Okay, it’s not that drastic. But it’s important to always keep in mind the standards you are held to as a nurse, even on social media.
As much as we’d like to keep our work lives and our private lives separate, the digital age has made distancing these two worlds ever more difficult. Our online presence gives anyone a window into our lives. Access like this can be dangerous for any professional, especially nurses. Not only are we governed by the usual rules of social etiquette, but we must also keep in mind our license to practice, which is not immune to posts, updates, and photos that occur outside of work. If a complaint is filed for even one online post, the Board may begin an investigation that may reveal additional or even more questionable online behavior. Even online, we must take notice of the consequences of our actions.
This is not to say nurses should avoid social media. We’re modern people. We enjoy blogging about our favorite restaurants, congratulating friends on their successes, and sharing those of our own and our children. My son Jordan just graduated from high school and you better believe I’m going to share my joy and tears on Facebook!
Moments of gratitude, happiness, or even sadness are rarely controversial. These are common human emotions that espouse empathy rather than concern. Problems arise when nurses post about things that may be interpreted differently by others, especially those outside of their immediate community, which may be deemed unprofessional behavior. Yes, even at home or on vacation, the Board may determine you acted unprofessionally. Some examples are:
- crude jokes
- harsh criticism
- profane language
- instances of drug or heavy alcohol use
- anything that directly pertains to work
The basic rule is to never post anything you wouldn’t feel completely comfortable with your boss seeing. Yes, this is a pretty significant restraint on our personal expression, but it’s an unavoidable burden of being a professional. You can still tell those dirty jokes, speak your mind, and swear so much you’d put a sailor to shame, just keep them to private message features or in-person conversations. Don’t put yourself at risk by making them available to the public.
Obviously, we must also keep in mind our duties to patient privacy and/or confidentiality. The line is pretty clear here. Never post anything related to a patient. Even if his or her name is not disclosed, do you really want your current or future employers to think you have anything, but love and care to offer your patients? Impressions matter even if no laws are broken.
So rest easy. You can still tweet, snap, like, share, and post to your heart’s content. And you can use any filter you’d like, even the doggy-face. Just be responsible, use common sense, and remember that your online presence can have consequences on your career.