Social media is a powerful tool and a necessary one. Whether you use it for casual communications, meme scrolling, or job-related work, no one can resist the call of these platforms. But social media is not without its dangers, and those dangers have gone from being harassed by individuals to falling victim to the clutches of what is called ‘cancel culture,’ which is basically social media slang for getting shunned for your actions. However, it’s worse than simply facing the consequences of your actions because social media has its own rules of ethics and morals, and they usually vary depending on what side of the internet you’re on.

Even the best among us, the backbone of our healthcare system, the ones keeping us alive, those we call nurses, aren’t safe online. A single-action online can have a lasting impact on a nurse’s career. So how does one keep themselves, or their workers, safe from backlash and controversy? It’s simple; you follow these dos and stay far away from these don’ts. Read on to find out how you can avoid a terrible turn of events on the internet.

1. Do: Talk About Your Life!

Everyone wants to know about the lives our nurses live. Did you get a dog recently? Do you have a child who you’re proud of? Maybe you want to tell the story of how you became a nurse after getting your degree online. Or perhaps you just read a really good book. Whatever it is, post about events in your life. Let the people know who you are as a person, away from the title of simply a nurse. Not only will this bring you attention and love, but it might also boost the love people have for nursing, as happened with social media figures such as the sassy Steven Ho, who posts about life as an ER tech and began a series of TikToks called ‘tips from the ER,’ or the beloved, sarcastic Dr. Anthony Youn, who posts about life as a plastic surgeon. So you might just end up becoming the next biggest social media healthcare sensation!

2. Don’t: Talk About Your Patients. Seriously, Like, Never.

Look, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a thing that exists, and for good reason. HIPAA protects the patients’ identities, names, contact information, diagnoses, or anything that can be identified. Even if you don’t directly name them and just talk about them in general, such as ‘a 7-year-old who had a stroke and his family was late to respond’.

Besides that, there’s the obvious rule: never badmouth your patients. Your overseers and the committees in charge of your career don’t care if your patient had bad breath or if their clothing sense was atrocious, and neither does the internet. After all, you’re here to take care of the patients and provide them comfort, right? You’ll find that life becomes a lot easier if you stick to that aspiration.

3. Do: Go Online On Your Own Time With Your Own Device

No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s watching cat videos or sharing life-changing advice, make sure you do it in your free time on your own devices. After all, you wouldn’t want to get caught watching a ‘funny fails’ compilation while a patient is flat-lining, would you? Not exactly ethically and morally correct behavior. Instead, take your time during your breaks, relax in a cozy, comfy spot, and watch as many compilations as you want.

Secondly, remember to use your own data connection or WiFi, because the HR department might get a bit suspicious if ‘what happens when you microwave and iPhone 13’ and other such videos start showing up on their history logs, and it might not be the best happening for your career.

4. Don’t: Operate Under The Delusion Of Privacy

Let’s address the elephant in the room – no matter how bad it sounds, it’s true that there is no such thing as privacy on social media. Anything that can get leaked will get leaked. 

This includes personal or patient information that you might be sharing, or perhaps your comments about someone’s behavior and attitude. Just like how the worst gossip spreads around like wildfire, your comments will make their way around the internet, taking down all they see in their way. Even if your account is private, it’s not exactly hard to download a program that reveals your account to all. In short, be careful, and be smart.

5. Do: Maintain Professional Boundaries

Let’s just imagine for a moment that you end up getting big on social media and become a fairly popular person. Then, one day as you’re doing your job, a patient comes in. Much to your surprise and delight, they turn out to be a fan! Now, while it’s always good to meet a fan, as a nurse, you will need to maintain some professional boundaries and make sure that no side gets too lenient in their role. People tend to view social media figures and public figures as their own carry-around friends, but don’t forget that you’re more than just a social media user.

6. Don’t: Post Confidential Or Private Information

As mentioned, social media isn’t exactly the most private place, so you need to be pretty careful in keeping your information out of the clutches of stalkers. This means that no, you cannot post about that party you went to last night and got raging drunk at. It might sound fun at the time, but it’s dangerous in the long run. And while we’re at it, forget all about mentioning confidential information, and be mindful that you don’t post any information about your co-workers and patients.

To sum it up, social media is a demon that needs to be tamed in today’s day and age, and the need to tame it only grows with your position, especially when you’re an active professional. But heeding these dos and don’ts will guide even the most confused nurse through the raging infernos that we know as social media platforms.