Properly using social media is now an important part of every nursing career.

A nurse accesses social media on her phone.From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat, social media is everywhere, and it’s likely you have an account on one or more site. But, as a nurse, you can’t share just anything. You’re bound by both laws and ethical standards to keep certain things private. And failing to do so can harm or even end your nursing career.

If you want to keep your nursing career moving forward, you need to understand what you can and can’t do on social media. Fortunately, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) provides guidelines.1 According to the NCSBN, to avoid violating laws or ethics while using social media, you should:

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Never Post a Photo of a Patient
It’s a violation of patient privacy to share any image for any reason, even if you have a friendly relationship with the patient. The best practice and the best ethical choice is to never use a personal device to take a photo of a patient.

Never Discuss a Patient Online
You may occasionally feel the urge to talk about a difficult or inspiring case. Reject that urge. Revealing information about a patient—even if you only give partial information—can help people identify the patient, which violates their privacy.

Never Post Disparaging Things About a Patient or a Co-Worker
No matter how frustrating a patient may be, you can’t complain about them online without violating patient privacy. Neither should you complain about your co-workers. Doing so can be considered cyber bullying, which is not only prohibited by most employers but can also harm workplace cohesion and create an environment unconducive to good patient care.

Never Lose Sight of Professional Boundaries
Some patients may choose to “friend” you or otherwise interact with you on social media. While you want to have a good relationship with your patients, you should always maintain professional boundaries when communicating with patients or former patients online. Since the line between professional and personal relationships can sometimes be blurry, it’s always best to consult your employer’s policies or speak to the appropriate manager if you’re concerned about your online interactions with a patient.

Never Assume Any Social Media Is Private
You may have your privacy settings turned up to their highest levels, but if you put something on social media, it’s not private. For example, using a patient’s Facebook page to tell them about a result or even to commiserate in a way that mentions specifics of their condition or treatment is likely to be considered a breach of ethics because it’s impossible for you to ensure others won’t see what you’ve posted. When communicating with patients online, the only 100% safe method is to use your employer’s official internet-based system, like your electronic health record (her).

How Else Can You Keep Your Nursing Career Moving Forward?

Adhering to social media guidelines is important, but you’ll likely need to do more than that to advance your nursing career. If you’re looking to get ahead in a meaningful way, one of the best choices you can make is to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. That’s because a master’s degree in nursing can help you prepare to take on leadership-level roles and acquire the qualifications you need to become a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse manager, or nursing informatics professional.2

The question you may be asking is: can you complete an MSN program while continuing to work all your nursing shifts? Thanks to online education, you can. Unlike with campus-based nursing schools, an online nursing school doesn’t require you to drive somewhere to take classes. Instead, when you earn your master’s in nursing online, you can complete your coursework from home or from anywhere you have internet access. Plus, online MSN programs offer a lot of flexibility, allowing you to arrange your class schedule around your work schedule, so you don’t have to miss any shifts. And if that wasn’t reason enough to choose online learning, many of the best online universities have programs that let you go straight from RN to MSN instead of requiring you to earn a BSN first.

Succeeding in a nursing career requires understanding and adhering to guidelines like those for social media use. But you don’t have to stop there. By earning a Master of Science in Nursing, you can put yourself in position to take your career to the next level.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

2Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,

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