If you are a seasoned nurse of 10 years or more, you likely remember a time in your career before social media exploded onto the scene and became such an integral part of the world we live in. Whether you are 18 or 78, you likely know several people who use social media as a way to stay connected to the world. With websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr available for easy access on smart phones, nurses nowadays are more connected to the world than ever before. With this access, however, comes a great deal of responsibility to act wisely online. While it is wonderful to be so connected to other nurses around the world, and to keep up with current and former co-workers outside of the workplace, it is imperative that you follow some basic rules to keep your patients (and your nursing license) safe at all times!
Don’t violate HIPAA with your online activity
This is probably the most important piece of advice, so take heed. You may remember hearing on the news several years ago about a nursing student being kicked out of their program for posting a picture taken in the operating room during one of their clinicals. You may also have heard of nurses who lost their job for sharing patient information via Facebook or various other social media platforms. While you may want to share a situation you experienced, or convey emotions you experienced during a shift to gather support from friends and family, it is essential that you make sure whatever you are sharing does not include ANY patient information. This includes patient name, age, gender, diagnosis, room number, etc. If there is any doubt in your mind whether your post would violate HIPAA, don’t post it. Here is a short tutorial how your organisation can post patients’ pictures on social media without violating HIPPA:
Check with your human resources department on their policy regarding social media
In the last several years, most human resource departments have formulated policies to help guide employees in how to behave on social media. These policies obviously mention the above rules, to avoid any type of HIPAA violation, but they often also address conduct on social media as a person who is affiliated with their institution. If you are advertising yourself as an employee of “ABC Hospital,” it is likely that ABC Hospital would not want you to share personal pictures that may cause friends, family or the public to have a negative impression of that organization based upon the behavior of its employee. While this may seem unfair, it is unfortunately true of many organizations.
Keep your profiles private, if you can
In light of #2 above, keep in mind that the best way to safeguard yourself from negative consequences is to keep your social media profiles set to private, accessible only by your family and friends whom you can trust. Also, be judicious about friend-requesting co-workers until you know them quite well. Many young professionals choose to have a separate facebook account for family and friends versus co-workers, just so that the lines don’t become blurred. Others choose to politely decline friend-requests from any co-workers whatsoever, to be extra safe. This choice is obviously very personal and is based upon the culture within your particular organization. Just use your best judgement.
Keep negative thoughts away from social media
This one sounds quite obvious to many of you, I would imagine; but avoid blasting or bashing your employer openly on social media. It doesn’t matter if your profile is private or not. Most institutions frown upon their own employees spewing negativity about their workplace. Even if your profiles are private, you never know if a co-worker, friend or family member with a grudge against you could print something out and share it with the human resources department. It’s better not to take chances.
Your supervisors will be less than impressed to find the comments or pictures damaging their reputation
Remember that you are a professional
As a nurse, remember that your friends and family look up to you for sound medical advice and judgement. Whatever your beliefs may be about non-traditional medicinal practices, it is important that you uphold your professional status by avoiding use of social media as a platform to spread the word about topics that may not be in line with current best practices. You truly never know who may be reading your updates and taking them as fact.
By following these five simple rules, you can rest easily at night knowing that your social media use won’t cause any drama at your place of work.