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Nurse First News

Dangers of Social Media for Nurses...

Posted December 17, 2018

The danger of social media for nurses is a real thing! Social media is becoming an increasingly common part of our daily lives. We use it without even thinking! Nurses across the country have not been immune to the craze. Therefore, it is important to discuss the improper use of social media, consequences of improper use and how to avoid getting into a messy situation. 

Improper Use of Social Media by Nurses

Social media makes it incredibly easy to violate a patient’s confidentiality and privacy, which is outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It is illegal for a nurse to name a patient by name in a post or give enough details that the patient can be identified. Therefore, nurses can get into trouble if they name or allude to their employer in an improper way on social media (Brown 2016).

Social Media Consequences

Even though most of these instances of violating HIPAA on social media are unintentional, they come with heavy consequences. Nurses can face repercussions from their employer or state and federal governments, depending on the severity of the case. These can include fines, jail time, job termination, and temporary or permanent loss of a nursing license.  In other words, nurses who improperly use social media can also seriously damage their reputation and that of their employer (National Council of State Boards of Nursing 2011).

Tips to Avoid Misusing Social Media

  • Always be mindful of HIPAA regulations
  • Be aware of your employers policies regarding social media
  • Avoid social media completely while at work 
  • Your posts can be easily seen
    • Remember that most of your peers know where you work and may intentionally or unintentionally make your employer aware of your post
  • Think before you post!
    • Double check that you are not mentioning the name of a patient or facility.  Also, using too many details can give away the patient or facility

Nurses and Social Media 

Nurses who use social media have a responsibility to be careful about what they post. Otherwise, the consequences can be serious. However, do not get completely scared off by using your social media accounts!  It can also be a powerful tool for nurses.  The benefits include, building professional relationships, finding a network of support, and highlighting the nursing profession (National Council of State Boards of Nursing 2011). The key to using this tool is caution. As always, stay informed and make smart decisions the next time you find yourself ready to hit the “share” button.

Conversing about nursing…

Michelle Marg

For Additional Reading

References

Brown, C. G. (2016, July 9). Must-read social media advice for nurses. Retrieved from

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2011). A nurse’s guide to the use of social media. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/NCSBN_SocialMedia.pdf