Should nurses sign off of Facebook?

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Many people can’t imagine life without Facebook, even though it’s only been around since 2004. It’s the most visited website in the world (with just under a eleventy-trillion users)…and you’re probably one of them.

But, as a nurse, you probably have to think more carefully than civilians about how you use Facebook.

Some members of the nursing profession have been more than a tad irresponsible and imprudent with their posts, divulging confidential information about patients and hospital happenings. (Read “Five nurses fired for Facebook postings.”) Does this mean that perhaps you should consider saying goodbye to Facebook for now?

Keep reading and then decide for yourself, because it really comes down to you.

Privacy and confidentiality
The issue of patient privacy and confidentiality is the big one here. The aforementioned five California nurses were discussing their patients on Facebook, but nurses have also been fired for posting X-rays and photographs of patients. For example, in a different California hospital, nurses posted photos of a dying man who arrived in the ER with multiple stab wounds. In the United Kingdom, a nurse posted photos of herself in the OR, holding tissue from a brain surgery patient lying right there on the operating table.

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Cynthia Dusseault

Cynthia Dusseault is a professional freelance writer with both a health and an education background. A former medical radiation technologist and elementary school teacher, she realized that no matter what she did, she was drawn to any task that involved writing, so she decided, over a decade ago, to write full-time. Since then, she has written for a variety of magazines and websites including Nursing PRN, National Review of Medicine, University Affairs, Your Health, Education Leaders Today, Today's Parent, Children's Playmate, and many more.She has written about topics such as asthma, genital herpes, circumcision, teleradiology, body art, learning disabilities and exercise trends, and she absolutely adores the fact that writing—particularly doing the research for the articles she writes—makes her a lifelong learner.

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12 Responses to Should nurses sign off of Facebook?

  1. spbarrett

    This article does well in reminding nurses of “the danger of words,” images, and information we have access to. But “knee-jerk” reactions do little to make us better nurses or persons. To stop using facebook because of the danger indicates that nurses do not have or cannot develop maturity in handling information. The one note in the article that really got my goat was the nursing school that dismissed nursing students for posting pics of a placenta. This supposed offense took place in the nursing lab. If there was a rule broken, ok, send ’em packing. Send ’em to McDonalds to flip burgers and post pics of ground beef. But if they were students who thrilled with the sight of an “anonymous” placenta and feel like the sight has to be shared with their world of friends – why can’t the nursing school make a teaching moment out of their action? Nursing school are great at overkill, knee-jerk reactions, and eating their young, but they are not so great at nurturing judgement and compassion.

    • Scrubs Editor Scrubs Blogger

      Well said!

    • Nursedavid RN

      Compassion? I thought nursing school lacked it until I met my 1st director (and each subsequent one.)

  2. mamajo RN

    I personally think FB and all social networks should be banned in the work place. Productivity is a HUGE issue. When I am working my butt off, I get really upset when I see people who could be helping me or someone else on FB. I do use it at home, and sometimes rant about my day…no names, nothing that anyone would be concerned about. I also have patients, former patients and families as friends. The key is to not post anything that would ever come back to haunt you!

    • RNCCRN9706 RN

      Do you ASK those people for help Mamajo? They are not mindreaders. If you need help then ask for it. But are you the kind of nurse who is ALWAYS behind no matter what kind of day you’re having? I work with those types too….I get tired of ALWAYS doing MY work PLUS theirs because they aren’t good at time management and organization as I am! And while I may peruse Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest on my own personal smartphone and data plan, that also has useful nursing apps on it, I can guarantee you that MY work is caught up, my IV bags have plenty of fluid in them and my patients are comfortable. Let me tell you though that I’m also the first one who will jump in to help when my coworker has a patient that’s crashing or that needs to be transferred to another higher acuity facility. Not everyone I work with is such a coworker…even if they aren’t THAT busy, they are too caught up in their patient assignment that it doesn’t dawn on them that their coworker NEEDS help unless she’s asked.

      So I say to you…if you need help ask them.

      • NurseElektra

        To RNCCRN9706-
        I don’t think it really matters whether you have coworkers who always seem behind. Their style of working might be different than yours. I think it is important to remember that we all are there for the patients first and foremost, whether that be “your” patient or your coworker’s patient. I work with those same types of people who seem to always be behind on their work. However, I live by the rule that no one sits until everyone can sit. I am sure that there are other things you could be doing on your unit to contribute to the good of all besides being on social media, such as organizing things, answering call lights or phone calls, or minimizing clutter. Honestly, as a RN your job is every job, and all patients on your unit regardless of who is their bedside nurse are your responsibility, even if you are not a charge nurse. Maybe you need to lead by example, and offer some of your time management skills to your frazzled coworkers. This will promote the same attitude in your coworkers and contribute to the good of the patients and your unit as a whole.

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  3. RNCCRN9706 RN

    I use Facebook regularly. I do not list in my profile where I work. Nor do I have ANY coworkers but a small select few as friends…I’ve found out the hard way that there’s Facebook snitches. In fact, I’ve blocked just about ALL of the people at work who I know have Facebook accounts. It’s just better that way. Even something innocuous that’s NOT a violation of HIPAA has been taken out of context and caused issues. So, I’ve blocked everyone at work who has Facebook. Nobody has been given special treatment…you work with me and have Facebook, you’re BLOCKED!!

  4. NurseElektra

    I have to say that it really irks me to find out that people are doing things on social media networks that result in their suspension or termination. It goes back to common sense, really. I always go by this rule: If it’s something that you wouldn’t say out loud in front of a patient, their family/visitors, or your supervisor, then DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT POSTING IT!!! Even if you have your privacy settings on maximum, someone can still do a Google search with your name and find old posts, including deleted ones. Nurses are held up to a higher standard both professionally and personally when compared to the general population. One really must keep this in mind when you really just feel like venting about whatever situation has you peeved that day. I am relatively new to social media, and do enjoy using it, but as I mentioned above, you must have common sense and remember that even online your character is under scrutiny and discretion is a must!

  5. Nursedavid RN

    Yeah, I yearn for another area of my life to be micromaganed by the upper echelon….

    • kellyew1973 RN

      As a manager, I just have to say…check the rules and FOLLOW THEM. Act like an adult at work and no one will have to micromanage you. You shouldn’t shop on the clock, watch movies, etc…what makes you think you should get paid to Facebook???

  6. Pingback: A Nurse’s Guide to Using Social Media | Mitchell Martin