Social Media and nursing is a great combination if used wisely. You can still tell a story without identifying a patient. Generalize patients into groups and choose your words carefully.
Here are six tips for nurses using social media:
- Talk in general about patients such as “Working with oncology patients has taught me…” You can definitely make generalizations about a group of patients much better than saying, “Nancy, my oncology patient taught me…”
- Use the word “previously” rather than saying recently, yesterday or last week. Even saying two years ago is not recommended. You can also say, “Over the years, working with…” or “In my experience working with oncology patients …”
- Don’t say, “My patients family members had such a hard time coping with their mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer, arguing with everything I said, that it was difficult to do teaching with them.” Instead say something such as, “Dealing with a patient’s family members who are struggling to cope with a diagnosis can be challenging for nurses.” You can go on to provide informative tips on how to handle these kinds of situations.
- Stay away from using words such as “my patient, a patient I had last week, my friend’s patient, etc. This goes back to generalizing groups of patients instead of talking about one patient in particular.
- Also stay away from talking about locations such as "while working in the ICU in Newark, Delaware." People here in Delaware will know exactly what hospital you are talking about (it’s the only one here), so don’t mention location, please!
- Do not take pictures of patients and post them on Facebook, especially images of a patient’s wounds. I do not want to see this and neither do your friends, trust me! This is a sure way of getting fired or kicked out of nursing school. Just read recent news stories of this happening to nurses.
Here is what the American Nurses Association has to say about social media and nurses:
“Social networks and the Internet provide unparalleled opportunities for rapid knowledge exchange and dissemination among many people, but this exchange does not come without risks. Nurses and nursing student have an obligation to understand the nature, benefits and consequences of participating in social networking of all types. Online content and behavior has the potential to enhance or undermine not only the individual nurse’s career but also the nursing profession.”
Take social media and the nursing profession seriously. Think critically when posting any content online because you will be held responsible for all of your actions online, no excuses. You are a professional; don’t put yourself in this position. As Oprah says, "Do you want this information to be front page news tomorrow morning in the local newspaper or worst yet, on national news that evening? If the answer is no, then don’t post the content." It’s as simple as that.