A savvy nursing professional knows that social media is a tool to be used with class, tact and discretion. Feel free to go wild in your private time, but keeping professional boundaries will earn you respect among your patients, coworkers and employers. Here are some dos and don'ts to keep you on the classy side of the Internet.
1. Don't ever post anything that relates to identifying patient information. This includes the patient's name, social security number and address, as well as details about his or her condition. A simple rant posted on your Facebook about how hard your day was can lead to violating someone's privacy if you give away too many details. Make your post as vague as possible, refraining from mentioning any specific patient. Also, don't take pictures of your patients and post them on the Internet.
2. Do keep your profile on the highest privacy setting. It wouldn't take much for a patient to look you up on a social media site and see pictures of the party Friday night, your home renovation project or your family. It's easier to be a nursing professional, required to work with a patient in deeply personal ways, if there is respect and a relationship of trust and professional boundaries. Keeping your private life private maintains that boundary and a sense of professionalism. It's not encouraged to maintain contact with a patient through social media.
3. Do remember that your "friends" can one day be coworkers and potential contacts for a new position. Maintaining a nursing network can help you grow as a professional. They read your posts and tweets, and they see your pictures. Ultimately, they can influence whether you get the job you want because of a glowing recommendation or a lack of one. Don't be a complain constantly, and make sure that your more wild moments are not photographed; if they are, don't put them on the Internet.
4. Do think twice before you post something. Consider your audience, and consider the content. If it was accidentally sent to a different person, would you be embarrassed? Then, consider posting something different, or not at all. If Anthony Weiner had followed this advice, he would still be in public office today, not the butt of political jokes and puns.
5. Don't post if you have doubts about the content. The Internet has a long memory. Even when you think you have deleted a comment or picture, anyone could have taken a screen shot, making it widely available. Call your friends on the phone to discuss your feelings instead, as it can save your reputation as a nursing professional.
Professionalism in nursing is not just a valuable personality trait, but it is an essential part of being a nurse. Once you become a nurse, that becomes who you are, both on and off the clock.
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