Nurses are people just like everyone else.

They are on social media. A lot. They use social media to share successes, commiserate, vent, or just blow off steam and be silly. However, there are more restrictions on what nurses can and should share on social media compared with the general public. The ramifications if they share too much can be dire.

“The reality is you can’t expect nurses not to be on social media, as that is just unrealistic with today’s technology,” says Adriane Stasurak, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, core faculty member with the graduate nursing programs at Capella University. “That said, nurses absolutely need to be aware of and follow guidelines regarding what they can share on social media and the consequences if they deviate from those policies.”

First and foremost, nurses must be aware of their employers’ policies regarding social media. Nurses should seek those out and study them carefully before they type their first post.

“Those organizational policies should be a nurse’s guiding light,” Stasurak says. “Misuse of social media can have serious consequences and disciplinary actions, including civil and criminal violations or even termination. A seemingly innocent tweet has the potential to bring negative outcomes and land you in the unemployment line.”

The good news is many types of activities and posts are appropriate for nurses to engage in via social media. Stasurak breaks it down below with recommendations on what nurses should share – and not share – on social media.

Networking
Social media provides nurses with a powerful networking tool and one that nurses should actively engage in, Stasurak says. LinkedIn, for example, offers the opportunity to connect with other nurses in one’s field, whether they are in the same hospital or half a world away. Beyond connecting virtually, nurses can use social media to promote or learn about in-person professional development events, seminars, and workshops to further connect with their peers. Those virtual connections can often turn into real-world opportunities.

“Using social media to network with one’s peers may be one of the more underutilized aspects of social media among nurses,” Stasurak says. “When actively used, social media can very much bolster a nurse’s network, which can lead to unexpected and exciting career opportunities.”

Recruiting and Hiring

Social media offers an efficient and targeted way to get the word out about open nursing positions. With the hyper-competitive environment to hire the best talent out there, social media should be leveraged when recruiting and hiring. Stasurak recommends that social media posts about job openings come not only from HR but from the individual nurses in the unit that is hiring. With more people spreading the word, more potential candidates can be reached.

“You never know when someone in your network might be looking for a new job or be the right fit for your organization,” Stasurak says. “It never hurts to have a friend as a colleague either!”

Patient Interaction
Here is where the hammer comes down. When it comes to sharing words, images, video, or anything regarding patient interaction, Stasurak recommends not to do it. Even the most heart-warming and innocent post, such as, “I got the most wonderful hug from a 5-year-old cancer survivor on my floor today!” should be avoided. Patient privacy and confidentiality always come first, and you never know when a post could violate that.

“No matter how well-meaning or innocent a post may seem, it can backfire on you and upset or offend a patient or their family,” Stasurak says. “Nurses need to remember that there are other ways to share the joys, sorrows, and frustrations of treating patients. Talk to your peers. Share with your family. Many organizations have specialized personnel to assist staff who are coping with emotional and traumatizing situations. Social media is not the avenue to do so.”

She adds that sharing someone else’s post on social media that references a patient, or simply clicking “like” on a post, can also get a nurse into trouble. Again, it is best to avoid engaging in any way on social media with patient information.

Team Dynamics
Here is where things get a little fuzzy. When it comes to posting on social media about one’s colleagues or employer, Stasurak recommends adhering to the old saying of, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In other words, nurses should only post positive feedback or thoughts on social media about their organizations or colleagues. She also recommends avoiding identifying anyone individually, unless you have that person’s prior approval to do so.

“You may want to share a post congratulating a colleague on a recent award or work anniversary, but it’s always best to check with that person first,” Stasurak says. “That person may be very private or have personal circumstances that make it dangerous to publicly share where they work. You just never know, so check first.”

Thought Leadership

Finally, social media provides nurses with a powerful platform to both consume and share thought leadership about the profession. Not only does it provide a steady stream of articles, videos, and research regarding best practices and trends in the nursing profession, but social media also provides individual nurses with the opportunity to share their own expertise and perspectives (minus patient information) on topics they are passionate about.

“Social media gives us a voice and a mechanism to share our thoughts and ideas with the rest of the profession, and that is powerful,” Stasurak says. “Nurses have so much to say and give back, and when used appropriately, social media can give them that opportunity in a very big way.”

A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides more helpful information on how nurses should and should not use social media.

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