Nurses and Social Media

September 6, 2010
Lisa Schulmeister

A Valuable Way to Network and Share Ideas?

In an online article titled "Social Responsibility: Social Media Opportunities and Pitfalls," posted August 9, 2010 on Nurse.com, Cynthia Saver, RN, MS reviews nurses' use of social media and reminds nurses about some of the hazards, as well as benefits, of social media. In her article, Saver reports that research firms have determined that about 25% of nurses use social media networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube, for professional networking. Probably many more engage in personal use of these networks. What was interesting to me about Saver's article was that she presented a very balanced perspective on social media use. On the upside, social media has the potential to disseminate information in a good way. On the downside, it can misused, and Shaver cites several examples that range from providing healthcare advice on social media sites, which is not covered under nursing liability insurance, to violating patients' privacy rights. One example there was nurses who were terminated from employment for allegedly discussing unnamed patients on a social media site.

Shaver also mentions whether or not nurses should "friend" patients on a social media site (or vice versa for that matter). There are no guidelines or professional standards that address this type of situation, and an expert that she interviewed concluded that there is no right or wrong answer. The expert aptly noted that it is much easier to violate professional/personal boundaries online than in person.

Utilization of social media by nurses is expected to increase as additional networks emerge and more and more nurse become attuned to using them. In some ways, it's a good thing but if not used cautiously, social media can be a bad thing for nurses.