Social Media and Nursing: Guidelines for Today’s Nurses

Professional woman smiling while outdoors
Written by Marie Hasty, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse considers his use of social media and nursing practice

Over half of the world’s population uses social media today — and those users include nursing professionals. Social apps allow people to share info and connect from afar, but mixing social media and nursing is not without risks. Posting the wrong thing or oversharing can lead to embarrassment, or, at worst, loss of your job or nursing license.

This isn’t meant to scare you off of using these sites — nurses and social media don’t need to be mutually exclusive. You can have fun and connect with friends online while being a great nurse. But there are some best practices to be aware of when using social media.

Social Media and Nurses: 4 Pitfalls

Just a few decades ago, nurses didn’t need to worry about their digital footprint or the impression they gave off online. But today, nursing school admissions teams, hiring managers, and supervisors may be able to see your current and previous social media activity.

What you share online can take on a life of its own once it’s out there, and it’s best to assume that anything you publicly post on the internet can be seen permanently. This includes:

  • Blogs
  • Photo or text posts
  • Video content
  • Online chat room conversations

There are four main ways that social media and nursing can go south:

  1. Over sharing personal content
  2. Sharing harmful or incorrect content
  3. Breaching patient or coworker privacy
  4. Breach of your privacy

1. Oversharing Personal Content

Social media platforms make it easy to share details from your personal life, but oversharing can have consequences at work or school. Your unit manager or nursing school admins may see your posts and find that they don’t adhere to professional standards. Offensive or inappropriate content posted publicly may result in disciplinary action against you.

2. Sharing Incorrect Content

If you use your account to share medical or health content, be sure it is backed by current and reputable data. Nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers are trusted by the public, and people may use the health content you share to guide their decisions. Clinicians may face losing their licenses for posting incorrect health information.

3. Breaching Patient or Coworker Privacy

Posting content about your job or while you’re at work puts you at risk of breaching other people’s privacy. Posting about patients or coworkers, even without revealing explicit details, can lead to disciplinary action. Violating HIPAA laws can cost you your nursing license completely, and posting about work can erode the essential trust between clinical teammates.

4. Breach of Your Privacy

On the other hand, being a nurse on social media can put you into uncomfortable situations that you didn’t cause. Patients and their families may be able to find you online, and maintaining professional boundaries online can be challenging. Some nurses enjoy this continued connection with patients, but it can make others uncomfortable.

5 Social Media Guidelines for Nurses

While your social accounts are a great tool for personal and professional connections, sharing the wrong thing can have negative consequences for your career. Nursing and social media can coexist, but whether you’re a nursing student or clinician, there are some essential rules to follow.

  1. Know your facility’s policies.
  2. Never post about patients.
  3. Never write disparaging content about peers.
  4. Be careful when posting photos from work.
  5. Understand privacy settings.

1. Know Your Facility’s Policies

Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s social media policies and guidelines. Organizational policies may differ, so read up on yours if you use social media. And nursing students may face more rigorous policies at school. Be sure you’re adhering to your institution’s standards.

2. Never Post About Patients

Never share patient-specific information, either online or to someone who isn’t a member of the healthcare team. Review the HIPAA guidelines if you need a refresher on this. If you do write a post about a patient interaction, don’t reveal any personal details. Even if you remove a post afterwards, you can still be charged with a HIPAA violation for breaching patient privacy.

3. Never Write Disparaging Content About Peers

When posting or commenting on social media, it’s best to avoid making negative comments about the people you work or go to nursing school with. If you have interpersonal problems with your teammates, solve the issue offline. Speaking about your peers online might not get your license taken away, but you can face disciplinary action at work.

4. Be Careful When Posting Photos From Work

If you’re posting a photo from work or your clinical placement, be very careful to review its content before sharing. Photos should not include any patient data, patients’ faces or body parts, or any other identifying information. Even if you’ve gotten permission from a patient, this is something to avoid.

5. Understand Privacy Settings

You should know about the privacy settings on each of the accounts you post on and who can see what you post. Some settings can help you protect your own privacy, such as implementing a Private setting. This will mean that people who aren’t connected to you (like patients or their family members) can’t see your account without your permission.

Benefits of Social Media in Nursing

We explored the negative effects of social media in nursing, but using it properly can offer major career benefits.

With a social media account, you can build professional connections and advocate for the nursing profession, all while living anywhere in the world. Here are some of the big benefits of social media and nursing:

  • Community building. Nursing can be a demanding profession, and social media can offer a supportive community where nurses share experiences, seek advice, laugh together, and encourage each other.
  • Professional connections. Social media can lead to networking opportunities, allowing nurses to connect with peers, mentors, and healthcare professionals globally. Platforms can provide a space for building a robust network and sharing insights, conference announcements, job opportunities, and more.
  • Staying informed. Nurses can stay informed about the latest advancements, technologies, and trends in the industry through social media channels. Following reputable healthcare organizations, journals, and thought leaders keeps nurses updated on developments that may impact their practice.

Find Your Next Nursing Job Online

Now that you’re reviewed our social media and nursing guide, you might be curious about other ways to support your career. Need help with that? Find out how IntelyCare can match you with nursing jobs that interest you.