Advice for nurses to stay out of trouble on social media

Combined ShapeCaption
A nurse is facing nationwide backlash over a video she posted to TikTok.The clip shows Olivia Tyler pacing the hallway after her patient dies. .As Sia's "Unstoppable" plays, captions on the video read, "Lost a patient today" and “Shake (it) off, you have 5 more hours.”.TikTok and Twitter users were quick to condemn, mock and parody Tyler's post.Tyler has deleted her account

How to protect yourself and your job while enjoying TikTok, Instagram and other platforms

There is no rule that states nurses can’t be on social media. In fact, many nurses have become influencers, with millions of followers on TikTok and other platforms.

If not used properly, however, you could face backlash — not just from your employer and other nurses, but by the public at large. Just ask nurse Olivia Tyler, who faced widespread criticism for a TikTok post after a patient died.

ExploreNurse faces backlash after TikTok video about losing a patient

On Nurse.org, Carlton G. Brown, PhD, RN, AOCN, NEA-BC, FAAN, has tips and suggestions for nurses to avoid the pitfalls of posts.

What not to do

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 — which most people know as HIPAA — not only protects patients’ rights, it makes nurses’ purposeful or accidental release of information about patients, sometimes while using social media sites, punishable by discipline, fines or termination.

“It can make it very hard for a nurse to find alternative employment,” according to the HIPAA Journal. “HIPAA-covered entities are unlikely to recruit a nurse that has previously been fired for violating HIPAA Rules.”

Brown cited the 2014 case of a registered nurse in New York City who was fired for posting a picture on Instagram her emergency room caring for a man who was hit by a subway train. She never mentioned the patient’s name or other information, but the unusual circumstances and news reports made it easy to identify the man.

The nurse, Brown wrote, wasn’t fired for a HIPAA violation or for breaking hospital policy; she was fired for being insensitive.

ExploreLaugh and learn: These nurses are killing it on TikTok

What to do instead

Award winning author and national speaker Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, is known on social media as the Nerdy Nurse. She is an expert on social media issues, bullying and informatics, and gave Brown tips for nurses to use social media effectively and positively.

  • Talk about yourself, the nursing profession, your family, hobbies and interests
  • Never talk about patients or identifiable co-workers
  • Avoid identifying your employer
  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t say in front of your boss or human resources
  • Lift up the nursing profession
ExploreHospice nurse shares viral TikTok stories about death, dying

Wilson further recommends that nurses:

  • Don’t say you’re at work; this could put you and your home at risk
  • Don’t post while at work
  • Don’t forget that nothing online is anonymous
  • Know your employer’s social media policies
  • Don’t identify your employer on your personal profiles
  • Don’t do anything that could degrade or embarrass the nursing profession

For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.