in being friends or “friending” patients after discharge.

If you need a visual reminder to pause before posting, write these tips down and post them near your computer:

  1. Think before you tweet
  2. Consider before you chat
  3. Ponder before you post

These are simple tips, but if you follow them you’ll avoid a costly social media blunder.

It’s crucial to never lose sight of the important differences between your personal and professional lives, including your online relationships. Ultimately, you are responsible for setting and adhering to the boundaries between the two.

Take these courses to learn more about social media and confidentiality:

Social Media
(1 contact hr)
For many of us, social media is a fun way to stay in touch with friends and family. But nurses need to be cautious as they engage in social media because it can affect their careers in ways never imagined. This module helps nurses learn how to use social media to boost their careers. It also provides tips to avoid social network “career busters” and compares sample sites to help choose the site that best meets your needs.

HIPAA and Confidentiality: Practice May Change, But Principles Endure
(1 contact hr)
In this course, you will learn about parts of HIPAA, especially as they concern nursing and other health professionals and the protection of healthcare information. Because you play a key role in the production of healthcare information, you play a key role in its protection.

Facebook: Know the Policy Before Posting
(1.5 contact hrs)
The fundamental function of Facebook (and other social networking sites, such as Twitter) is allowing “friends” to share information. In healthcare, Facebook posts can influence the hiring process, violate patient privacy and result in termination of employment. This module informs healthcare professionals of the risks of social networks, which break down the walls separating our personal and professional lives.

About the Author:

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN
Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Eileen was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York (now Northwell Health System) where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of their System hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in nursing administration and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. A former board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing, Eileen currently is a member of the Adelphi University, College of Nursing and Public Health Advisory Board.

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