General Discussions

Social Media: Risks and Benefits

By Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, OCN, FAAN
The use of social media is now so widespread that professional healthcare organizations have developed guidelines for its use. One of the most recent organizations to create utilization guidelines is the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which released its guidelines in April 2015. Other guidelines are available from state medical boards, and the American Medical Association released a statement on the topic in 2010. The American Nurses Association (ANA) released a tool kit, which contain the ANA’s social networking principles, tips for nurses using social media, social media webinar, and a fact sheet.

ANA’s principles include not transmitting or posting identifiable patient information, observing patient-nurse boundaries, and being aware that colleagues and others have the ability to view what is posted. Nurses should utilize privacy settings and ideally, have separate personal and professional online accounts. Nurses also need to bring harmful content to the attention of appropriate individuals or authorities. The ANA notes that misuse of social media can not only damage the individual nurse’s reputation, but may damage the reputation of the nursing profession as well. The toolkit is available at
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