Nurses and social media
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) believes that social media can be a powerful tool for rapidly communicating, educating and influencing and has a significant potential to strengthen the nursing profession. ICN supports the use of social media by nurses to stay abreast of recent health care developments, to enrich practice and to dialogue with the professional community and the public.
ICN recognises the benefits of using social media for health promotion and illness prevention and to promote health programmes and services. Social media, when used appropriately, can increase access to timely and credible health information and provides healthcare consumers and providers with tools by which they can share this information with a large audience. It can also be used as a mechanism for sharing the contributions of nursing with the public and to strengthen the image of nursing globally.
Although social media has much to offer, it is important that nurses understand their professional responsibilities regarding its use. Nurses need to be aware of and understand the benefits and risks of its use both inside and outside the workplace. ICN calls on nurses, health care provider organisations, educational institutions, professional associations and regulators to consider and address the professional, ethical, regulatory and legal issues associated with the use of social media. ICN believes that:
Nurses need to:
Healthcare Provider Organisations and Educational Institutions should:
Educate students and nurses in the appropriate ethical and responsible application of social media in practice and develop and disseminate proactive policies and guidelines for the use of social media.
Professional Associations and Regulatory Authorities should:
‘Social media’ describes the online and mobile tools that people use to share opinions, information, 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, blogs (personal, professional and those published anonymously), and microblogs such as Twitter, content-sharing websites such as YouTube and Instagram, and discussion forums and message boards2 . Social media continues to rapidly advance as a mechanism for communication, is being embraced globally and is popular among healthcare professions, including nursing.
Social media has benefits for healthcare providers and consumers alike. When used appropriately, it fosters professional relationships through online communities of practice where information is shared and discussed and can inform and correct misinformation in disaster and emergency situations. It also represents an opportunity to promote healthy attitudes and behaviours. Individuals who have similar health concerns can form virtual communities through which they can connect, interact and share experiences thus creating a sense of empowerment and reducing isolation.
While there are benefits to the use of social media both by the general public and nurses, there are also risks. Areas where social media has been inappropriately used by healthcare professionals, in addition to breaches of
privacy, include bullying of colleagues and peers, online criticism of colleagues or employers, and unprofessional behaviour that may be in breach of codes of conduct. These actions can have a profoundly negative impact on nurses, patients, colleagues, educational institutions, employers and the nursing profession and have resulted in nurses being involved in disciplinary and criminal proceedings. As a result, educational institutions, healthcare employers, professional associations and regulatory authorities are increasingly developing standards, polices and guidelines regarding the use of social media. It is essential that these documents are regularly updated, incorporate all generations of providers in their update and keep pace with socio-technical advances and educational, employment, regulatory and legal decisions that are made regarding social media use.
The continuously expanding use of social media provides unprecedented opportunities for rapid and wide-reaching communication and information sharing and it is essential that nursing and healthcare communities capitalise on and safely harness the power of social media for global outreach.
Adopted in 2015