Position Paper on the Nurse's Use of Social Media

Social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, CaringBridge,

and Twitter allow unprecedented opportunities for medical professionals to communicate with

patients, families, and colleagues. The informality and ease of these forms of communication

increase the likelihood that a nurse may unintentionally disclose privileged personal health

information. For example, a nurse may casually comment on how exciting it is that their son is

so close to engrafting on a family’s Facebook post . Conversely, nurses reading patient and

family blogs or social networking profile pages may inadvertently obtain information requiring

clinical intervention that otherwise may not be disclosed to the healthcare team (Guseh, Brendel,

& Brendel, 2009; Tunick & Mednick, 2009).

The widespread availability of healthcare providers ’ personal information on the Internet

and social networking sites threatens professional boundaries. Personal information about nurses

that can compromise the professional relationship between nurses and patients may be revealed

on the Internet (MacDonald, Sohn, & Ellis, 2010). The nature of social media is such that even if

a nurse intends to send information to only one person, unintended recipients often can view this

information. When patients and families have access to nurses’ personal web pages or social

media profiles, information can be taken as opposed to deliberately given. The effect of taken

information on a patient or family can be positive or negative and cannot be predicted

(MacDonald et al.). Social networking sites and personal blogs should be maintained with

privacy settings enabled to minimize the risk of personal information, opinion, and behavior

being disseminated to a large network of unintended recipients or misrepresented as professional


Despite the ability to engage privacy settings, information posted on social media sites is

not held to the same security standards to which healthcare agencies must abide, according to

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations (Terry, 2010). The

Nursing Code of Ethics (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2015) addresses issues of privacy

and confidentiality. Nurses have a duty to safeguard patient privacy. The Code of Ethics states,

“Because of rapidly evolving communication technology and the porous nature of social medi a,

nurses must maintain vigilance regarding postings, images, recordings, or commentary that

intentionally or unintentionally breaches their obligation to maintain and protect patients’ rights

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