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 [...]