Nurses across the country are among millions of users posting short, expressive videos on the fast-growing and often controversial social media platform TikTok.
Generation Z and millennial nurses told Nurse.com the posts help to relieve job stress, educate people about what they do and are just plain fun to create and view.
Those benefits are relevant considering the high turnover rate among new nurses. A study published in 2014 in the journal Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice found about 17.5% of newly-licensed RNs leave their first nursing jobs within a year and 33.5% leave within two years.
The TikTok videos by nurses, in which they poke fun at their jobs or take a lighthearted look at the reality of what they do, raise concerns about professionalism in some cases. For example, a nurse posted a TikTok video about giving a flu shot. This particular nurse also mocked patients for faking pain.
And the social media app has come under scrutiny for its practices and politics. Specifically, there have been lawsuits looking at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and how it handles young users’ data, as well as TikTok’s ties to the government.
Good or bad, the reality is nurses are using the app, which reportedly has more than 1 billion users worldwide.
We talked with three nurses who find TikTok a great way to connect and be heard. They shared their thoughts about using the platform as nurses.
Rattay’s take on TikTok
At age 25, Andrew Rattay, BSN, RN, has practiced in a community hospital’s critical care unit for about a year.
Rattay said he stumbled onto TikTok when he noticed his girlfriend and her friend laughing hysterically as they shared videos.
He has been posting on TikTok since September 2019 and has about 51,000 followers, many of whom he said are nurses and CNAs.
“In my bio on TikTok, it states that nurses can be stressed at times. Let’s change that,” he said. “I’m trying with my content to relieve a lot of the stress from the nursing community and create a funny content base for nurses and healthcare providers.”
“Whenever they are on their little breaks, they can scroll through TikTok, see something relatable, laugh about it and then sort of be inspired to go back to work feeling refreshed,” Rattay added.
Nurses seem to flock to TikTok, according to Rattay, and whether they’re posting malicious content or not, it’s still somewhat relatable and makes other nurses feel a sense of community.
In one video post, Rattay is starting an IV for another nurse who asked for help. He gets the IV started and tries to be humble but has that big-head moment.
Still, Rattay has boundaries about what to post and what not to post. Walking the fine line between being real and professional isn’t always easy, he said.
“I know potentially millions of people are going to see what I post, so I need to be careful and kind of tread lightly,” he said. “With that being considered, a lot of the content that I create is, I guess, what people consider humorous.”
Rattay got a sense for how to use TikTok by watching a YouTube video by primary care provider and social media sensation “Doctor Mike”.
“He has a really amazing foundation for anyone who wants to step up to the plate for social media influencing, especially in the medical field,” Rattay said.
The bottom line for nurses on TikTok, or any social media platform, is anyone with a nurse’s badge or uniform has a responsibility to post educational content that’s evidence-based, according to Rattay.
People’s feedback helps fuel Rattay’s interest in TikTok and desire to keep posting.
“A lot of people show appreciation towards nurses,” he said. “I’ve had some people comment little things like, ‘Nurses are underappreciated. I love you guys so much. You guys got me through some very tough times.’ There are moments when I’m reading through comments where I’m like, dang, it’s a good day to be a nurse because you really sort of feel the love from the community.”
Find Rattay’s TikTok videos here.
Sarfo’s DNP journey
Kojo Sarfo, DNP, PMHNP-BC, a 27-year-old psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, works in an inpatient mental health facility.
With 16,200 followers, Sarfo is relatively famous on TikTok. He’s well-established on other social media platforms, as well, such as Instagram, where he has more than 4,000 followers.
His aim is to educate people with positive content about nursing and becoming a nurse practitioner. Sarfo said he became intrigued by TikTok’s reach when his younger brother told him kids at school were paying more attention to TikTok than class.
“Once I got on the app, I started to see that,” Sarfo said. “It looked like all the attention had shifted there.”
Sarfo said he started to see other healthcare influencers on the app and saw how they were using different types of videos to “lighten the mood” but at the same time convey messages. “Once I started to realize that, I just started telling my story,” he said. “But I try to make it contextual to that platform.”
Sarfo dances, jokes and sends educational messages, such as how exercise helps prevent depression. It’s a win-win for viewers and Sarfo, who said viewing and posting are stress relievers.
“If I’m in the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A, I can whip out my phone and in like 15 minutes I see 30 or 40 videos that make me laugh,” he said. “At the same time, it’s teaching me. What we do on a daily basis is serious work, and we have people’s lives in our hands. That’s kind of an overwhelming responsibility. I think it’s imperative to find an outlet to de-stress.”
Posting is a form of expression and a way to connect and communicate, but Sarfo said that comes with responsibility.
“It’s important to realize that if you have a professional degree, whether you’re an RN, BSN, nurse practitioner, MD or PA, once you have those credentials and you create a profile, there’s a huge demographic of users who are under age 18,” he said. “They’ll take what you put out there to be the truth. While you can joke, you can’t make inaccurate statements or put out information that could potentially harm people.”
“I’m always dancing and having fun,” Sarfo continued. “But at the same time, if I’m deciding whether to post something that I think might be controversial and negatively impact just a small amount of people, I won’t post it. If one person takes it the wrong way and their health is compromised, it’s not worth any of the views that it got.”
There’s so much about nursing people don’t know, including the many different specialties and levels of education in the profession, according to Sarfo.
“People don’t know about how good a profession it is,” he said. “It has changed my life — being able to start with an associate degree and get all the way to the DNP. People just don’t have a guide on how to go about their nursing education, so for me it’s putting a roadmap out there. I think that’s my biggest contribution.”
Find Sarfo’s Tiktok videos here, including his video on taking the NCLEX. And visit his YouTube page.
Jones’ reality check
Laeticia Jones, BSN, RN, is two years into her nursing career and works on a med-surg oncology unit at a New York City hospital. The 26-year-old’s focus on TikTok is creating awareness about nursing as a career and being real about it. Jones said she also turns to TikTok to connect with other nurses who experience the same on-the-job realities.
One of her videos that went viral — with some 1.9 million views — offers a quick look at postmortem care. “I had to do postmortem care with one of my patients who died right at the end of my shift,” she said. “People are not aware that nurses take care of that.”
Jones’ YouTube channel features longer, educational videos focused on telling nurses or future nurses her views on the realities about nursing, she said.
“I think that’s so important because when I was in nursing school, I lived on social media just to find out ‘the real,’” she said. “I’m the type of person that always needs to know. I definitely wanted to know what I was getting into.”
Jones said she has a passion for teaching and already has precepted three new nurses on her unit.
“I figured if I’m doing this at work, why not broaden my platform and bring it to TikTok, bring it to Instagram as kind of like a role model for other nurses? I think that’s what I enjoy the most,” Jones said.
Jones understands why nurses might vent on social media and agrees there have to be boundaries. She cited the example of a nurse who posted that patients were faking their discomfort. Nurses need to use discretion when posting anything on social media and consider how others might interpret it. At the same time, many nurses can relate to difficult patients that might be drug seeking, she said.
In essence, Jones said the post might be a reality for some nurses, but not everyone will see it that way.
“Others may not understand if they’re not a nurse,” she said. “And pain is subjective. Pain is what the patient says, so you can’t necessarily say someone’s faking per se. In that scenario, it’s more about discretion. With anything that’s posted on social media, you should always look at how the audience is going to interpret it, regardless if it’s going to be a nurse watching, a doctor watching, somebody who is in nursing school, or maybe has no business in nursing.”
Find Jones’s Tiktok videos here.
Take these courses to learn more about social media and confidentiality:
(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.