Social Media Guidelines for Nurses
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Social Media Guidelines for Nurses


♪ [music] ♪ – [voice over] Emily was a nursing student
in a pediatric rotation. She cared for Tommy, a five-year old patient who was
recently diagnosed with type one diabetes. Tommy was going home soon so she took a
cellphone picture of him to remember him by. That evening, she posted his picture
on her Facebook page commenting how brave he was when he got his insulin injections.
Two days later, Emily was called into her dean’s office. A nurse from the hospital
had seen the photo and caption and reported them to hospital officials. Emily
was informed that her actions were a breach of her patient’s confidentiality
and a violation of federal privacy laws. Even though Emily had an excellent record
as a student nurse, and had only had the best intentions in her post, she was
expelled from her nursing program and the program has barred from using the
pediatrics unit for their students. – Hi. I’m Kelly, a staff nurse here at the
hospital. If you use social media properly, what happened to Emily will
never happen to you. Nurses are increasingly utilizing social media not
only for personal use but also as a way to foster professional connections and timely
communications with patients and their families. But social media used
inappropriately can result in disclosing too much patient information and violating
their rights to privacy and confidentiality of information. This is
what happened to Emily. Healthcare organizations typically have clear
policies governing employee use of electronic and social in the workplace. It
is out side the workplace however, where policies are often less clear and the
potential for inappropriate use of social media is greatly increased. Effective
nurse-patient relationships are built on trust. A cornerstone of that trust is
patient privacy. Which is a key part of a patient’s expectation to being treated
with dignity and respect. Any patient information that a nurse has access to
during the course of treatment must be safeguarded. With very limited exceptions,
such information may only be disclosed to other members of the healthcare team for
the purpose of providing care for the patient.
Improper use of social media by nurses may violate state and federal laws. Including
the health insurance portability and accountability act or HIPA. Which was
enacted to further protect the patient privacy. Additionally, inappropriate uses
of electronic and social media maybe reported to the Board of Nursing resulting
in possible disciplinary action for unprofessional or unethical conduct,
breach of confidentiality, or other infractions. Well, it’s true that some
intentional or malicious misuses of social media do occur, the majority of
inappropriate disclosures or postings are unintentional. Usually they’re the result
of the mistaken belief that the communication or posting is private and
accessible only by the intended recipient. That content deleted from the site is no
longer accessible, for that it is acceptable to discuss or refer to a
patient in a posting if they’re not identified by name. By being cautious and
alert to potential or improper uses of social media, you can avoid inadvertantly
disclosing confidential information concerning your patients. Remember, you
have an ethical and legal obligation to maintain patient privacy at all times. This
means that you should never take photos or videos of patients using your cellphones
or other personal devices. Be sure to follow employer policies for taking photos
or videos of patients for treatments or other permissible purposes by using an
employer provided devices. Even experienced nurses should be vigilant
about avoiding serious violations of patient confidentiality as Jason learned. – [voice over] Jason has been a nurse for
12 years and is working in hospice care. One of his current patients, Maria,
maintains a hospital sponsored online page to keep her family and friends updated on
her battle of cancer. One day, she posted something about her depression and the
difficulty of finding effective treatments for her physical pain. Jason saw the post
and responded by writing a comment to Maria. He wrote that he understood her
last few days have been difficult and he was hopeful that the new medication along
with the increase dose of morphine will provide some needed relief. The next day,
Jason ran into a friend who said she saw his post. She said Maria was an old family
friend, was sad to hear of her condition and asked Jason how long he thought Maria
had left. Now, fully realizing the implications on what he had done,
immediately went home and tried to remove his post but was unable to do so. Besides,
even if he had been successful in removing it. It may have already been
copied by others and posted elsewhere. At his next visit with Maria, Jason told her
what had happened and apologized. Jason then self-reported his breach of patient
confidentiality to his Board of Nursing and is awaiting the board’s decision
concerning any disciplinary action. – Jason learned the importance of
carefully considering the full implications of posting any information
about patients on any website, including hospital sponsored sites. It may at times
be appropriate for nurses to express empathy and support for patients on a
website but they must be careful not to disclose private patient information.
Inappropriate use of social media can derail someone’s dream to be a nurse as it
did for Emily. But even for experienced nurses like
Jason, who have exceptional work histories, inappropriate use of social
media can and does happen. Remember, increased access to communication through
social media does not change the healthcare professional’s responsibility
to protect patient information. In fact it actually makes it easier to
inappropriately share information. By carefully following standardized
guidelines, healthcare professionals can responsibly use social media to improve
the coordination of patient care. For more information, please visit the website of
the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. ♪ [music] ♪

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