Privacy on social media feels like it’s fading away when it seems as though everyone, and their mothers, are posting their daily lives on line. Need an answer to something, you can check online forums. If you forget someone’s birthday, Facebook will remind you.
You find yourself posting photos of your trips or special moments in your life. You even get into political views and other opinion related discussions online. But privacy in healthcare is something everyone takes seriously. So how does Nursing and social media work together in balance? Read below to find out!
Thanks to a technologically advanced society and easy access to digital sources of communication, social media is becoming an increasingly effective, wide-ranging tool for nurses. However, with this resource comes great responsibility. As nurses navigate social networking sites, chat rooms, blogs and public forums, there is a dangerously thin line between professional and personal online etiquette. Health care employees must maintain patient confidentiality and privacy at all times, as well as serve as a positive representation of their place of employment. Inappropriate use of social media often leads to disciplinary action; and in the most serious cases, can negatively affect a nurse’s career and license.
Privacy Issues Regarding Nurses Using Social Media
“Nursing is a profession that is laden with risks related to disclosure of protected information,” says Jonathan Greene, social media expert and author of Facebook is a Pub Crawl: 15 Simple Strategies for Social Media Excellence. “For that reason, nurses have to be careful about anything that would violate HIPPA standards.”
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), confidential information should be shared only with the patient’s informed consent, when legally required, or where failure to disclose the information could result in significant harm. Any breach of trust associated with a nurse-patient relationship has damaging repercussions, and often winds up hurting the overall trustworthiness of the nursing profession as a whole.
Breaches of patient confidentiality or privacy on social media platforms (whether intentional or inadvertent) can occur in many different ways, such as:
- posting videos or photos of patients – even if they can’t be identified
- posting photos or videos that reveal room numbers or patient records
- descriptions of patients, their medical conditions, and/or treatments
- referring to patients in a degrading or demeaning manner
A violation of patient confidentiality takes place as soon as a nurse shares information (or even the slightest bit of details – no matter how insignificant they may seem) over the Internet with someone who is not authorized to receive such information. Examples include reflecting on the severity of a car accident victim’s injuries, or even commenting on the number of medications that a patient has to take.
Beneficial Ways that a Nurse Can Use Social Media
With the ability to establish positive interaction and communication with patients (and their family), Debi Deerwester, DNP, FNP-BC, Chief Clinical Officer/Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer/Vice President of Clinical Operations at WhiteGlove Health, says there are many ways a nurse can utilize social media to a healthcare advantage, such as promoting the profession through educating the public.
Social media outlets and actions beneficial to nurses include the following:
- Blogging: “Blogging on the industry they love in a positive and thoughtful way, [nurses] can become subject matter experts,” says John Lincoln, of Internet marketing company Ignite Visibility. “Having an individual blog and social media presence shows their dedication to the field, helps them stay on top of trends in the industry and looks great to employers.”
He also suggests that increasing visibility through an online presence can help nurses get ahead in their career, which in some cases, could lead to a higher position and/or a raise.
In addition to promoting their value within the workplace, nurses can also use social media to promote their outside, health-related endeavors and interests. “Usually I reserve public posts about health care to try convincing colleagues to buy my books,” says Nick Angelis, author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School).
- Twitter: Offering a popular real-time form of communication, Twitter is often seen as one of the easiest ways to maintain contact with people, especially in times of crises. From posting health safety notices to explaining drug recall information to answering emergency questions, nurses can provide quick responses and critical assistance to the public.
Twitter is also an effective way to create a health-related conversation with the public, or get a healthcare-related topic trending. “…nurses can probably capitalize on social media as an excellent tool for creating awareness about preventative health campaigns, general flu/pandemic information, educational tidbits…,” says Greene.
- Facebook:With the ability to leave messages (both public and private), upload videos, and post photos, nurses are able to connect with others on many different levels when using Facebook, and can also help bridge the information gap between health care providers and patients.
“There is an inherent need within healthcare to pass information on to a particular patient and to connect with a patient on a level that promotes not only biological health, but also psychological health and community health,” says Ben Miller, a student at Vanderbilt Law. “In this sense, a nurse Facebook messaging a teenage patient about medicine changes is easy and builds trust within the system.”
- YouTube: The visual and audio aspect of YouTube has a profound effect on a viewer’s understanding of health care, medical concerns, surgical procedures, and other treatments.
“I use YouTube to broadcast educational videos about anesthesia school…,” says Angelis. “In general, social media can be a positive force to enhance the role of nursing in the community and the perception of nursing among our friends and the public at large.”
- Discussion Groups & RSS Feeds:Social media also provides nurses with an outlet to connect with other healthcare professionals for personal, emotional, and educational reasons. From getting tips on how to cope with workplace stress to answering questions about advanced nursing degree programs, there are many nurse-specific online groups to join or participate in.
“Social media groups can provide support and help nurses stay positive even in hard times,” says Lincoln. “By following the right social media feeds on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn, nurses can get the latest medical news.”
According to Greene, nurses who interact with others across social media channels also have an opportunity to “humanize the nursing profession.” Examples include spotlighting employer achievements, sharing nurse profiles, and providing one-on-one communication.