Savvy Social Networking for Nurses and Other Health Care Workers
A popular nursing expression goes, “Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes.” It’s a cute saying for a bumper sticker, but it only scratches the surface of the important role that nurses play in our health care system. In addition to being well-trained and highly competent medical professionals, nurses are also nurturers, caretakers and, often, the primary point of contact for patients during the course of their treatment.
Nurses are also just regular men and women, who, like millions of other regular people around the world, use social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter every day to connect with friends and family. Because nurses work in health care, however, they have some unique considerations when it comes to online social media.
This article offers a few tips on social networking for nurses, how nurses can avoid making social media mistakes, as well as how to use social networking technology to form a positive online image.
Confidentiality is king when it comes to your patients.
The right to keep one’s health information private is among the most valued entitlements afforded to individuals living in the US. It’s tough to keep that information private, however, if the people taking care of you share it on Facebook.
Most nurses and health care workers are far too conscientious to share a patient’s health history online. There have been cases, however, in which nurses have taken pictures of patients and uploaded them to Facebook or texted them to friends. This is just as bad as photocopying a patient’s medical chart and posting it online. This is not savvy social networking for nurses.
Even if you keep the information “anonymous” by concealing a patient’s name or face, it’s a bad idea to discuss your patients’ personal health in any way without their explicit permission (and even then, it’s not a good idea to share it online).
When you spend 40 hours a week at your job (for nurses, it’s probably more than that), it’s natural to want to talk about your work during off hours. Nurses should resist the urge to share too much about their work online, specifically as it relates to their patients.
Show off your skills on professional social networking websites.
Though you shouldn’t talk about your patients online, it’s perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to talk about yourself. You have to go through a lot of schooling to become a nurse, so why shouldn’t you use the Web to highlight your educational achievements?
There are a number of professional social networking websites online, including the popular LinkedIn, where individuals can connect with their colleagues and peers in a safe, professional environment. A website like LinkedIn is the perfect place for social networking for nurses and other health care workers to show off their various certifications and practical skills.
If you’re looking for a new job, especially in the sensitive field of health care, you should expect to be researched online as part of the hiring process. Having a strong digital presence on LinkedIn and other websites is a surefire way to gain control of your Google search results and make a positive impression on recruiters.
Remember that you also represent your employer.
Nurses, doctors and other health care professionals must maintain positive online reputations both for themselves and their employers. Many organizations, including hospitals, are beginning to implement social media policies that forbid employees from using Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites in certain ways. If you’re not careful about the way you behave online, you could be giving your bosses a good reason to fire you. Be careful when it comes to social networking for nurses.
An organization’s reputation is also closely tied to its employees’ reputations. Whether it’s a hospital, a nursing home or a private clinic, odds are good that new patients will Google your organization before they decide to visit for the first time. If the first thing they find is a link to one of your social networking profiles, and they don’t like what they see, they might decide to take their business elsewhere.