Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

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It’s estimated that the number of worldwide social media users reached 3.5 BILLION in April 2019. And that number is only expected to grow! For good reason. Social media is a great thing! People use it to stay in touch with friends and family, to help grow careers and businesses, and for good ole fashion entertainment. And nurses, (or anyone in the medical profession, for that matter,) are no exception. However, they can’t use social media the way your average John Doe does. For anyone in the health industry, social media is a very fine line.

Alright, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. HIPAA; The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. If I want to sound professional, I’d say that HIPAA regulations require health care providers to protect patient confidentiality and health data. If I want to be blunt, I’d say HIPAA regulations are what scare a lot of nurses away from social media and blogging. Why is this so?? Because you can be infringing on HIPAA regulations without even realizing it. For example, you may never state a patient’s name outright. You may not even have posted a photo! But if you drop bits and pieces of info here and there, of which department you worked in, and then a couple of weeks later which hospital you worked in, and then even further down the line a story of a patient that had a positive impact on you, without ever naming said patient or offering specifics of the case, you may be in violation of HIPAA. Because someone, somewhere, may connect the dots. And let me remind you that a HIPAA violation can put your job and license on the line, as well as cost you a hefty fine.

And now that I’ve completely scared you all off Instagram and the likes, I’ll have you know that social media is in fact an excellent tool for nurses. You can use it, as I stated earlier, to connect with friends and family, and you can use it to connect with OTHER nurses and medical professionals. Social media is a veritable wellspring of resources for nurses. You can meet and connect with nurses from around the country and the world! And there are so many nursing organizations with a social media presence which are constantly bringing key issues and innovations to the forefront. So yes, there are the pitfalls, but the positive far outweighs any sort of hesitation you should have about presenting yourself as a nurse on your favorite platforms. And to make it super clear for you all, I’ve compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you navigate this world we call Social Media.

DO:

1. Find out your organization’s social media policy. Most of them have one.

2. Use privacy settings. While they can’t guarantee protection, they are your best friend and you should use them!

3. Be professional. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn… These are public forums. Don’t make negative remarks about your boss, coworkers, or patients. It may get you fired; even if you don’t state their names.

4. Promote the nursing profession in order to better public awareness.

5. Talk about relevant, health care related interests.

DON’T:

1. Ever post patient stories. It may be the most inspirational encounter you’ve ever experienced, but if you accidentally reveal private patient info, you will be in violation of HIPAA and in hot water.

2. Post from your workplace. It may just be an innocent, fun photo of you and your coworkers, but if there’s a patient, family member, or chart that mistakenly ends up in the photo… well, you know where this is going. HIPAA. So basically, be mindful, and perhaps have someone else review any photo or caption you plan on posting, just to be sure.

3. Connect with patients or their family members on social media. This is a biggie. It is SO unprofessional and can be borderline stalkerish. If they connect with you, keep it very courteous and don’t ever share private information through social media platforms.

4. Complain about your boss. In fact, it’s probably best to make no mention of your workplace whatsoever. Plus, you may end up fired.

5. Shame the nursing career. Nurses are held to a higher standard and you must always keep that in mind when you make your presence known on the Internet.

Now go on out there, rack up those followers, and make the nursing profession proud!!

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