By Natalie Olson, Clinical Nurse Manager, Medical Solutions & Sarah Wengert
Even though it’s become such an important part of our lives, social media is still a relatively new frontier — and it can certainly be a bit like the wild, wild west! The proliferation of websites and apps that allow users to engage in social networking with others, distribute information, and share their every thought, image, and lunch plate, come with great power and great responsibility. “To post or not to post” — that is the question — and healthcare professionals should be sure to ask themselves before they act!
Using social media can significantly impact Travel Nurses and other allied health professionals, both at the individual level and in the workplace. It is important to understand that although there are positive aspects of social media use in healthcare, there are also negative consequences, as well as potential health consequences. As technology is increasingly applied in the healthcare field, this becomes increasingly true for all healthcare providers.
Benefits of Social Media on Nursing Practice
Nurses frequently use websites and apps that let them to share content with other nurses quickly, efficiently, and in real-time. In the travel industry, Travel Nurses and other allied health professionals often communicate with each other through online communities by asking questions about the industry, as well as sharing positive and negative experiences.
Ultimately, social media benefits Travelers, hospitals, and travel staffing agencies alike. One potential benefit that social media provides these three groups is that it improves provider communication. This can be a very effective way to help coordinate patient care and improve patient outcome. In some settings, nurses are required to use a smartphone to take photos of wounds and/or send text messages to physicians, which decreases the time to treatment.
Another benefit is the aforementioned ability to partake in professional nursing networks, like forums, blogs, Facebook groups, Instagram accounts, Twitter accounts, and other such platforms. These networks make it easy to share and obtain information, ask questions, and connect with others who have similar interests. Networking has become increasingly valuable because it lets nurses have open discussions with a more diverse community. This ample flow of information not only helps nurses personally and professionally, but it also enhances knowledge of best practices and real-world outcomes, which leads to better patient care overall.
Social Media Pitfalls
For nurses, one of the most common issues with social media use in the workplace is the violation of patient privacy. According to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Violations of patient privacy are a serious concern for nurses, as these represent a violation of professional standards, and can result in termination or suspension. Privacy concerns are paramount for nurses, as we are self-regulating healthcare professionals.”
Another danger is when social media becomes a distraction or interrupts the workplace — and this can be particularly important for Travel Nurses to be aware of. Nurses are frequently reprimanded in the workplace for being caught on their personal cell phones. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that Travelers are judged more harshly for having their personal cell phones out at work than permanent staff.
Social media can also be used for cyberbullying in the workplace. Nurses could face cyberbullying by direct defamation or attack via social media tools, and can also be impacted indirectly by being excluded from workplace social media groups or programs.
It is especially crucial as a Travel Nurse to be professional at all times and to make sure you’re aware of the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts. Doing so will help keep you safer from experiencing social media problems. Always adhere to published professional guidelines and policies when using social media. Don’t put yourself in a position where inappropriate use of social media leads to any professional ethical violations on your part!
Follow these social media rules to protect yourself and your patients:
- Always protect patient identity
- Take responsibility for everything you post
- Be aware that termination is a real consequence
- Optimize privacy settings
- Never take pictures of patients on personal devices
- Be cautious when connecting with patients and their families
- Remember that information online is easily shared