Monday, February 13, 2017

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – Nurses Beware?

Should nurses be using social media? Of course, there’s nothing to stop nurses from having social media accounts. These accounts allow them to chat with friends and family members, share photos, and learn about what’s new in the cyberworld. But when social media crosses over into the work and professional world, things can start to get murky.

© Gajus | - woman surfing internet

It’s reality – nurses share stories with each other. I don’t know many nurses who don’t swap some at-work tales about particularly memorable patients or situations. We usually are very mindful of not providing details or enough information that someone could be identified, but part of this peer-to-peer sharing can be helpful in allowing us to blow off steam, to get support, or even to learn things about how other nurses may have handled a particular situation. But speaking to one nurse in a social situation and telling a story online where hundreds of people could see it – or more if the story is spread by others – is a different situation. What may not be recognizable to a person in a one-on-one conversation, may be identifiable to someone in a much bigger crowd.

Some nurses have taken this storytelling a step further by taking photos at work and sharing them online. Taking photos and sharing them without the subject’s permission is almost always a no-no, but to do so in a healthcare environment? It seems surprising that any nurse would think that is ok to do. But it has happened. According to a Medscape article, a nurse in a trauma unit did just that.

We also have to think about ourselves, our privacy, and our safety. Unfortunately, not all the people we deal with at work are nice. While most of our patients, clients, and families are good people and wouldn’t want to harm us, there are always a few who are either very unhappy with the care they’ve received (or didn’t, depending on the situation) or are generally unhappy people overall. With it being so easy to track people down using the Internet, the risk of being found through social media by people who may want to cause problems is there.

It’s also possible for patients or families to investigate nurses by looking at their online profiles. If they find photos or comments that could be seen as unprofessional, this could cause conflict at work, and employers may see this as a breech of ethics.

We could argue that what we do on our own time, professional-looking or not, is our own business, but not everyone sees it that way. The Medscape article says: "We violate our patients' trust if there are pictures of us on Facebook behaving unprofessionally, making off-color remarks, or expressing certain opinions online. Patients do see these things, and some are actively looking for them. It's our professional obligation to behave in a certain manner."

Do you use social media? If you do, do you have rules about what you will post and what you won’t?