Many nurses work for health care organizations that have social media policies to govern their online behavior in the workplace. It’s navigating social media at home when the risk can increase for inappropriately posting identifying patient, coworker, or hospital information on personal computers or other electronic devices.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) has a social media tip sheet that clearly states what’s at stake when such breaches occur.

”Nurses and nursing students have an obligation to understand the nature, benefits, and consequences of participating in social networking of all types. Online content and behavior has the potential to enhance or undermine not only the individual nurse’s career, but also the nursing profession,” the ANA tip sheet says.

To safeguard patient information, use these guidelines to successfully navigate social media:

  1. Adhere to the standards of professionalism, which are the same online and off.
  2. Separate personal and professional information online.
  3. Do not share or post information or photos acquired through your relationship with a patient as this violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and can lead to such adverse actions as termination, a civil lawsuit, criminal charges, and licensure discipline.
  4. Never use your personal devices to take photos or videos of patients.
  5. Do not post negative comments about patients and their families, or your coworkers and employers. Even if you do not use their names, they (and others) may read your postings on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites, blogs, online chat rooms, and forums.
  6. Promptly report a breach of confidentiality or privacy.
  7. Avoid posting about a challenging or bad day at work. Again, certain details can help readers identify the place or people you are talking about. Consider recording your experiences in a journal instead.
  8. Notify appropriate authorities about content that could harm a patient’s privacy, rights, or welfare.
  9. Consider volunteering to help develop or update social media policies at your workplace.

Be mindful when you post on social media. Nurses are the most trusted health professionals for a reason. Keep it that way.

Robin Farmer

Robin Farmer covers health, business, and education as a freelance journalist. Visit her online at

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