Week 5: Common myths and misunderstandings of social media Week 5: Common myths and misunderstandings of social media In your discussion groups this week, revie

Week 5: Common myths and misunderstandings of social media

Week 5: Common myths and misunderstandings of social media

In your discussion groups this week, review your readings & videos from last week, specifically on social media, and answer the following questions:

1. Page 11 of the NCSBN brochure Preview the documentdescribes common myths and misunderstandings of social media. Which one of these surprised you?


2. What steps will you take to make you avoid disclosing confidential patient information?

T he use of social media and other electronic communication is expanding exponentially as the number of social media outlets, platforms and applications available continue to increase. Individuals use blogs, social networking sites, video sites, online chat rooms and forums to communicate both personally and professionally with others. Social media is an exciting and valuable tool when used wisely. The very nature of this medium, however, can pose a risk as it offers instantaneous posting opportunities that allow little time for reflective thought and carries the added burden that what is posted on the Internet is discoverable by a court of law even when it is long deleted.

Nurses are welcome to use social media in their personal lives. This may include having a Facebook page, a Twitter feed or blogging on various websites. Nurses can positively use electronic media to share workplace experiences, particularly those events that are challenging or emotionally charged, but it is imperative not to mention patients by name or provide any information or details that could possibly identify them in order to protect patients’ right to privacy.

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Social Media in the Workplace

Social media can benefit health care in a variety of ways, including fostering professional connections, promoting timely communication with patients and family members, and educating and informing consumers and health care professionals. Social media provides nurses with a way to express their feelings, and reflect or seek support from friends, colleagues, peers or virtually anyone on the Internet. Journaling and reflective practice are recognized as effective tools in nursing practice, and the Internet provides an alternative media for nurses to engage in these helpful activities. Without a sense of caution, how- ever, these understandable needs and potential benefits may result in the nurse disclosing too much information, and violating patient privacy and confidentiality.

Health care organizations that utilize electronic and social media typically have policies governing employee use of such media in the workplace. Components of these poli- cies often address personal use of employer computers and equipment, personal computing during work hours, and the types of websites that can be accessed from employer computers. Health care organizations also maintain careful control of websites maintained by or associated with the organization, limiting what may be posted to the site and by whom.

The employer’s policies, however, typically do not address the nurse’s use of social media to discuss workplace issues outside of work on home computers, personally-owned phones and other hand-held electronic devices. It is in this context that the nurse may face poten- tially serious consequences for the inappropriate use of social media.

Jamie has been working in hospice care for the last six years and one of her patients, Maria, maintained a hospital-sponsored communication page to keep friends and family updated on her battle with cancer. One day, Maria posted about her depression. As her nurse, Jamie wanted to provide support, so she posted, “I know the last week has been difficult. Hopefully the new happy pill will help, along with the increased dose of morphine. I will see you on Wednesday.” The site automatically listed the user’s name with each comment. The next day, Jamie was shopping at the local grocery store when a friend stopped her to ask about Maria’s condition. “I saw your post yesterday. I didn’t know you were taking care of Maria,” the friend said. “I hope that new medication helps with her pain.”

This is an example of a violation of confidentiality through social media. While Jamie had Maria’s best intentions at heart by trying to offer her words of support, she inadvertently disclosed information about a patient on a social media site. Everyone who read that post now knows about Maria’s medication and increase in mor- phine, violating her right to privacy and confidentiality. Instances of inappropriate use of electronic media by nurses such as this have been reported to boards of nursing (BONs) and, in some cases, reported in nursing literature and to the media. Week 5: Common myths and misunderstandings of social media

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Confidentiality and Privacy

To understand the limits of appropriate use of social media, it is important to have an understanding of confidentiality and privacy in the health care context.

Confidentiality and privacy are related, but distinct concepts:

 Any patient information learned by the nurse during the course of treatment must be safeguarded by that nurse.

 Such information may only be disclosed to other members of the health care team for the purpose of providing care for the patient.

 Confidential information should be shared only with the patient’s informed consent, when legally required or where failure to disclose the information could result in significant harm. Beyond these very limited exceptions, a nurse is obligated to safeguard confidential information.

As a licensed practical nurse for more than 20 years, Bob knew the importance of safeguarding a patient’s privacy and confidentiality. One day, he used his personal cell phone to take photos of Claire, a resident in the group home where he worked. Bob received permission from Claire’s brother to take the photo since she was unable to give consent due to her mental and physical condition. That evening, Bob ran into William, a former employee of the group home. While catching up, he showed William the photo of Claire and discussed her condition with him. The administrator of the group home later learned of Bob’s actions and terminated his employment for breach of confidentiality.

Bob thought it was okay for him to take Claire’s photo because he had the consent of a family member. He also thought it was acceptable for him to discuss Claire’s condition because William previously worked with Claire. So why was this behavior wrong? Because, first, merely asking Claire’s brother for permission is not obtaining a valid consent. Second, confidential information should not be disclosed to persons no longer involved in the care of a patient. Even though Bob made an honest mistake, confidentiality rules must be strictly enforced to protect a patient’s right to privacy. Week 5: Common myths and misunderstandings of social media

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