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Effects of Social Media on Nursing

Submitted by on July 30, 2013 – 11:59 PM

135810412-c-thinkstock1. Introduction


Healthcare is one of the most promising and fastest growing industries today. Every day, we witness new drugs and medical technologies coming into the market. We can see different advancements in technology sprouting out in every nook and corner of our cities. Hospitals are exploring new technologies and avenues to reach out to the masses in an efficient way to win over the competition.


A significant portion of a hospital’s budget goes into educating its staff that includes doctors and nurses. This helps them reach their patients in an efficient and cost effective manner. Nurses who form an integral part of the healthcare system are gradually adopting social media to reach out to their patients. However, it has been seen that, though social media is turning out to be one of the most cost efficient way of reaching out to the masses, improper or insincere usage of the same can create unavoidable incidents which can lead to problem for employers, regulators and educators (1).


2.      Advantages of social media


Nurses can use social media to increase awareness among people, to educate people about various infectious diseases,precautionary or preemptive measures to be taken to safeguard one from such diseases and the various treatments available to cure the same. They can also use social media for communicating with healthcare professionals and also with the family and friends of the patient.


2.1   Education and communication


Public awareness can be attained through conducting various educational programmes on mass scale. Such programmes require continuous education and communication. Hence, it is important that the various stake holders involved in such events communicate effectively (2).


Social media serves the purpose very well as it integrates the various stakeholders in one platform and streamlines the flow of information. It also helps them garner mass attention and serves as a tool for mass dissemination of information (3).


For example, if we want to create mass awareness regarding the onset of an infectious disease or about the ill effects or smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol, we can start by creating dedicated forums which would contain all useful information and would allow people including experts or victims to express their experience and views on the issue. The various connections across the social media would lead to quick dissemination of information. Similarly, if we want to conduct a mass campaign comprising hundreds of volunteers spread across wide geographies, social media would facilitate parallel flow of information and help us co-ordinate the event on a mass scale in a cost effective manner (4).


2.2   Healthcare access across vast distances


Social media can be used to communicate with patients/people, inform them about various wellness schemes, market healthcare products and provide basic healthcare advice and get instant public feedback. It also serves as a strong platform for monitoring the conditions of ex-patients or patients suffering from chronic diseases on a regular basis. Apart from these, it also serves as an effective platform for intimating critical information pertaining to a patient to their relatives/friends (5).


2.3   Professional development using social media


Social media is an important platform to develop nurses professionally. Social media helps one to connect with people of the same profession. Apart from serving one’s networking requirements, it acts as an important tool for knowledge sharing, helping one to connect with experts in different fields. It provides a platform for exchange of views on various classified works, or various developments taking place in the industry (5).


3.      Disadvantages of social media


It is advisable for a nurse to use the social media in a careful and responsible manner. Irresponsible usage of social media can lead to following circumstances:


3.1   Disrespecting privacy and confidentiality of patient


It is obvious for a nurse to know about the information of the patient which is meant to be protected. Hence, it is their duty to maintain the confidentiality of the information. A nurse should not share such protected information of their patients through blogs or photos on social networking sites. Such incidents can led to violation of state laws and can put the nurse in trouble (5).


3.2   Effect of ‘’defamation” on patient’s safety and care


“Defamation” is commenting about someone which can have negative effects on the image of the person (6). If a nurse comments about his/her colleague in social media during non-working hours, it can lead to ‘’lateral violence’’ (5) which in turn affects the bonding among team mates. As a group, nurses are responsible for taking care of the patients. However, if two nurses who are responsible for one patient are not communicating to each other properly it may lead to confusion endangering the safety of the patient.

3.3   Limitations pertaining to holistic information


Monitoring a patient’s condition or providing health advice online, has its own challenges as the available information may not be a holistic representation of the patient’s condition which may lead to a misdiagnosis. Hence, it is advisable to limit such online monitoring or health advice to less critical cases only.


3.4   Social and therapeutic relationship


A nurse should be able to differentiate between social and therapeutic relationship. Therapeutic relationship deals with treating the patient with care whereas social relationship is building a relationship which gives the patient information about the personal life of the nurse that can in turn affect latter’s professional life. It is highly advisable that a nurse engages with a patient in a therapeutically relationship only (6).


4.      Impact on student nurse when out of practicum


4.1   Path of Communication for recruiters


Social media forms a path of communication for many recruiters. So it is advisable to maintain a professional image in social networking platform.


4.2   Accessibility of the profile information


As many people including the recruiters are checking the profile of the candidate through social networking sites, one should be very selective about the information one chooses to share on a public platform. If someone does not want to let people know about something it is advisable not to put such information online (7).


4.3   Recruiter’s view of profile


Recruiter’s often screen suitable candidate online. Therefore sharing professional information can have good effects on the recruiter. For example, if a candidate discusses his/her professional life like information about a company’s policy or sensitive issues like his/her bad relationship with a boss in a social networking site, it can create a bad impression on the recruiters and they may turn down the candidate’s application (7).


5.      Conclusion


Technological advances have their own pros and cons. However, effective integration of technological advances and professional discipline can help us reap the benefits of the same. It is advisable that the nurses use social media for effective communication and networking purposes. However, they should exercise caution in adopting social media. Improper use of social media can be a problem for both patient and nurses.


Organizations and institutes should lay out strict regulations and restrictions pertaining to the contents that are permissible to be put up on social media. Nursing institutes should shape up their students with basic ethics, skills and knowledge so that they equip themselves in a proper way for the betterment of society.


1. Rene Cronquist JRaNSPR. Nurses and Social Media: Regulatory Concerns and Guidelines. Journal of Nursing Regulation. October 2011 p. 37.

2. Communication. A framework for community health nursing education p. 32.

3. Importance of Social Media in CommunityHealth.

4. The role and scope of practice of Community Health Nurses in Victoria. May 2008.

5. A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media.

6. RCNA Social Media Guidelines for Nurses. ; October 2011.

7. Social media and the nursing profession: a guide to online professionalism for nurses and nursing students.


About the Author: Reema Deb, has done her Masters in Microbiology and is currently pursuing a course in clinical research in Mumbai, India. She can be reached at [email protected]


About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2013

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