The Pros and Cons of
Social Media in Nursing

Social media is a powerful tool and can create a multitude of tangible benefits. It has profoundly impacted how society operates, how we regard ourselves and our relationships, and how we communicate with other people. It can make things possible that never would have been possible before.

However, social media is potent – it can be dangerous, harmful, or pervasive if not treated with respect and used wisely.

Just as it has affected virtually every other industry over the past decade, social media has certainly made its mark in the area of nursing. For nurses, social media can be leveraged in a number of helpful ways. It can also cause problems.

This article will explore the ways social media can be used for good and also outline some of its potential pitfalls so that you can use it effectively and safely as a licensed nurse.

How Social Media Can Help Nurses

Social media platforms can create huge value both personally and professionally when used well. Here are a few of the ways social media can benefit those in nursing:

Social Media Can Provide Nurses with Helpful Educational Resources and Outlets

A vast majority of the group of health practitioners surveyed in a 2018 study agreed that social media can provide helpful educational benefits. Many nurses follow professional or nursing association accounts, get journal or publication alerts delivered to their phones, or engage in discussions, groups, or conversations about their professional knowledge and skills.

Social media can provide an effective place for aggregating healthcare news and research, gain absorbable highlights from the latest publications, and keep up with ever-developing best practice. Never before have medical companies, researchers, and medical professionals around the world been so accessible. These resources can help nurses stay apprised on technologies, new drug trials, procedures and policies, and more.

It Offers a Helpful Channel for Connecting with Patients

For some nursing professionals that need to stay in regular contact with their patients, social media platforms can provide a helpful alternative to more conventional communication methods like post, email, or phone. Sometimes patients prefer options like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or other messaging platforms to receive or send messages.

Being able to join patients on the communication channels they utilize frequently is especially helpful or valuable when it’s important to get responses back or when the quality of care a nurse can deliver is dependent on remote communication or being able to stay in touch.

It Can Also Be Used as a Promotional Tool for Self-employed or Contract Nurses 

Social media can provide an effective way of marketing your services if you are a self-employed or independent RN. Just like any number of service-based or practitioner-based businesses, you can use the increased reach and personability of social media to create a compelling brand and garner new leads.

Social media can be an excellent platform for cultivating an engaged audience, releasing content that can boost your “expertise status,” and maintaining an effective catch-all for capturing promising leads.

How Social Media Can Cause Harm for Nurses and in Nursing Settings

Though there are obviously plenty of ways (some of which are mentioned above) that social media can be useful to nurses, the following are a few potential pitfalls you’ll want to avoid:

Some Types of Engagement with Social Media Can Waste Time Rather than Add Value

We’ve all found ourselves doing it – social media has a way of luring us into mindless scrolling and spending way too many minutes watching pointless videos or commenting on content that has no relevance or usefulness to us.

In the study mentioned earlier, almost a third of those same health professionals also sheepishly reported that they find themselves wasting time during their average workdays on social media.

Social Media Profiles Can Damage Reputation or Hamper Job Searches If Used Unwisely

Too many professionals have found themselves passed over for jobs they would otherwise have been qualified for because their social media profiles contained unprofessional content. This is a common occurrence in nursing. Word to the wise – be mindful of what you post on your social media profiles.

Social Media Can Create Privacy Concerns and Jeopardize Patient Protection

Perhaps the most important and serious aspect of how social media can affect nursing has to do with patient privacy and protections. One of a nurse’s most important roles is that of patient advocate and protector. Nurses often serve as an intermediary between their patient and other medical professionals, the patient’s friends and family members, other patients, and even the wider world.

Because of social media’s virality, personal nature, and content capabilities, releasing any inadvertently or erroneously sensitive or personal information to social media platforms can create tremendous damage. This can cause embarrassment, anger, and even danger in some cases for patients. It can trigger retaliation, bad press, and even lawsuits. Some types of social media usage can break HIPAA standards, jeopardize nursing licenses, and create real risk for hospitals and other medical facilities.

It is absolutely vital to make sure you understand the policies that dictate appropriate social media usage as a nurse. Any social media content or activity that links you with patients or shares information about patient identities or outcomes should be avoided or confirmed with a supervisor to avoid risking severe outcomes. As long as you make sure to check any social media usage linked with your work as a nurse, you’ll keep your social media engagement safe, beneficial, and risk-free.