Q&A: How should I use, or not use, social media?

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Question from a reader: “How should I use, or not use, social media?”

Auntie Jo assumes that you mean “How should I use social media as a nurse?” although using social media as a civilian has implications for your career as well. Since the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Google Groups and all those other platforms that Auntie is too old to know or care about, things that you do have a tendency to stick around forever.

For that reason, the quick answer to your question, Dear Reader, is “Very, very carefully.”
Auntie Jo will admit here that she has two separate names and identities online. One of them is her real name; the other encompasses the personality she blogs and writes under. Of course, having two identities on a platform such as Facebook is directly contrary to those platforms’ Terms of Service, so Auntie would never advise you to make up a nom de Net, no sir, not at all.

Instead, Auntie Jo would recommend that you make very certain that you’re never pictured in a compromising position in your own or another’s tweet, Tumblr or FB picture. That’s easier said than done, and there’s a lot of wiggle room in the definition of “compromising.” Some employers and state licensing boards wouldn’t bat an eye at the picture of a nurse in scrubs doing a kegstand; others look sideways at pictures of people in bars where one or more of them is identified as an employee of a hospital. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t want your grandparents to know about it, don’t put it online. (If your grandparents are liberal old hippies, take my grandparents as your touchstone.)

It goes without saying—or ought to—that you should never, ever blog, reblog, tweet or post a picture of a patient. I’d be very careful with the backgrounds of pictures you take at work as well. And, of course, you’d never blog (if you blog) about a person who’d then be identifiable. Think of the rules for any social medium as HIPAA on steroids.

Feel free to tweet, pin, collect, blog, post or otherwise distribute anything that’s not confidential or shameful. Just don’t put up anything that could come back to bite you later in your white-clad behind.

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Agatha Lellis

Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at askauntieaggie@gmail.com.

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One Response to Q&A: How should I use, or not use, social media?

  1. ravenx LPN

    It is also unprofessional to carry a spat at work to the pages of a social media, for all to see including families of patients you care for, remember it is easy to find a person if you know their name on these pages. Seeing other nurses posting how the work day was going while at work, what music they were listening to while at work and learning of a conflict at work between coworkers on FB, I knew it was headed for trouble so I cleared my page of all but my long term like-minded co-workers. Then our workplace adopted a social media policy and it came to light that administration was indeed monitoring the pages. Sometimes you just have to know what is acceptable