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Practice safe posting online

Shutterstock | ra2studio
Shutterstock | ra2studio

Social media can be a truly wonderful outlet for nurses. You work in a profession that’s notorious for high-stress situations, with little to no opportunity to decompress. Social media can help you not only communicate support and information, but also provide a space in which you can relay your frustrations, triumphs and fears. It provides, in other words, it gives you a much-needed sense of relief and unity.

But if not properly utilized, social media can be dangerous, too. You don’t have to be told that it ain’t so easy to chat about your day when 99 percent of your time is spent caring for patients who expect you to uphold the highest standard of privacy and confidentiality.

And even an Internet-savvy nurse with good intentions can stumble into a great deal of trouble if not extremely cautious. Furthermore, it’s not impossible for “trouble” to translate into “You’re fired.”

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So, to help you avoid a moment in which a social media faux-pas rears its ugly head, we’re highlighting a few common misconceptions that have oft led social media users into sticky situations.

1. The “for your eyes only” trap

So something really shocking happens at the hospital, and you simply can’t refrain from sharing. But you’re only going to relay the events to a nurse friend via a private message, so it’s not like you’re publicly disseminating sensitive information.

Wrong. 

Word spreads, sometimes whether you’ve “okayed” it or not. You think, “Just one, close friend.” Your friend then has a similar thought. And so on and so on, until all confidentiality is out the window.

To stay on the safe side, treat every scenario like you’re back in high school, where no secret was ever safe.

Side note: even if you proceed with CIA-like caution and manage to keep your private communication under wraps, you’re still breaching patient confidentiality. And moral implications aside, this is an “oopsie” that can come back to haunt you.

2. They say there’s no savior quite like “delete”

You posted a work-related story on Twitter. You thought about it for a few minutes after that. You deleted said post.

Good thing your “poster’s regret” is quick to kick-in and your fingers nimble. Right?

Also wrong. 

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One words: screenshot. Everybody knows, but also forgets, that once a blurb or an image is released via the Internet, it takes on a life of its own. Try as you might, you can never really get rid of it (that goes for Snapchat, too).

That means FOREVER, people.

Worst-case scenario, your post stirs up enough talk to prompt an investigation—your “deleted” post can easily be accessed via a server for a “gotcha” moment.

3. “I haven’t referred to the patient by name, so it’s totally cool—right?”

Now, this is a tricky situation.

Nurses are swapping stories from the trenches all the time, and the stories can range from unpleasant to inspirational. What’s the harm in recalling an event on Facebook that happened all of 15 years ago? Or sharing a story meant to inspire new nurses? What about the adorable YouTube video that the kids on your floor worked for days to put together?

Ultimately, it’s not our place to say, and to approach more tactfully a situation that’s not always black and white, we recommend you take to your hospital’s policy guide for answers. And please, never tap into the virtual world with the intent to shame, degrade or humiliate a patient.

The point is that one shouldn’t be flippant and assume that anonymity is a protective shield. There are a lot of “what if” scenarios that can lead to patient being “outed,” and ain’t nobody got time for that.

4. “It wasn’t me.” 

When sharing, say, a colleague’s post, act as though it were your own. If you wouldn’t want to be claim authorship, you should probably cease and desist all tagging, sharing or forwarding of said post. Even if you can’t technically be held accountable for releasing it into the world, you still have your reputation to consider. And you really don’t want to be that nurse.

5. “I’m just sayin’ it like it is…”

When expressing a personal opinion, make it painfully clear that you are not speaking on behalf of your employer.

For example, you may feel passionately about an issue(s) your hospital would rather approach with a more neutral, “no comment” tactic. When taking the streets about it (or in this case—keyboard), keep the separation of nurse and hospital good ‘n’ obvious.

Bonus tip

Don’t keep questionable, work-related content on your phone (*cough* photo library *cough*). We’re all human and we lose stuff. Some just have less to worry about if they leave their smartphone in a cab than others. And trust us—you want to be the latter.

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