Nurses and Social Media: Keys to Gaining Influence

Follow me in Twitter. Like me in Facebook. Add me in your Google circle.

These are only a few of the social media environments that are available on the internet. And it has taken a tremendous change in delivering messages to almost everybody in the world who has internet connection. But some say social media and nurses is a bad marriage.

The practice of nursing should and only remain in the realm of hospital and community settings. Contradictory to this statement is the thrust of some nursing leaders to participate in the social media arena to allow continuity of patient’s care and advancement of nurses in their profession.

In this article, we will examine how social media can influence the nursing profession and find ways to maintain our credibility as nurses.

Definition of Social Media

social media and nurses
What social media can do to our lives as professionals. Image courtesy of smarnad/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 Also known as social networking, social media is the use of online technology tools that allows people to communicate easily via the internet and share information. This includes text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications.

Social media sites or social networking sites pertains to any website wherein people can create a personal account and get acquainted with friends and colleagues who are also registered on the same website. Presently, there are numerous networking sites that allow this kind of services.

Bottom line is, nobody is left behind in knowing the latest news and updates if you are connected with social media.

Pros and Cons

There are several advantages and disadvantages with regards to engaging oneself in social media as a professional nurse.

Anne Cooper, National Clinical Lead for Nursing at the Department of Health’s Informatics Directorate, sees social media as an avenue to increase nurse-patient interaction (Ford, 2012). By having a Twitter and/or Facebook account, nurses can become “digital professionals” and can connect with the younger generation, groups of patients with long term conditions and their own staff.

She calls for every nurse professionals to become role models in this new strategy of communicating with patients in order to change the view of the public that social media activities are considered inappropriate behavior.

By using LinkedIn, a website for job seekers and professionals, you can get yourself connected with other professionals around the world and the possibility of getting hired. You upload your resume for everybody to view and review and by adding tags into your data like skills, profession, and position, the site is able to connect you to big companies and persons in the same line of work.

Involving in a webinar or online seminar/presentation allows the person stay updated without added costs. Most of the webinars that are offered online are free of charge. All you have to do is check and align your time zone to the exact time and date of the webinar.

The downside of using social media is when the ethico-moral and legal implications are being compromised. Sometimes, we tend to associate our professional and personal lives. We often forget that we are already going beyond our duties and responsibilities as health care professionals – and that is to protect our patient’s confidentiality and respect their rights as patients. Otherwise, social media can get us fired!

HOW TO STAY SAFE AND EFFECTIVE IN SOCIAL MEDIA?

For sure, the internet will remain for good. Well, how about you? The following are general guidelines if you want your lifespan as a “digital professional” to sustain through the years:

Maintain confidentiality online

Cynthia Saver, a nurse herself, wrote about avoiding the perils of social media and she mentioned to adhere to the standards specified by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the rules and regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (Saver, 2012). Specifically, the rule on maintaining patient’s confidentiality/privacy whenever a case is brought into an online discussion. Even if you change the name of the patient, someone could read separate entries on separate sites by separate people and put together a patient’s identity.

The Royal College of Nursing, Australia provided this guideline in posting a patient’s case over Facebook or Twitter for case discussion (Rcna social media, 2011):

  • For education purposes, the patient/client may need to be informed and offer their express consent. The obtainment of this consent should be acknowledged in any online posts. This does not differ to use of information in any other medium, for example photographs.
  • For discussions involving a patient/client’s care, ensure that the patient/client’s identity is protected and that the patient/client situation cannot be identified by the sum of information available online.

Maintain a professional behavior online

Whatever posts or statements you made in your social networking sites, this will reflect your personality, beliefs, attitudes and even the norms that you adhere to. Make sure that you do not defame someone online or make negative comments about a person. This act can lead to serious derogatory effects including damaged reputation, tension in relationships with colleagues or an effect on the defamed person’s work or profession.

The safest way to prevent this from happening is never open your laptop of computer and immediately post whatever you are feeling bad about. Never let Facebook, Twitter or any social networking sites your echo walls of your negative emotions. Take time out, allow to cool yourself, and tame your tempers.

Maintaining a professional helping-relationship

It is alright if you keep in contact with your patients online. This can be an avenue to check on with his or her condition, discharge plan activities, sharing information about health, and other related activities. But sometimes, there can be a danger if the nurse goes beyond the professional relationship and turn it into a social relationship with the patient. Be guided that professional relationship with patients is synonymous to therapeutic relationship. Built over time, this kind of relationship can eventually benefit the patient as it aims to provide therapeutic conditions.

Again, RCNA gave specific guidelines on this matter (Rcna social media, 2011):

  • It is recommended that nurses don’t connect with or accept patients/clients or former patients/clients as ‘friends’ on social media sites as they could be at risk of breaching therapeutic relationships.
  • By allowing patients/clients to access ‘personal’ or ‘social’ sites you may be unaware of the insights that patients/clients might learn about you that may affect your professional relationship in the future.

Maintain your own online privacy

If we are too concerned about maintaining our patient’s privacy/confidentiality, we too must take effort and steps in maintaining our very own online privacy. Internet theft is not new to geeks and internet-savvy people. They are knowledgeable of hacking through your account and steal your photos or use the information that you provided against you.

The most basic step to take in protecting yourself online is to create a strong password for all your social media accounts.

IMPORTANT!

  • Do not use a single password for all accounts.
  • Never use birthdays, anniversaries, pet’s name as your password. It can be easily associated to you.
  • Use a combination of characters, small and capital letters, and numbers in making the password. The longer the better, but make sure that you can retrieve this easily.
  • It is best to remember your password. But if this is impossible, keep your password in a location that you can locate easily and known only to you.
  • If you’re using a public or shared computer to access your social networking site, cancel any auto-login or ‘remember me’ functions and always make sure you log out at the end of your session.

STAY CONNECTED, TRUTHFULLY

The internet is, may be and so far, the best innovation ever made. I for one can consider the internet as part of my physiological needs already (sorry Maslow, but I think we need to revise the pyramid). The nursing profession does not limit to traditional ways, rather it goes with the changes that transpires be it socially, politically, and culturally.

We need to make the internet and social media usage to our advantage and to our patient’s advantage too. Just keep the important steps or guidelines always in mind and you will never go wrong.

References:

Ford, S. (2012, December 11). Nursing directors told to become social media ‘role models’. Retrieved from http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/management/nursing-directors-told-to

(2011). Rcna social media guidelines fro nurses. Australia: Retrieved from http://www.rcna.org.au/WCM/Images/RCNA_website/Files for upload and

Saver, C. (2012). Avoid the perils of social media. ORNurse 2012, 6(3), 48. doi: DOI-10.1097/01.ORN.0000414138.83125.51