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Unwise social media use can cost you your nursing license

Posted on August 2, 2018

Nursing can be a highly stressful profession. During your off-hours, it’s only reasonable that you might want to relax by looking at videos of cats, baby goats and other light, soothing images on social media. However, when it comes to posting things, you need to be careful of how you’re representing the nursing profession, your employer and the patients with whom you interact.

Inappropriate social media posts can lead to job loss and malpractice lawsuits. They can also put your nursing license and your career in jeopardy. Other electronic communications, such as emails and texts, can also cause trouble.

If you’re unsure about what is and isn’t allowed, there are two key things to be careful about:

Patient privacy

Medical professionals often encounter people when they’re at their most vulnerable. Posting photos of patients, disclosing confidential patient information or making negative comments about them can be considered violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). They can lead to fines and even a jail sentence. The Arizona Board of Nursing (BON) could also take disciplinary action.

Even if you’re simply reaching out to colleagues via social media for advice on a case, if you give enough information about the situation or details about where you work that the patient could be identified, you may be breaching the patient’s privacy.

Unprofessional or unethical behavior

This involves a range of activity, including criticizing your boss, your workplace or your colleagues on social media. Your personal life and activities can also get you in trouble.

Some tiki torch-carrying young men promoting a white nationalist agenda during the infamous Charlottesville rally last year were fired by employers who were embarrassed and publicly shamed by their behavior when videos and images of them were posted.

People can face job loss and disciplinary actions for posting racist, sexist, homophobic and other bigoted messages and images. Posting photos or comments involving drug use, violence and even extreme alcohol consumption can lead to problems with the nursing board.

You can’t take back what you did or said, but you can work to fight the possible revocation of your license by the Arizona BON with a strong legal defense.