Social Media Use: Common Expectations for Nurses

Posted by INRC  

Members of the INRC recognize that while social media is a beneficial tool, there are principles that nurses need to pay attention to in order to reduce risks to members of the public.

The INRC reviewed the use of social media guidance for nurses across their organizations and found that all nurse regulators draw on their professional code of conduct and standards of practice. Members of the INRC recognize that while social media is a beneficial tool, there are principles that nurses need to pay attention to in order to reduce risks to members of the public.


"Social media" describes the online and mobile tools that people use to share opinions, information and experiences, images and video or audio clips, and includes websites and applications used for social networking. Common sources of social media include, but are not limited to: social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn; personal, professional and anonymous blogs; WOMO, True Local and microblogs such as Twitter; content-sharing websites such as YouTube and Instagram, and discussion forums and message boards.

Common expectations for nurses include:

  1. Benefits and Risks

    Know the benefits and risks of social media. Build your competence. Know the technology and have the skills and judgment to use it appropriately and ethically. Be aware of social media’s evolving culture and changing technology. Reflect on the intent and possible consequences of your online behavior – before you blog, post or tweet.

  2. Professional Image

    Use the same level of professionalism in your online interactions as you do face-to-face. Keep your personal and professional lives separate. Use different accounts for personal and professional activities.

  3. Confidentiality

    Do not share any client information on social media sites. Leaving out details when you post information or images does not protect client confidentiality. Report confidentiality breaches to the right person, immediately.

  4. Privacy

    Set and maintain your privacy settings to limit access to your personal information. Be aware of your privacy settings and know that even if you use the highest privacy settings, others can copy and share your information without your knowledge or permission.

  5. Boundaries

    Maintain professional boundaries. Just as with face-to-face relationships, you must set and communicate these boundaries with clients online. End your professional relationships appropriately and don’t accept client “friend” requests on your personal social media accounts. If you use social media with clients, use a professional account separate from your personal one.

  6. Expectations

    Use caution if you identify yourself as a nurse online. If you do so, others may ask for advice, which could lead to a nurse-client relationship. Using a name that hides your identity does not release you from this expectation. Know this and practice accordingly.

  7. Integrity

    Protect yours and the profession’s integrity. Use proper communication channels to discuss, report and resolve workplace issues – not social media. Refer to colleagues or clients online with the same level of respect as you would in the workplace. Before you blog, tweet or share information about your practice, reflect on your intentions and the possible consequences. Understand that “liking” someone’s disrespectful comments is not much different than making them yourself.

  8. Employer Policies

    Know and follow employer policies on using social media, photography, computers and mobile devices, including personal, at work. If you communicate with clients via social media, work with your employer to develop policies.

  9. Accountability

    Make sure you can answer for your actions. Reflect on why, how and when you use social media and help others do the same. Know that personal use of social media while working could be viewed as client abandonment. If you are unable to discuss your online behavior with others, consider this a red flag. Use professional judgment to keep your obligations to clients, colleagues and employers front and center.

6 'P's of Social Media Use

  • Professional — Act professionally at all times
  • Positive — Keep posts positive
  • Patient/Person-free — Keep posts patient or person free
  • Protect yourself — Protect your professionalism, your reputation and yourself
  • Privacy — Keep your personal and professional life separate; respect privacy of others
  • Pause before you post — Consider implications; avoid posting in haste or anger