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Nursing Best Practices for Social Media

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Are you obsessed with your cellphone?

According to a recent study, 47% of Americans admit to being “addicted” to their cell phones. In fact, it’s estimated that the average person will spend 44 days staring at their phones in 2022. We can assume that individuals will use much of that time on social media accounts.

Since digital media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are becoming more influential in daily life, nurses must consider the implications of social media on our profession. Let’s look at the pros and cons of social media for nurses, and how we can successfully navigate the complexities and legalities of personal and professional life.

  • Social media is helpful.
  • Social media is risky.
  • Guidelines for nurses on social media
  • Summary

Social media is helpful.

Social media can be an effective tool. Mobile apps make it easier to connect from anywhere, anytime, for sharing, collaborating, and interacting with others. This powerful ability is extremely useful.

Having public accounts and engaging on digital platforms remains beneficial for nurses. Some ways nurses use social media for good include:

  • establishing and nurturing positive relationships
  • finding and using tools for self-improvement and accountability
  • learning about the latest research, practice updates, and evidence-based interventions
  • exploring and advancing personal and career goals
  • advocating for health and wellness, the nursing profession, and topics they care about

Especially in the post-pandemic era of healthcare, the ability to network and support each other has been essential for nurses and other professionals. Some now even consider social media a primary means of staying in touch with friends. They keep us in the know on current events with real-time updates.

As time passes and technology advances, each generation becomes more accustomed to this new way of life. A study published in the Journal of Nursing Administration found that nurses’ social media practices and perceptions vary considerably. Nurses report checking their social media accounts from 0 to 13 times per shift. The average is two times. The younger the nurse, the more often they are on their phones.

Social media is risky.

The Peter Parker principle says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The powerful ability to share, network, and communicate comes at a price. There is potential for harm.

Easily accessible, public accounts online expose nurses to privacy risks. Posting personal thoughts, feelings, and information can open anyone to abuse.

Some ways social media might harm nurses include:

  • identity theft or cyber fraud
  • abuse and harassment, cyberbullying
  • mental health impacts, sleep disturbances
  • wrongful intrusion by employers
  • accidental HIPPA violations

Nurses face ethical decisions when they post about situations or opinions online. Professionals can have different ideas about what is okay and what is not regarding their accounts. A study in Nurse Education Today found that nursing students agree that posts about alcohol or sexually explicit content and comments about colleagues or patients were inappropriate. However, students did not agree on views about taking photographs at work.

Guidelines for nurses on social media

Now that you know the implications of social media for nursing professionals, here are some best practice guidelines.

  1. Take advantage of privacy settings to limit who can view your personal information on social media.
  2.  Google yourself to check privacy settings and view what the public sees.
  3. Be cautious about posting anything online that could be perceived as offensive or unprofessional.
  4.  Avoid excessive self-disclosure online.
  5.  Be aware of the risks of cyberbullying and harassment. Talk with a supervisor or a respected colleague if you are unsure how to handle a personal workplace situation.
  6. Know your organization’s policies regarding the use of social channels and what employer agreements you are bound to.
  7. Remember, nurses are the most trusted professionals. Don’t do anything that would put the profession in a bad light.

Summary

In short, nurses must be aware of the best practice use of social media. Now that you know the risks and benefits of using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat daily, you can be proactive in making changes to protect and improve the profession. Nurses can help educate each other and contribute to organizational policies around digital tools.

Sources

2022 Cell Phone Usage Statistics: How Obsessed Are We?”. reviews.org. Accessed April 8, 2022.

Nurses’ online behavior: lessons for the nursing profession. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed April 8, 2022.

Social Media and Nurses: Insights for Promoting Health”. ojin.nursingworld.org. Accessed April 8, 2022.

Social Media Usage Among Nurses: Perceptions and Practices”. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed April 8, 2022.

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN

Author

Sarah S. Falcone BSN, RN is a dedicated nurse based in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX. Her first nursing gig, was night-shift floor nurse in women's services (PP, L&D, nursery). Through a series of fortunate events, she found home health and a passion for helping seniors age in place. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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