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.

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

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