Monday, June 3, 2013


Social media is everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Diggs, Google+, etc…heck, you can’t even watch a television show without being bombarded by their social media marketing plugs. Almost everybody has at least a Facebook Page – schools, health care organizations and even the mom and pop shops are utilizing it to market their business. 95% of all students use Facebook and are on the site multiple times a day! It’s great isn’t it? You get to see what’s happening with your friends and family, check out the latest and greatest products and offers from the companies you like, learn something and even get a good laugh (or cry) from a great video post.  It’s mesmerizing and alluring. But be warned. Like the Sirens in Greek mythology who lured nearby sailors through music to their ultimate death, social media can derail your career as a nurse before it even starts – if you’re not careful.

Tips for protecting yourself from the social media sirens:

Never use a work computer to log onto a social media site unless authorized
Most organizations have all social media sites blocked, and that’s a good thing. However, once logged in as you, they can track the sites you attempt to access. If you company allows access, even in the middle of the night, when nobody is watching and you are on a break – don’t do it!

Know your organization’s policy on social media
At this point, most organizations have a social media policy. Get a copy of it, read it, know it, and follow it. If not, you could be at risk for losing your job. Ignorance is not a defense! Even if your organization doesn’t have a social media policy yet (I’m sure they’re working on it), you could be held liable if they can prove you violated basic patient confidentiality.

Privacy? What privacy?
It’s so easy to make a comment about patients, your co-workers and the organization you work for on your social media site. After all, you made sure you initiated your privacy settings, right? Think of it this way, if somebody wants to get into your social media site, they will. How many friends do you have on Facebook? I’ve seen many that have over 500 or even 1000 friends. All it takes is for one of those “friends” to be friends with somebody else to get access to your site or that might share something you posted. If you write it on Facebook, just know that if your organization wants access, they’ll get it.

What not to write
·        Anything about a patient, even if you don’t actually name the patient. If somebody can figure out who it is from your descriptors, you could be liable. For example, I saw a post from a nurse that talked about a patient who was admitted the night before with a gunshot wound that occurred at a particular bar in the area. Anyone watching the news knew exactly whom he was talking about.

Bottom line: Don’t write ANYTHING about patients – not even nice things.

·      Anything about your co-workers. Social media sites are not the right place to lash out at anyone, let alone your co-workers. It’s inappropriate, unprofessional and a passive way to deal with conflict. I once knew of a situation where 2 nurses had a “cat fight” on Facebook. It was ugly. They were both terminated.

Bottom line: Don’t write ANYTHING about your co-workers.

·      Anything about your organization. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read negative comments from people about their employer. I get a knot in my stomach every time I read them. Even something as seemingly innocent as, “I dread going into work tonight…this place sucks!” can be grounds for termination.  Look at it this way; many people know where you work. Reading negative comments about your employer, even if you don’t spell it out, could be considered slander.

Bottom line: Don’t write ANYTHING about your organization

·      Anything about nursing. We all have our good and bad days as a nurse. I always say that nobody gets involved in nursing for the perks (wrote blog about it). However, even though we chose a selfless profession, some days really test our decision. Social media is not the place to vent about all of the horrors in nursing. I once read a post titled, “Nursing sucks!” by a nurse who just had a bad day. She went on to describe why she hated being a nurse. Not good. It’s okay to vent, just not for the world to see. As a professional, you want to represent yourself and your profession well.

Bottom line: Don’t write ANYTHING negative about being a nurse.

Oh, one more thing. If you are a new grad but haven’t found a job yet, go back through your social media sites and delete any pictures of you drinking, wearing inappropriate clothing, or doing anything you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. Ask yourself this: If they have 20 candidates for 1 position and got into your Facebook profile, would they still hire you?

The key is to use social media the way it was intended – to connect with others, to share, to inspire and to learn. You’ve worked really hard to get your nursing license. Avoiding the social media sirens can protect that license and allow you to have a long, fulfilling career as a professional nurse.

I hope these tips help you to succeed as a new nurse. I'm cheering for your success!

Take care and stay connected.


If you're a nursing student or new nurse, you might be interested in my eBook titled, "Survive and Thrive: A Guide Helping New Nurses Succeed." To check it out, click here.

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