How should nurses approach and use social media?

What are the dangers and distractions for kids who use cell phones?

This story was originally published on March 30, 2017.

Amid the digital blast of the information age, the use of social media continues to be a preferred form of communication and information for many, both professionally and personally. Nurses are no exception, often tapping the vein of social media from networking to gathering and sharing knowledge.

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A report from the American Nurses Association reveals that more than 10 percent of the world’s population uses Facebook, and Twitter wrangles more than 140 million Tweets each day. According to an article by LinkedIn, the platform has more than 433 million registered users.

In an effort to help nurses think about the best way to approach social media, Pulse talked with a pair of professionals from two different wheelhouses: nursing and academia.

David Schweidel

Emory University Goizueta Business School

Schweidel works as an associate professor of marketing and focuses on social media and analytics.

On the importance of nurses taking care when using social media:

“Medical practitioners are obviously going to have to exercise tremendous care. The same goes for financial advisors and financial professionals. The stakes that you’re dealing with in those professions become pretty high. Two of the most heavily regulated industries are going to be healthcare and finance just because of the privacy rules that have been created. If the appearance is given that you as an authority are giving medical advice online without having access to the full information that you would from interacting with that person face-to-face, that’s where you potentially run into problems. You also have to be very mindful of privacy. You can’t go online and start talking with potential patients. Very strict regulations exist around how that information is communicated and who has access to that information. From a broad standpoint, those would be the things I’d be most concerned about as far as nurses being active on social media and social networking sites where they’re identifying themselves as a medical expert.”

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On drawing the social media line between business and personal:

“As far ast networking with others and having a presence online, that’s something that becomes an issue for pretty much any profession. You have your own presence has a personal brand, and you also represent your employer or your profession. So something I always recommend people be mindful of is what identity they are posting under. It’s difficult to maintain clear lines between your professional hat and your personal hat. But if you take a look, a lot of folks who are associated with larger brands say, ‘These are my opinions, and they do not represent the opinions of my employer.’ They try to be very clear when drawing that distinction between the personal identity and the professional identity. That’s just something that individuals should be cognizant of. If you start mixing professional and personal under the same account, that can create a little bit of confusion.”

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On recognizing what’s appropriate to post:

“If it’s nurses talking to other nurses, then you’re having the professional interactions that you would have with people in person. We can almost use this general rule: Would you be comfortable having this conversation in a larger group of people? If it’s a group of nurses talking to each other in a restaurant, would they be saying things that they would be concerned with a bystander in the restaurant overhearing? If we’re talking about the nature of our job, employment conditions, new laws that are going to affect us, that’s one thing. If you’re talking about specific patients or details of cases, that’s the stuff where you probably wouldn’t be comfortable having that conversation in an airport or a restaurant where other people could hear you. So you probably wouldn’t want to be having that conversation online, either.”

Jeremiah Bane, RN, MBA

Piedmont Newnan Hospital

Portrait of Jeremiah Bame at Piedmont Healthcare in Newnan on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 Photo by Phil Skinner Photo: Phil Skinner for the AJC

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Bane, an active social media user, serves as the hospital’s director of inpatient services.

On how he uses social media in his nursing career:

“As far as professionally, I use LinkedIn pretty regularly as a professional social networking site. That’s where I have a lot of networks with nurses I’ve worked with in the past and nurses that I’ve worked with who have moved to other companies. We also use LinkedIn at Piedmont Healthcare as kind of a recruitment tool. On our LinkedIn page, you can search under any job that is within any of the hospitals in our system by nursing, technical specialty and any of those categories. (A link) takes you to our careers website so you can apply. I can often times share jobs and postings by Piedmont about things that are going on within our hospital. So when I have contacts outside of Piedmont who are looking for jobs elsewhere, they can kind of see what’s going at Piedmont. For example, Piedmont Newnan is about to start percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which is basically like a cath lab. And we’ve had some stories shared on social media about that. I put that out on my LinkedIn, because I know people who work in cath labs at other hospitals in the system, and other hospitals in the metro Atlanta area. They may be interested in coming and joining our team and being a part of a new program.”

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On having separate personal and professional accounts:

“The rule of thumb is decide which social media avenue is going to be professional. So that’s what I do, personally. I have a professional social media account, which is pretty much LinkedIn for me. I know Piedmont Healthcare has a presence on Facebook and Twitter as well. I have a Facebook account that’s my personal. That’s where I post stuff from vacation and that sort of thing. Personally, I like to keep the two separate. It bodes better for my work/life balance and keeping things that are professionally related separate from personal. That is the advice that I give to my nurses. Some nurses have come into issues by posting things on Facebook that are a little too involved with work and that usually doesn’t go well. You have something that’s for personal and a separate account that you keep professional.”

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On sharing positive information to build morale:

“Definitely the sharing of information is interesting. I think a lot times in nursing we tend to operate in silos. Sometimes we get bogged down in my department at my hospital about what’s not going well. What I like about Piedmont Healthcare and their social media presence is they talk about the wins; the safety wins, the patient wins, the good outcomes and the things we’re doing really well. We have some days when we’re short staffed. That weighs on the nurses heavily, because they have to work harder, and they’re worried about safety issues. But at the same time, they’re working their butts off and they are putting out a really good product. Patients are happy, well taken care of, and we have good quality here at Piedmont. It’s nice to be reminded that all the hard work you do and all of the running around has a positive outcome, which is patients are well taken care of and they go home and recover.”

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