Registered nurses too are fond of using social media in their personal and professional lives to share their experiences both at the workplace and personal life especially events which are emotionally challenging (Klich-Heartt & Prion, 2010). However, the very use of social media by registered nurses poses a risk of breaching the privacy and confidential information of patients when shared in public space intentionally or unintentionally.
Nursing and social media
Healthcare organizations often allow use social media by the employees in workplace to perform various activities. They do have policies governing use of social media by employees and regulate websites which are irrelevant for the work (“National Council of State Boards of Nursing”, November, December 2013; January 2014). However, such policies seldom address the use of social media by registered nurses outside workplace from their personal computers and mobile phones. It is in this context that there arises a risk of inappropriate use of social media platforms which has serious potential consequences.
One example of such an inappropriate utilization of social media by Jamie (name changed), a nurse by profession, led to her termination from job. While nursing one patient Marie who was battling with cancer and was under depression, Jamie posted a message in social media to show her care and support to the ailing lady. She posted, “I know it’s very difficult to be in such a state. Hopefully the new pill will help along with increased dose of morphine”. The social media site automatically tagged the name of Jamie. However, problem arose when Jamie’s friends asked about Marie’s condition and her confidentiality and privacy was inadvertently disclosed on internet.
Such an inappropriate use of social media by registered nurses can be detrimental to the safety and care of patient and its consequences vary depending upon the nurse’s nature of conduct. This has potential of disclosing too much information of patient compromising his/privacy and confidentiality.
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Responsibilities of registered nurse with regard to social media
Nurses need to be aware of employer’s policy regarding use of electronic devices like computers, cameras and mobile phones in the workplace and outside of it. The images and videos of patients should be taken in official devices for treatment or for other legitimate reasons by following employer’s policies and they shouldn’t be published online anywhere (McBride & Cohen, 2009). In case of breach of privacy and confidentiality of patient, they must report the same to the employer.
2. College of Nurses of Ontario. (2009). Confidentiality and privacy — Personal health information (Pub. No. 41069). Retrieved from http://www.cno.org/Global/docs/prac/41069_privacy.pdf
3. McBride, D., & Cohen, E. (2009). Misuse of social networking may have ethical implications for nurses. ONS Connect, 24(17), 7.
4. Klich-Heartt, E.I., & Prion, S. (2010). Social networking and HIPAA: Ethical concerns for nurses. Nurse Leader, 8(2), 56-58.