Don't Risk Your Job Over Social Media

It's so easy to post anything on social media and to believe you're in a safe bubble with just you and your friends. But you're not. Nurses General Nursing Article


Don't Risk Your Job Over Social Media

Social media

The use of social media and other electronic communication is expanding exponentially; today's generation of nurses grew up in a social media milieu.

Social media provides wonderful online communities for nurses to post and interact. I myself have met amazing colleagues on Twitter I would not have otherwise met. I've been on Twitter as @bhawkesrn since 2009 and thankfully never violated HIPAA or posted an over-the-top rant.

Thankfully because social media is far-reaching and nothing can be easily and permanently deleted once posted.

Poor Judgement

Lindsay posted a picture of herself on Facebook at a party showing a lot of side boobage.

It was shocking and hard to reconcile the image of her as a responsible nurse in scrubs with a blatantly sexy picture. Of all the hundreds of images she posted, this may have been most memorable. She took it down, it stayed up only 24 hours, but the damage was done. It's not that it wasn't attractive, it's poor judgment.

Sheila posted in a large Facebook group that she was looking for a job... because her nurse manager played favorites...unfortunately her nurse manager was tipped off by someone in the same group. It can blur the lines and pose a risk when you friend your boss on Facebook.

I'll never forget an ED nurse I knew personally who took a picture of a tattoo located on a patient's genitalia- what was she thinking? "I'll never see something like this again, I have to get a picture and show my friends"? To make it even worse, there were four other employees in the group and no one said anything. Until later, when one nurse was bothered by the incident and spoke up. She reported it to the manager, and of course, the nurse was fired.

My heart goes out to this patient who trusted himself in our care and was taken advantage of.

Katie Duke, a popular nurselebrity, starred in a medical reality TV show a few years back, ABC's New York Med. As a nurse in the ED, she dealt with trauma and death every day.

One day she posted an image on Instagram of a room after a code in a trauma room. A man had been hit by a train and had been treated in this room. If you've ever been in a code, you can picture the scene.

The gurney is gone, leaving a clean floor space in the center of the chaos. The room looks as if a bomb went off, with paper wrappings thrown on the floor, discarded supplies, maybe a bloody get the idea.

It was an evocative picture but did not reveal any patient information of any sort. Even though she did not violate any HIPAA laws, she was fired that same day from New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she had worked for seven years, being insensitive. Katie claims that the image was taken by a doctor, although shared by her, but that the doctor was not reprimanded.

I'm sure she suffered a lot afterward and regretted her choice.

Other examples include nurses posting X-rays on Facebook, employees taking shots of residents in nursing homes, and posting without consent. Sometimes an employee will only receive a warning at work but typically these violations are not taken lightly, and the current trend is to be terminated.

Impulse and Anonymous Posts

Impulsive posts, venting, inappropriate humor...we see it all the time on social media. Remember humor doesn't always translate well in text and can backfire.

I have been on social media for many years, but never as anonymous. It was a boundary that kept me in check especially when I wanted to vent, and it prevented me from using bad language or making other poor choices.

My rule is to only post whatever I'd be OK with my mother reading and seeing. If I hadn't done that, I could easily have sabotaged my own career down the road. I would not have been able to become a nurse author and write a book, I'm sure.


As professionals, we must never breach hospital policy or violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a law known as HIPAA, that protects patient privacy.

Most facilities have social media and patient privacy policies in place- be sure and read yours.


The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN®) posted a joint statement on professional responsibility in social media. have mutually endorsed each organization's guidelines for upholding professional boundaries in a social networking environment.

According to NCSBN Board of Directors President Myra A. Broadway, JD, MS, RN:

"Nurses must recognize that it is paramount that they maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times, regardless of the mechanism that is being used to transmit the message, be it social networking or a simple conversation. As licensed professionals, they are legally bound to maintain the appropriate boundaries and treat patients with dignity and respect,"


Inappropriate posts on social media can get you kicked out of nursing school, fired, or not hired at all.

If you think only your "friends" see your postings, remember that curious hiring managers can simply google your name and check your online presence and postings with little effort.

Protect your online presence and if you question whether you should post something- you probably shouldn't.

Career Columnist / Author

Nurse Beth is an Educator, Writer, Blogger and Subject Matter Expert who blogs about nursing career advice at

157 Articles   3,217 Posts

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1,476 Posts

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU.

I am very much anti-social media in general and have avoided it at all costs for about 8 years. That has a lot to do with the fact that during the first four years prior to that when I started as a nurse, I knew of way too many people in my facility who were disciplined and even fired for incidents related to social media, and not all of them were blatant/obvious ones. It's just not worth the risk to me. I always recommend that people don't associate their place of employment with their social media profiles too.

From what I remember of the Katie Duke situation, the issue wasn't so much that she didn't blatantly violate HIPAA by saying names or anything, but I believe the title of the picture was something like "Man v. Train." Any family member, or person who watched the news and heard there was a train accident, could put two and two together.

OrganizedChaos, LVN

1 Article; 6,883 Posts

Specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab.

I'm on Facebook for family & friends & on Twitter for myself, anonymously.

When I am on Facebook I don't post anything that can get me in trouble. Twitter, I don't have anything that can be tracked back to myself. No photos, email, nothing. I keep them as separate as possible. Same as here.


6 Posts

I absolutely understand the need to protect patient privacy and adhere to HIPAA, but I couldn't care less how much "boobage" a nurse is showing in a picture or if he/she curses and/or vents in his/her private life. As long as a nurse is competent and compassionate while respecting my rights to privacy that is all I require to deem them a professional. This type of overreach into the personal lives of healthcare professionals is one reason why I have serious doubts about being a nurse. I curse like a sailor, I have a twisted sense of humor, and I vent often about subjects that matter to me (although I don't do so on the job). I don't intend to live my life in fear of what others may think of me. I would be a great nurse, but giving up being human may be too high a price to pay.


40 Posts

This is why I keep my social Media life segregated from my work / professional Life. I use a different name on Social Media. I never become friends with anyone at work. Never managers or co-workers.I provide no personal information about myself on my site, including where or who I work for. NEVER POST ANYTHING FROM OR ABOUT WORK. I Only friend people who know me from the VERY VERY FAR past. I'm unfindable to new people. ANYBODY WHO DOES THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT I DO IS ASKING TO BE FIRED, OR SIMPLY NOT HIRED.

klone, MSN, RN

14,691 Posts

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership.

Right now I'm sitting on my fingers, as I'm seeing a big Facebook conversation happening on my community's FB page, talking about our hospital and specifically my unit. And I want to say "It didn't happen that way!! You're lying!!" IT'S SO HARD.

Alas, I value my job. So I will be silent and let the lies and inaccuracies continue to be propagated.


258 Posts

Specializes in ambulant care.

Fact is, that many people are inable to switch their brains on, before opening their accounts. The web never forgets a thing. You´r talking to the world, and not only to the person you suspect.


10 Posts

I never friend co-workers or anyone associated with my workplace, post locations or associate my posts with where I am employed. I do, however, have a profile that is me, that is blocked to anyone I am not friends with. I feel like I have a right to post things relevant to me life, within reason, without being vulgar, cursing etc. without being afraid that my passion about the evil of things like fossil fuels and plastic killing sea life could be viewed as too opinionated. If an employer or someone outside of my circle of friends feels the need to stalk my profile and find ways around the security parameters I've set, that should be some sort of cyber invasion of privacy violation.

Specializes in LongTerm Care, ICU, PCU, ER.

If that nurse was identified as a nurse on a particular unit/hospital, she can be disciplined. Why? Because she is a " representative " of that unit/facility, even when she is off duty. This happened to some nurses where I once worked and this was the reason given ( they were reprimanded). No, it isn't fair, but social media has taken away our anonymity.

Ruby Vee, BSN

47 Articles; 14,024 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

One isn't as anonymous as one thinks, even here on AN where anonymity is encouraged.

I've recognized real-life colleagues here before. One time I recognized an orientee who was about to start in the disciplinary process. I had questions about whether her actions were the result of ignorance (which can be overcome) or ill-will, but reading her post to this forum made it absolutely clear that the actions were the result of ill-will. My manager and I had already decided upon a course of action, so my reading of her post did not change the initial steps of the disciplinary process, but it did inform subsequent steps.

One should always behave, even on an anonymous site, as if one's boss, teacher, grandmother or mother were reading one's posts. You never know when that may actually be the case.


5 Posts

Specializes in Psychiatry.

My philosophy about social media posts is to always be professional (if even tangentially related to one's workplace), never post in anger or impulse, try to be positive, and always remember that there is no privacy! Anonymity is an illusion. Would I say or show this face to face?

Specializes in Medsurg/ICU, Mental Health, Home Health.

Another thing - if you call out for any reason STAY OFF OF SOCIAL MEDIA! Ya never know who is going to claim you were well enough to be on Facebook. (Even though we all know that when you're too sick too work you still can be bored at times.)

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