Friending patient families on social media?

  1. Hi fellow nurses, I am looking for advice / opinions...

    What are the rules for friending patient families on social media after their discharge?

    Background: I am a NICU nurse, and oftentimes when a baby is with us for a long time, the parents grow close to many of the nurses. I have seen some fellow nurses who are friends with some of the parents on Facebook and/or Instagram, and as much as I would love to stay in contact with some of the parents, something in the back of my mind tells me that this isn't quite right.

    Also, what should be done if a baby's parents try to contact me, as opposed to me contacting them? In that instance, would it be permissible to be friends with them?

    I hope that this post makes sense, and I apologize if this question has already been asked and I missed it in the archives
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    About Missie Hannie, RN

    Joined: Jun '16; Posts: 41; Likes: 56

    14 Comments

  3. by   Double-Helix
    Don't mix personal and professional. Ever. Just don't. I understand that you build relationships with these families, but more harm than good could come from inviting patients to have access to your personal life.

    I'm sure your NICU already has mechanisms in place for allowing parents to keep the staff updated about their children, if they so choose. If they don't, maybe you can consider working your tour hospital leadership to organize reunions or a separate webpage where families can share their progress.

    I suggest adjusting your privacy settings so you can't easily be found and contacted on social media. And if a family does request, simply say that you aren't allowed per your facility.
  4. by   amoLucia
    Ditto to the recommendation to avoid media contact.

    I find it interesting to think that healthcare has existed for centuries WITHOUT involved parties having to feel some need to maintain past pt/family contacts via the WEB. But now it's such a dilemma!

    In SNF/LTC, I had pts discharge or die. And I did have a 'soft spot' for some of them while in my care. Same for some families. OCCASSIONALLY, I'd think about them - for a few months or so. MAX!

    And I'm a nurse who went to a few select viewings and funerals. That was closure.

    End of relationships.
  5. by   Miiki
    Management tells us it's ok after discharge. The extent of my interaction is heart reactions on baby pictures. I just like seeing them get big. I generally don't talk to them, but I would never give advice or comment on medical related posts.
  6. by   JustBeachyNurse
    Just say no. Not a HIPAA issue but may violate hospital policy. Ignore requests.
  7. by   sirI
    Duplicate threads merged.
  8. by   Leader25
    Nurses do it but I do not nor recommend it.Isaw the story of a nurse posting something that other did not like, this stranger looked up where she worked from her FB posts,profile,and reported it to HR,she got fired or suspended pending investigation.
  9. by   BeccaznRN
    Count me as another that refuses to mix my personal and professional lives; as such, I have never friended former NICU families or current coworkers. We have plenty of nurses that do, but that's on them. I like my personal life drama-free, and friending former NICU families seems like trouble waiting to happen.
  10. by   TiffyRN
    The unit where I work states we shouldn't friend families while the child is in the unit. They strongly discourage but do not forbid friending families after discharge. We all know that in the past families could send pictures to the unit to update the staff but of course they get very limited feed-back (awe! She looks so awesome! What cheeks!).

    In today's FB era, one thing they did I really like is the unit started a closed FB group open to graduate families and staff. This was sanctioned by management. In this space, families can share pictures and updates and get feedback from staff. You don't have to friend anyone and a responsible staff member and family volunteer (parent advisory types) moderate and make sure it doesn't become a space for soliciting medical advice or anything else inappropriate.
  11. by   nurse1432
    I wouldn't.... it is really just asking for trouble.
  12. by   Daisy Joyce
    I wouldn't.
    I had a home care case where the patient's older brother was the same grade as my son, but went to a different school than my kiddo. The mom and I got along fine, and we had a lot of mutual friends on Facebook, and wound up replying to the same post once (not to each other), but she never approached me electronically, nor me to her.
    My next home care case my son was at the same school as my patient's brother--and I have the school sticker on my minivan. The parents told me to ask my son if they knew their son, but I was just honest with them and explained that it felt too close to violating privacy to me. They were very nice and understanding about it.
  13. by   bibay45
    I've often thought of this over the years. There are always the patients that were with you for months at a time and you feel close to the families. I feel like you really shouldn't "friend" patients while they are still in-house. Wait until they've been discharged. Also, if you friended every "special" family, you'd end up with tons of people you look back and think, "who were they again?" Over the years, there will be many families special to you, but maybe not enough to keep the hundreds as friends on social media.
  14. by   KKEGS
    The hospital that I work for has a social media policy that forbids "friending" former patients and their families. While that is the official policy I don't know if the hospital every enforces it. I know many nurses who are not only friends on FB but have attended birthday parties and even weddings of their former patients' parents.

    I would go with what your gut is telling you. If it doesn't feel right to you then don't do it. I have established boundaries between myself and my patients and their families. Yes, I have been asked to be "friends" on FB and I just say no, I am not allowed to do that. I have yet to have a family get upset when I tell them no. My reasons for doing so are that I prefer to keep my personal and professional lives separate. I also feel like calling my former patients' families my "friends" isn't quite right. I think the intensity of the NICU and the fact that you do care for these babies for many, many months can create a feeling of intimacy with the family but, for me anyway, it's a false sense of intimacy that is heightened by the intense emotions associated with intensive care work.

    Anyway, that's my two cents.

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