Position Paper on the Nurse's Use of Social Media

specific to pediatric oncology nursing include complex treatments, the nature of cancer as a

diagnosis, high patient acuity, communication with family, ethical issues, lack of control, and

death and bereavement issues (Medland, Howard-Rubin, & Whitaker, 2004; Zander, Hutton, &

King, 2010).

The concept of compassion fatigue is relatively recent; it was coined by Joinson (Joinson,

1992) while studying burnout in nurses working in emergency departments. Compassion fatigue

differs from posttraumatic stress disorder in that it is precipitated by exposure to a traumatized or

suffering person rather than a traumatic event (Aycock & Boyle, 2008; Medland et al., 2004).

Compassion fatigue differs from the more general “burnout” in that it specifically is an

emotional response resulting from caring about and identifying with the suffering experienced by

patients and their families (Maytum, Heiman, & Garwick, 2004; Showalter, 2010).

The symptoms of compassion fatigue often follow classic stress patterns; consequently,

nurses and those around them may dismiss the signs. Difficulties may instead be attributed to

stressful scheduling, poor diet and exercise habits, or physical causes. Each nurse must assess his

or her emotional health and examine relationships to determine if compassion fatigue is present

(Joinson, 1992; Medland et al., 2004; Showalter, 2010). McHolm (2006) separates symptoms of

compassion fatigue into five dimensions: psychological, physical, professional, social, and

spiritual. Ironically, one of the recommended methods to avoid compassion fatigue is for nurses

to communicate with others who share their experiences, and one way to communicate is

through social media (Medland et al.; Perry, 2008). Many nurses who are members of social

networks are friends with patients, and their families. As a result, a connection with coworkers

through social media can also mean an inadvertent link to patients that extends beyond work

hours and can aggravate compassion fatigue.

An additional concern that arises from the nurse’s use of social media is its impact on

coworkers and care teams. Nurses who use social media to express negative feelings about

coworkers may be committing lateral violence, including bullying and intimidation. While there

may be legal protection for the nurse based on First Amendment rights, the nurse should consider

the potential detrimental effects of any form of lateral violence on team dynamics and

cohesiveness (NCSBN, 2018).

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