Social Media & Electronic Communication

The use of social media and other electronic communication has become commonplace in our everyday lives. Every day new outlets, platforms, and applications are created and individuals are increasingly participating in blogs, social networking sites, video sites, online chat rooms and forums in both a personal and professional manner. “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” (NCSBN, nd.).

Nurses and nursing students are welcome to utilize social media but must be very careful in posting information and stories about clinical experiences on social media sites as these may be breaches of patient privacy and confidentiality which is a violation of state and federal laws. Instances of inappropriate use of social and electronic media may be reported to the School of Nursing and/or Board of Nursing. The School of Nursing and/or Board of Nursing may investigate reports of inappropriate disclosures on social media sites by a nurse on the grounds of:

  • Unprofessional conduct;
  • Unethical conduct;
  • Moral turpitude (defined as conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals);
  • Mismanagement of patient records;
  • Revealing a privilege communication; and
  • Breach of confidentiality

If the allegations are supported, the nurse may face disciplinary action by the School of Nursing and/or the Washington Nursing Commission, including a reprimand or sanction, removal from the nursing program, assessment of a monetary fine, temporary or permanent loss of licensure, as well as potential civil and criminal penalties. “A nurse may face personal liability and be individually sued for defamation, invasion of privacy or harassment. Particularly flagrant misconduct on social media websites may also raise liability under state or federal regulations focused on preventing patient abuse or exploitations.” (NCSBN, n.d.)

For more information on Social media use see the social media policies by the NCSBN and NSNA.

In addition, nurses and student nurses need to adhere to professional boundaries. To maintain the professional therapeutic relationship student nurses should refrain from “friending” or “following” patients and their families. Students should also refrain from “friending” or “following” the personal social networking sites of School of Nursing faculty/staff while a student at PLU. Students should be aware of professional boundaries and confidential communications within the School of Nursing, just as in the clinical setting. Social media and electronic communication methods such as Linked-in, webinars, web conferencing tools, etc. should be only utilized between students and School of Nursing faculty/staff if it promotes student learning, professional development, academic advising, or assists the faculty/staff in educational pedagogy. Social media and electronic communication methods should still adhere to professional boundaries.