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How RNs Can Avoid Pitfalls of Social Media

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   November 07, 2017

While questionable social media use makes headlines, nurses can use social media tools in ways to further their professional knowledge.

When I read about the recent incident where Jacksonville Naval Hospital staff members shared unprofessional behavior on Snapchat—including flipping off an infant and referring to newborns as "mini-Satans"—my reaction was, "Don't people know better by now?"

While some may be quick to blame social media for these lapses in professionalism, Robert Fraser, MN, RN, a primary care nurse, author, and digital health strategist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, points out that bad behavior did not start with the advent of social media. Social media just makes it more visible.

"Professional misconduct is not new or [an] unusual thing," he said. "But social media incidents, I think, tend to get more coverage for a number of reasons, [in part], because the evidence is left behind related to the incidents."

And thanks to technology, that evidence can reach, and affect, a larger group of people than it would in the pre-Internet world.

"Healthcare professionals…are not always paying attention to the opportunities, as well as the risk of potential harm, that can come from [social media]," Fraser says. "I want people to understand the risks as well as the potential."

Fraser offers his thoughts on how nurses can avoid the pitfalls of social media as well as ways to use it to positively affect the nursing profession.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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