Social Media and Professional Guidelines in Nursing

The use of social media and other electronic communication in healthcare is expanding exponentially as the number of social media outlets, platforms and applications available continue to increase. For nurses, the individual use of social networking sites, video sites, online chat rooms, photo-sharing sites and forums enhance communication both personally and professionally.

Social media platforms can benefit nursing in a variety of other ways, including fostering professional connections, promoting timely communication with patients and family members, and educating and informing consumers and other nursing professionals. Social media also provides nurses with a platform to express their feelings, seek support from colleagues, and network with colleagues to find job opportunities. Blogging, electronic journals, and other reflective activities are recognized as beneficial tools in nursing practice. Without being cautious, however, these potential benefits may result in the nurse disclosing too much information and violating their patients’ rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Types of Social Media

Many nurses use Facebook to get the latest local and global nursing news and connect with other nurses. Many organizations and associations have their own fan pages, which are updated with polls, photos, and links. On Twitter, nurses can get up-to-the-minute information about important healthcare issues. Different Twitter feeds can bring the news specifically wanted and needed.

On YouTube, there are many nursing channels featuring informational videos, interviews, conference highlights and documentaries on the history of nursing. At LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking site, nurses can find jobs and make professional connections. There are many nursing associations and groups, which feature news, discussion boards, and job opportunities.

Many nurses have personal and professional blogs on Tumblr, where they discuss feelings, experiences, ethics, news topics, healthcare policy, and other important conversations. They also share pinboards on Pinterest and photos on Instagram. At online nursing community ANANurseSpace, nurses can join in on valuable discussions about important nursing issues and start their own blog. They can also share nursing knowledge, get answers to questions, and connect with peers.

The appeal of social media is having the ability to share diverse content quickly. Due to its “real-time” nature, caution and good judgment must be exercised. Due to the inappropriate use of social media, some nurses have lost their jobs, faced discipline by the boards of nursing (BONs), or were criminally charged. In other cases, the inappropriate use of electronic media by nurses was reported to the media and reported on in nursing literature.

Several professional nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the NCSBN, have collaborated on the professional use of social media without harming patients. The NCSBN has developed and published guidelines for using social media responsibly. An informative video, Social Media Guidelines for Nurses is available on the NCBNInteract channel on YouTube. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), nurses can use electronic media to share workplace experiences, even those that are especially challenging or emotionally charged. They cannot, however, mention patients by name or provide any information or details that could possibly identify them. First and foremost, nurses must protect the patients’ rights.