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Nursing and Social Media, Faqs Every Nurse Needs to Know

Updated on September 19, 2019
k@ri profile image

Kari is a retired operating room registered nurse. Although she is retired, the interest never waned. She loves all things nursing related

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:

  1. NCSBN states nurses have a legal and ethical duty to patients to maintain their privacy and confidentiality.
  2. 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.
  3. This includes defining features of the patient. Defining features may include physical features, diagnosis, treatment provided or nicknames.
  4. Don’t send photos or messages regarding patients or family members from your phone.
  5. 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.

Negative Comments:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Professional Boundaries

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:

  1. Unprofessional Conduct
  2. Unethical Conduct
  3. Moral Turpitude
  4. Breach of Confidentiality
  5. Revealing Privileged Communications
  6. 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


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    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 months ago from Ohio

      Any use of public unprofessional behavior by a nurse can be reported to the Board of Nursing and the Board is required to investigate. Different types of unprofessional behavior may have different consequences. Each state has its own Board. And, yes, social media is considered a public platform.

    • Luis G Asuncion profile image

      Luis G Asuncion 

      2 months ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

      Really? Posting in social media is one of their judgment criteria? Cool.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      I know I try to never slip up, that is why I will never forget the time I did. It is a terrible betrayal, and a deeply regret it. At the same time, I can not hold someone else to the standards I hold myself. It is good to see you Dora. :D

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 months ago from The Caribbean

      Grateful for policies which encourage professionalism among nurses regarding the patient's right to privacy. Hope they don't slip up too often, better yet, hope they never slip up.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      Hi Bill, you always give me a chuckle. Yes, the less said, but some days that is hard.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      Thank you Pamela. The rules are really the same still, it's just there are more ways to break them, lol

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's good to see another article by you, and this one is so timely and important. It's amazing how many people fail to realize the power and scope of social media, including quite a few politicians. :) "The less said the better" is a mantra many people should follow.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I am a retired RN, and things have certainly changed with the boom of social media. I think your article is full of very good advice on how to conduct yourself if you are a licensed nurse. I am sure any licensed nurse will find your article beneficial.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      Thanks Linda. I always appreciate the uplifting comments i receive from you. Its good to see you. Kari :-D

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The advice that you've shared is interesting and sounds excellent. I'm glad to read another of your articles, Kari.

    • k@ri profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Poulsen 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      Hi Flourish Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. I like that idea, I'll have to investigate that idea. It's good to be back. :D

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 months ago from USA

      You should write an article about patient behaviors that annoy/anger/infuriate nurses. We’ve all probably been “that” patient before. Once people see the list they may recognize their behavior. Maybe also provide better alternative behaviors for patients. Just an idea. Glad to see you writing again.


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