Social media has become a key component of many businesses’ success, and this is particularly true in the healthcare field. Leveraging social media to one’s advantage can help healthcare workers like nurses foster professional connections. It can also help nurses receive pertinent work-related information as well as educate and inform patients.
When not used appropriately and responsibly, however, social media is a liability to both nurses and their employers. This often happens when nurses divulge too much information on the internet and violate privacy laws.
How social media misuse can affect your nursing career
Hiring managers may use your social media to inform their hiring decision. The average turnover cost for a nurse is between $37,000 and $58,000. Given the cost and frequency of turnover, a quick screen of a potential candidate’s social media is well worth the time. In fact, a recent study revealed that roughly 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process.
Candidates should be aware of unattractive pictures of college parties, drug use, illegal activities, profanity, or other unprofessional behavior and should avoid negativity or heated debates. Right or wrong, this type of social media presence could influence employers’ decision to offer an interview or a job.
Recently, a nurse from Salem Health was put on administrative leave due to a controversial post she made on TikTok regarding COVID health restrictions. What she thought was a harmless post ended up resulting in her taking down not only her TikTok account but her Facebook one as well. And ultimately, it marred her nursing career.
Inappropriate posts can violate patient privacy. Sharing something seemingly harmless like a photo on Facebook or Instagram can give away personally identifiable and confidential information that violates HIPAA laws or leads to a cyberattack.
For example, a ProPublica report from 2015 detailed 47 different incidents of nursing home and assisted living workers misusing social media and violating patient confidentiality laws.
Social media guidelines for nurses
When used with caution, social media is a great outlet for nurses to express their feelings and seek support from friends, family and colleagues. Here’s a look at three must-follow tips and standards provided by the American Nursing Association for nurses using social media.
Do not transmit patient information
You can’t use social media to transmit any form of individually identifiable patient information. You can discuss various aspects of your work day with a patient, but you can’t provide any identifiable data.
Say for example you had a patient give you a ‘thank-you’ card for the care you’ve provided and you want to show it off on Facebook. On the inside of the card, it’s signed with the patient’s name. The front of the card, however, has absolutely no personally identifiable patient information. This means you can make a post on social media using a picture of the front of the card but not the inside. In your post, you can say that you received the card from a patient but you can’t say the patient’s name or the location in which they are receiving care.
Observe ethical patient-nurse boundaries
In the Nurse’s Guide to Professional Boundaries released by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, it states, “Professional boundaries are the spaces between the nurse’s power and the patient’s vulnerability … The difference in personal information the nurse knows about the patient versus personal information the patient knows about the nurse creates an imbalance in the nurse–patient relationship. Nurses should make every effort to respect the power imbalance and ensure a patient-centered relationship.” This applies both inside and outside of social media.
Understand privacy of posted content
Just because a nurse posts content on a personal social media profile doesn’t mean certain co-workers and patients won’t see it; this is especially true when nurses don’t separate their personal and professional profiles. When nurses publish content, they never know when social media followers and friends will share the content with their own network, and in doing so, may reach unintended parties. This is why it’s so important to create personal and professional profiles as well as to take advantage of privacy settings.
If you have not recently reviewed your social media privacy settings, don’t wait to check on them. You can choose to allow only certain groups of people to view your information, generally family and friends, not strangers. If your privacy settings are correctly set up, a hiring manager, patient, or anyone other than who you choose won’t be able to view your content.
When in doubt, play it safe
Nurses on social media should take a conservative approach to what is shared with the public. Consider changing your privacy settings and always be aware of how what you’re posting may impact yourself, your patients, and your employer.
More than half of hiring managers (57%) found inappropriate behaviors when screening candidates that lead them to not hire someone. The last thing nurses want when preparing for an interview is to hurt your chances of getting a new nursing job because of a careless post.
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