Nursing and Social Media, Faqs Every Nurse Needs to Know
Social media has been around for so long that FaceBook is now FossilBook. Even Twitter and InstaGram are yesterday’s news. What’s app is what's popular now, but that will only last a year or two before the next big one comes out.
Did you know that what you share on social media as a nurse can be judged by your state’s Board of Nursing? This is one of the things they mean when they say nursing is not just a job, it’s a career. Anything you do as a nurse may be judged by the State Board of Nursing if it is complained about.
This is why nurses need to always be on their best behavior. But what happens when we are not? What happens when we vent. How about when we speak badly of our patients. What about when we use obscene language (Something we would never do at home.).What happens when we (gasp, God forbid) irresponsibly identify a patient. There are so many reasons to remember. Here is a list of what not to post in public.
You can read The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) pamphlet for new nurses here. It lists unprofessional behaviors for nurses. It is important to know your state's Board of Nursing rules. You must be knowledgeable of your facility's policy on social media and be careful to follow their rules.
Patient name or identifying features:
- NCSBN states nurses have a legal and ethical duty to patients to maintain their privacy and confidentiality.
- Identifying the patient has always been against the rules. While speaking with another, writing a letter, sending an email/text or posted on social media . . . No matter what type of communication we use we may not disclose who the patient is.
- This includes defining features of the patient. Defining features may include physical features, diagnosis, treatment provided or nicknames.
- Don’t send photos or messages regarding patients or family members from your phone.
- Do not assume it is safe because you are on the hospital network. Sending information without proper encryption means the information may be accessed by more than the intended recipient. Most of the time we do not know if the hospital has an encryption service on their network.
- NCSBN states that nurses should never make derogatory remarks about patients even if they are not identified. Naturally this is a hard rule to follow.
- Everyone understands when you say things about “that patient”. We have all had a thousand “that patient”. We understand that you need sympathy and comfort afterwards. Try not to attack “that patient” while trying to empathize with each other. Attack the behavior without any personal identifying features.
- I try to abide by this rule: If you need to identify the patient do it in a direct message, not in the chat. I sure hope I’m not the only one. I move the conversation to personal chat or direct message if I think it will disparage or identify the patient. No need to let everyone see it. It is, after all, considered unprofessional behavior.
Hospital/Facility you are employed by:
Don’t identify your hospital, facility or co-worker in chat. Use direct messaging for this. Talking badly about your co-workers may be judged as lateral violence which is the same as being called a bully. Speaking ill of your employer may result in reprimands or dismissal.
The use of social media increases the possibility of violating professional boundaries. There is a greater risk of you may engage in flirtatious behaviors if you share your social media sites with your patient. You may start keeping a secret for the patient. You may start spending more time with this individual. You know you have crossed the line when you start making plans to meet outside of the facility's boundaries.
So Many Rules and I Need To Vent! Just don't forget HIPPA is listening.
As with everything in life that gives recommendations, guidelines or rules, we decide how we will follow the individual rules. I know I have disobeyed many of these rules. I have been heard talking in public about a patient. I was never reprimanded luckily. (Because it was never reported to the State Board of Nursing.)
There are also HIPPA fines. HIPPA does not care if you are at work, home or out someplace. HIPPA fines are expensive and range from $100 to $50,000. That is per occurrence. The limit is 1.5 million dollars.
You can break these rules, but if you are reported you may be officially reprimanded or have your license taken away. I have found that it is occasionally necessary for my sanity to break some of these rules anyway.
State Board of Nursing May File Suit
Here are several reasons your State Board of Nursing may file suit:
- Unprofessional Conduct
- Unethical Conduct
- Moral Turpitude
- Breach of Confidentiality
- Revealing Privileged Communications
- Mismanagement of Patient Records
Important Information Regarding the Internet
1. More than the intended user can access communications sent.
2. Deleted content is still accessible.
3. Proper encryption in necessary when sending identifying information.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Kari Poulsen