Take a moment to answer these questions:
- Do you post gossip or negative information about coworkers?
- Do you take pictures and/or post to social media sites while at work?
- Do you participate in activities outside of work that your employer may not want to be associated with?
If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of the above, you may want to make some changes in the way you use social media. Don’t be too hard on yourself — we all make mistakes. But cleaning up your social media habits now is the best thing you can do to protect yourself (and your patients) in the future.
7 Social Media Rules for Nurses
1. Take personal responsibility for everything you post.
When you update your Facebook status, tweet, or share a photo on Instagram, you decide to make those words and images public (even if you think only your friends can see it.) Stay aware of that. And if you are affiliated with a healthcare organization (i.e. your job is listed in your profile), be certain to note somewhere that your words and images are your own and do not represent the attitudes of your employer.
2. Protect patient identify.
This may sound like a big “Duh!” but avoid using any patient ID information. That includes room numbers, unit info and any dates relevant to the patient (including admission, discharge and date of birth).
3. Understand that termination is a real consequence.
It’s not an urban myth. Nurses (and other healthcare professionals) are being fired for things they write on social media sites. Healthcare organizations aren’t policing social media usage among employees for fun. With the initiation of the 2009 HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act), penalties upward of 1.5 million dollars are possible for multiple HIPAA violations. They simply can’t afford not to take action.
4. Optimize privacy settings.
Get to know the ins and outs of your social media privacy settings. Facebook has a helpful guide (and other social media sites should have similar information) for those who want to make sure they know who is viewing their information
5. But remember, information on the Internet is easily shared.
Privacy settings aside, it’s difficult to control what happens once something is shared on the Internet. Something that seems harmless could have dire consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. This nurse was fired for something she posted on Facebook that a “friend” shared with a supervisor. When the nurse argued this was a violation of her privacy, the court disagreed.
6. Don’t take pictures of patients on personal devices.
A tempting thing to do when you have a personal connection with a patient. But pictures in your phone leave the hospital and go wherever you go. It’s a HIPAA violation and a generally bad idea.
7. Use caution when connecting with patients and their families.
To friend or not to friend? That is the question. It’s a gray area that the healthcare industry is still trying to sort out. Patient-nurse boundaries are difficult to define. But if you have an inkling that you’re crossing that boundary, then you probably are. Better safe than sorry.
So how do you measure up?
Are there ways you can improve your social media usage to protect yourself as a nurse? Or do you already follow these guidelines?
Don’t forget to take Nurse.com’s free CE, Facebook: Know the Policy Before Posting found here.