We can easily say that within the last ten years social media has changed the way in which the world spreads information. Social media has touched every form of business and healthcare is no exception. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have helped large and small hospital systems define their personalities and reach out to their patients in new ways.
Social media has positively enabled small and large hospital systems to reach out to their patients and communities in brand new ways. It is currently estimated that over 70% of nurses regularly use social media.
That is a tremendous amount and cannot be disregarded. On one hand, social media has enabled nurses to connect with one another and share inspirational and educational material. On the other hand, social media has also created numerous concerns related to patient safety and patient privacy rights.
For most nurses their day involves interactions with patients. Patients who expect a certain level of privacy in regards to their medical information. Sadly, there have been numerous cases involving nurses posting photos or statements identifying patients or compromising their privacy in some way. In other cases, nurses have posted pictures or updates at the same time in which a patient error occurred.
Most often this was discovered upon investigating the error and connecting the time in which the error occurred with the time of a non-related post (meaning that the nurse was distracted and not focusing on his/her job).
In most cases the nurse received severe disciplinary action on the part of the organization or the board of nursing. In other circumstances, negligence was determined and legal proceedings were initiated.
Unlike other jobs in which it may be okay to vent about a rude customer or a frustrating day, in the case of nurses the risk of accidentally compromising a patient's privacy rights and the policies of their organization is very present. Most organizations have in place some form of social media policy (if for some reason your organization does not - petition for one). A consistent policy at the organizational level can help staff understand what is expected of them in regards to online sharing and participation.
Above all else, it is crucial to remember that the internet is a wide reaching place with an exceptionally long memory. Posts, pictures, and other content in general will stay online and be available for a very long time. Non-nursing items such as statements or photos of partying, offensive/vulgar items, and racially/religiously offensive items can have negative effects on both a nurse's career and a nurse's professional reputation. Although it may seem odd, patients regularly search through social media to learn more about their health care team. Offensive, worrying, or insensitive items have been reported to hospital administrators as grounds for a change in the assigned health care team.
In the end, it is up to nursing staff to behave in a responsible, empathetic, and ethical manner in regards to social media. Social media can be used to expand a network, learn new information, keep up to date, and to connect personally with friends and co-workers; however, it can also quickly lead to a patient safety or privacy issue if used inappropriately.
Interested in learning more about this issue or other current issues facing nurses?
Written By A.Samson of CNE Explorer