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Avoid Social Media Sins in Healthcare

How to Avoid Social Media Sins in Healthcare
Ion Chiosea/

The minute Laura met Casey, she was smitten. The tow-haired little boy captured her heart as soon as she walked into his hospital room. He seemed so small sitting in his hospital bed, reading to his stuffed rabbit. Laura was a semester away from graduating from nursing school and had been scared to start her pediatrics rotation because she had never been around children. Casey’s infectious smile tugged at her heartstrings, and she soon loved most aspects of pediatric nursing. She had found her niche.

Even when she wasn’t assigned to Casey, she tried to stop in to visit with him and his family. He adored Laura, too, and his parents enjoyed the attention she gave him. She popped her head in to say hi one morning and she noticed how exhausted Casey’s mom looked. Laura offered to stay with Casey for a few minutes while his mom ran to the cafeteria. Casey’s mom was thrilled, of course, and happily agreed. Casey was doing better; he would be going home soon, and her clinicals were coming to an end. She would miss him. To capture the moment, Laura asked a fellow student nurse to take their picture. The friend obliged, and Laura posted the sweet pic on Facebook that night – complete with caption, “I’m gonna miss this little guy –graduation is just 23 days away!”

You can see what’s coming – right? Laura didn’t graduate from nursing school – that one, at least. The dean of the school pulled her out of class the next morning, where she was promptly expelled. That Facebook picture had been seen by Casey’s mom, and she wasn’t happy. She was threatening to sue the hospital and the nursing school. The school lost its clinical privileges, and Laura’s story was presented at the state nursing board’s monthly meeting as a warning on the dangers of incorporating your professional life with your social media accounts.

Don’t let Laura’s story be yours. The best way to keep your job is to keep your job far, far away from any of your social media accounts. Here are some tips to stay social media savvy:

*Be careful with any pictures of you in your scrubs, especially if the name of your hospital or name badge can be seen. In fact, some nursing schools and health care organizations have rules against drinking alcohol in public if you are in uniform.

*Never, and I repeat, never talk about your patients, post pictures of your patients, take pictures of your patients, or in any way reference that you ever encounter actual patients on your social media accounts. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but even if a post is really, really tender or funny – ask yourself how it would look to your boss before posting.

*Beware of any pictures you take or post from the nurse’s station. More than one nurse has posted a smiling selfie without noticing a computer screen in the background that was chockfull of identifying patient information.

*Add an extra layer of protection to your social media sites. Don’t make your sites public; limit posts to friends only. If your boss or other manager also has an account, you might consider blocking them so they can’t even see your profile. (This doesn’t mean you can post willy-nilly, but it’s another level of protection.)

*Don’t include the name of where you work on any sites. Some people will even use an alternate name, such as a maiden name or nickname on the account.

*Don’t trash talk your peers. Even if they deserve it. Especially if they deserve it. I guarantee there’s a rule against it.

It boils down to this – be conservative. Always err on the side of caution when posting to social media sites. It’s far better to have an edited online identity than it is to be editing your resume.

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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.