Social Media Tips (by Ruth Frankenfield)


Several years ago, a nurse was fired from her job for posting a photo on Instagram of a trauma room with the caption, “Man vs 6train…”. Before posting she made sure that it didn’t violate HIPPA laws or hospital policies/procedures. None the less, she was fired for posting a photo that was deemed “insensitive” by hospital administration. The picture, which was showed an empty trauma room where a patient had been treated after getting hit by a subway train.


In talking about the incident, the nurse said that her intention was to depict the heroic effort that was made to save the patient’s life. The hospital’s administration’s concern was the potential impact on the patient’s family or friends who might see the post, an unintended but potentially painful consequence of a well-intended social media post.


It is so tempting to use social media to satisfy our desire to share our experiences. However, it is important to consider all of the potential ramifications. Our work at the James is rich with fascinating stories and dramatic situations that are often poignant, sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous and often heartwarming. It’s natural to want to share them; but how do we know what’s safe and acceptable? That it won’t get us in trouble?


The ANA has published “6 Tips to Avoid Problems”


  1. Remember that standards of professionalism are the same online as in any other circumstance.
  2. Do not share or post information or photos gained through the nurse-patient relationship.
  3. Maintain professional boundaries in the use of electronic media. Online contact with patients blurs this boundary.
  4. Do not make disparaging remarks about patients, employers or co-workers, even if they are not identified.
  5. Do not take photos or videos of patients on personal devices, including cell phones.
  6. Promptly report a breach of confidentiality or privacy.


References: American Nurses Association. (2011, September): Principles for social networking and the nurse. Silver Spring, MD. Author: National Council of the State Boards of Nursing (2011, August) White Paper: A nurse’s guide to the use of social media. Chicago, L Author.