By Jenn Riggle
Are the nation’s 2.6 million RNs invisible?
Nurses have always been on the front line providing patient care. However, when hospitals develop their social media policies, they’ve often thought about how they should be customized to meet the needs of physicians- but somehow, they’ve forgotten about nurses.
Maybe it’s not surprising that many of the social media disciplinary actions involve nurses. They have embraced social media, writing blogs, posting updates on Facebook and Twitter, and talking about their work and how they feel. Hospitals may have thought they were able to prevent their employees from using social media by blocking employee Internet access, but with the increasing popularity of smartphones, employees can post their updates anywhere.
To make matters worse, nurses may think that because they’ve adjusted their privacy settings, they’re only sharing their information with their friends. But like email, their posts can be forwarded to others.
For example, an RN in Pennsylvania was fired for posting on Facebook while treating a patient. The hospital’s social media policy clearly prohibits cell phone usage while on duty and states that it will immediately discharge employees whose conduct could cause a life threatening situation. The nurse had used her cell phone to post comments on her Facebook page about an unpleasant incident experienced by a coworker. The nursing director heard other nurses speaking about the Facebook posts and asked one of the nurses to show them to her.
Whether or not the nursing director had the right to ask her nursing staff to show her the posts, the nurse clearly violated the hospital’s social media policy.
And unfortunately, she’s not alone.
According to the National Council for State Boards of Nursing, last year, 33 state boards received complaints of nurses who violated patient privacy while using social media.
The British nursing publication, Nursing Times, conducted a survey of 1,000 nurses that showed that 59 percent use at least one form of social media every day. But more importantly, 42 percent said they were aware of colleagues that used social media inappropriately (i.e. criticize a named colleague or patient).
To address this growing issue, hospitals are beginning to issue guidelines to shape or limit their employees’ use of social networking sites.
The good news is that there are a number of resources to help nurses navigate the social media waters. Every Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern, Phil Bauman, RN, moderates a TweetChat called #RNchat that allows nurses to discuss topics related to nursing and healthcare.
And just last week, the American Nursing Association released its Principles of Social Networking and the Nurse. The social media toolkit includes a poster, tip card and fact sheet that offer strategies for interacting with others online. The toolkit is available free for download for ANA.
The ANA is also hosting its first live TweetChat (#ANAchat) on Friday, Sept. 23 from 1-1:30 p.m. Eastern. It’s free to members and non-members, who can earn 0.5 contact hours to nurses who complete this CNE activity.
With the right education and a clear understanding of hospital social media policies, nurses can safely engage in social media and not worry about their jobs.