Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Social Media in Nursing

As most of my loyal followers (all three of you) know I am in school to get my post-master’s teaching certification for nursing (I don’t know why, I suspect I may be insane). My assignment this week can be an APA style paper (yawn), a PowerPoint presentation (call me a geek, but I really do love my PowerPoints), or a blog post (Whee, a blog post).  I can so do that (even though, I haven’t been doing that lately). Because my subject is about social media in nursing, I thought the blog post option would be the best (and okay the most fun).

Nurses can be afraid of social media, mostly because of media coverage about nurses getting fired for inappropriate postings, or postings during work which may have been a safety matter. Stokowski, (2011) reports one nurse was fired for posting on Facebook while dispensing medications, another nurse was fired for posting a picture of one nurse removing a splinter from another nurse’s foot in an operating room. The excuse for firing the first nurse was patient safety and for the second scenario was because the hospital claimed it was an unfavorable representation of their hospital (Stokowski, 2011).  There was one case where a nurse posted a picture of a placenta. She was fired and then took the hospital to court. The court found in her favor as she had permission and there was no way to identify the patient (Shah 2011, Stokowski, 2011). The court maintained the court case created more coverage of the picture than the original Facebook posting; even though the nurse took the picture down the news showed it and it was picked up various internet sites (Shah 2011, Stokowski, 2011). Both Shah (2011) and Stokowski (2011) maintain social media does not have to be scary and can be used for many ways, such as nursing education, patient education, networking, and for nurse venting (and if anyone needs to vent, it’s nurses). It is important for the nurse posting information about work to be very careful that she or he does not reveal any patient information, or any information where a reader could discern who the patient is. It is also a good idea to keep from posting any disparaging remarks about your place of employment. Shah (2011) mentions that nurses who are very familiar with social media forget whatever is posted on the internet is not private, even if their intention was to share with only their friends. It is important to remember whenever you post something on a social media site, your boss or future employers could find it and read it.
On a personal note I do post on Facebook about experiences at work but when I do it’s for a specific reason and I always protect the identity of our patients and speak of my employers with respect. I will share with you some of my own posts as an example of what types of posts are appropriate and professional for a nurse.
The other day I took care of a patient who was dying of cancer. It was very sad. I posted:
Very sad night with my patient. It’s a reminder for all of us to see our doctors regularly and do our screenings. I made my appointment for my mammogram this morning.
This is my version of a public service announcement. I also reposted a picture of the nurses in our department from the hospital Facebook page to let my friends know about the kudos our department received. Mostly, I write posts about my family, our personal activities, repost funny cartoons or I make fun of myself. Such as:
Most people who wake up with a numb arm and a headache reposition themselves because most likely it was positional -- I wake up with a numb arm and a head ache and think stroke. Glad I repositioned myself before I called 9-1-1
We’ve established social media does not have to be scary for the nurse if used appropriately – remember don’t write anything your boss or future boss would find inappropriate. But what can social media do for nursing or patient education. Not only can it help spread information, it can open up a dialogue between nurses and between patients and health care providers. Social media can help with marketing, networking, and maintaining friendships.
            Fraser (2012) states social media can have an impact of modifiable health behaviors such as medication compliance and provides an opportunity for interactive communication with patients. Health promotion is another area where social media can be used by posting health-promoting messages on Twitter or Facebook (Fraser, 2012). When I was the Bariatric Coordinator I set up a blog, Facebook page and Twitter accounts for the surgeon. I wrote blog entries about diet, exercise, emotional eating, and information about the different surgeries offered and what to do for self care after surgery. I also wrote informative and motivational posts for Facebook and Twitter. These were avenues to give patients information about healthy eating as well as helping patients stay motivated. Often patients would ask questions on our Facebook page and it gave us an opportunity to have a discussion where others could learn or contribute.
            Social media can be used in nursing classrooms as well as with patient education. Linked In, Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter are the most common social media sites, but for classroom work there are presentation sites such as Prezi, Slidesrocket, or Vimeo (Schmitt, Sims-Giddens, & Booth, 2012).  When using social media in the classroom it is important to consider the following: everything posted is public, understand your audience, will your post add or detract from the discussion, keep professional boundaries, and always keep patient information private (Schmitt, Sims-Giddens, & Booth, 2012). American Sentinel (2014) gives suggestions on nursing sites via blogs, Pinterest, Twitter and Linked In to help nurses and nursing students find information needed for their positions. Following certain nursing blogs, or nursing websites can help nurses sift through information and hone in on their own specialty or interest (American Sentinel, 2014). If I find I don’t have time to read an article, or want to keep an online article handy for future reference I will “pin” it to my nursing board on my Pinterest page so that I can access it later. Linked In is not only valuable for networking; something important for new graduate nurses as well as veteran nurses (Doksai, 2012). The last semester nursing student can network by joining nursing organizations on Linked In in order to see what is current in the industry as well as reading professional tips such as resume writing. Linked In doesn’t just help directly but can help indirectly as well. I was recruited on Linked In for a home health job, while I did not want the position I contacted a new grad and was able to get the two together and she found a nursing job.
            Social media does not have to be scary and can be quite beneficial to the nurse and nursing student.  Be careful when using social media. Always protect patient’s privacy (you may have noticed this theme running through this post), protect the reputation of your institution, and be aware of your audience. It is a wonderful way to exchange information for both the nurse and nursing student. It can be a way to network for new positions. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and those disadvantages can be minimized with careful planning. Most importantly, have fun with it – it’s not like it’s an APA formal paper.


American Sentinel. (2014). Nursing Together. Retrieved from
Docksai, R.  (2012).  Working and Networking – your way to a job in nursing using social media & available tools. Nursing Licensure. Retrieved from
Fraser, R. (2012). Overview and Summary: Social Media and Communication Technology: New "Friends" in Healthcare. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 17(3), 1. doi:10.3912/OJIN.Vol17No03ManOS
Schmitt, T., Sims-Giddens, S., & Booth, R. (2012). Social media use in nursing education. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 17(3), 2.
Shah, A., (2011). Don’t be afraid of HIPAA, say nurse bloggers. Reporting on Health. USC Annenberg. Retrieved from
Stokowski, L., (2011) Social Media and Nurses: Promising or Perilous? Medscape. Retrieved from


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