Social media is a common way for individuals to stay in touch with family and friends. But these platforms can be leveraged in much more intentional ways to educate, empower, inform and inspire. Nurses must be extremely careful when it comes to social sharing. Breaching patient confidentiality, even if unintentional, can be grounds for job termination or suspension of one’s license.
Through clear, purposeful messaging, nurses can increase their online influence and avoid endangering their job or license.
What Are the Benefits of Being Active on Social Media?
Nursing is the largest healthcare profession, with over 3.8 million registered nurses nationwide, per data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). However, nurses are underrepresented in the media.
“While there are four times as many nurses as physicians, nurses are only cited 13% of the time [in media interviews] compared to physicians who are cited 43% of the time,” says Dr. Bonnie Clipper, DNP, MA, MBA, RN, CENP, FACHE, vice president of innovation for the American Nurses Association (ANA). “Social media is a tool to amplify our voice. The more [nurses share] accurate and informative points of view, the more we can provide meaningful content to educate or influence the public.”
Nurses who are active on social media have an opportunity to raise awareness of critical issues and elevate the public’s understanding of this key healthcare role. Emma Leigh Geiser, RN, a nurse and financial educator, initially used TikTok to discuss personal money management strategies for nurses. She quickly realized that nurses could use tips on other topics, too, and has now amassed a sizable following by speaking about everything from debt payoff and student loans to burnout, lateral violence and self-care.
“Nurses have shared that they have learned how to budget, switch specialties or set boundaries at work with the tips and information I provide,” says Geiser. “It feels good to know that I’ve inspired [them] to make a positive change.”
What Are Social Media Best Practices for Nurses?
Increasing your social media activity and engagement can have a cascade of positive impacts, though you must take care to avoid using it in a way that will jeopardize your job or licensing.
“Nurses should remember that posting, tweeting, texting and blogging are not private communications and can be used against them in an investigation by the Board of Nursing,” warns Georgia Reiner, risk specialist at Nurses Service Organization (NSO), a company providing nursing malpractice insurance. The state board can impose a variety of penalties, including fines, probation, suspensions and permanent revocation of licensure.
Here are tips to successfully navigate your online presence as a nurse:
Be clear on your employer’s policy. Because of the prevalence of social media, most employers now have policies in place that prescribe online behavioral expectations for employees. “It’s always a good idea to review the social media policy for the institution where you work and make sure you are in line with their rules,” says Geiser.
Strike a balance. The most effective digital influencers balance self-promotion with information that helps others. “The golden rule of social media is that 80% of what you share should not be about you. Use your voice to amplify others’ work or stories, and 20% of the time you can share your accomplishments or what you are working on,” recommends Clipper.
Keep it professional. Remember that you are not only representing yourself as a nurse, but the profession as well, so you must carefully choose what you share online. “[Refrain] from making negative comments about employers or coworkers, using profane or derogatory language or making comments that can be perceived as threatening,” advises Reiner. “Additionally, posting photos, negative comments or details that might identify patients, even if unintentional, are all considered breaches of patient confidentiality.”
Stay calm. “Craft social media messages when you are in a ‘good place,’ not when emotions are running high,” says Clipper. Collect your thoughts and think through your message before posting.
Navigating Social Media
Social media platforms offer excellent opportunities for nurses to connect with other nursing professionals, share tips and ideas, and start conversations about important topics. When you approach social media with care, you can create a robust online presence without jeopardizing your career.
Learn more about UL Lafayette’s RN to BSN online program.
Clipper, B. (August 2020). Email interview
Geiser, E. (August 2020). Email interview
Reiner, G. (August 2020). Email interview