Tuesday October 22nd 2019

Who is watching whom?

ONA task force believes comprehensive strategies on social media use are needed

The Ohio Nurses Association (ONA) recently launched a task force to determine how often patients and their families are using social media devices to document the actions of nurses as they go about providing care. Moreover, the ONA group wants to create strategies to address the inappropriate use of social media within health care settings.

This summer, the task force posted a survey on the ONA website asking members about their experiences involving social media, and what types of policies their employers have around its use. Nurses responding to the survey so far have reported that their employers have policies that specifically address employee misuse of social media.

“Some employees have been disciplined over their use of social media, even to the point of termination,” said Joyce Powell, BSN, RN, CEN, a staff nurse and ONA Social Media Task Force member.

Yet most employers do not have a policy regarding the appropriate use of social media by patients, visitors and families, according to Kathleen Morris, MSA, RN, ONA’s director of Nursing Practice and task force liaison. Additionally, surveyed nurses have reported situations in which a physician or supervisor might request staff nurses to use social media in a way in which they are not comfortable, particularly given the absence of any policy in place to support their actions.

“Facilities have done a great job educating staff about their use of social media and [protecting patient privacy and confidentiality], but now we are seeing the flip side,” said Georgia Ann Lindsey, MSN, RN-BC, CNS, a staff nurse, faculty member and task force member. Some nurses are reporting that they are being photographed or video recorded by patients or their family members using smartphones or other mobile devices, often without disclosing the fact to nurses up front.

The task force also discovered that when nurses asked people why they were video recording staff, the video-takers would give reasons, such as just wanting to remember directions about medications or care — even if those interventions weren’t taking place at the time.

One of the ONA task force’s primary concerns is patient care. What and who is being captured when someone is taking photos or videos of nurses when they are administering medications, turning patients, changing dressings and explaining test results? And where are those images landing?

“When people are taking photos or videos in a patient room or other hospital area, they are not focused on who else is in the room,” Powell said. “So other patients’ privacy and confidentiality can be compromised. Further, health care facilities might be held responsible for HIPAA violations that they can’t control, especially when they have no policies in place.”

These actions can also interfere with overall patient care, she said.

Lindsey agreed, noting that taking photographs or videos of nurses can affect the collaborative relationship and trust between patients and nurses, as well as make staff anxious.

“All of us should have a right to go about our jobs without that level of scrutiny,” Lindsey said. She hopes that the task force’s efforts will result in building greater awareness of this issue among nurses and employers, and that effective policies can be developed that will benefit everyone.

Powell said that hospitals already have policies preventing guns and liquor on-site, but it may be more difficult to enforce a social media ban given that phones and other mobile devices are part of everyday life.

The ONA task force was created in response to a 2013 ONA House of Delegates action calling for the association to explore the implications of social media use by patients, families, nurses, nursing students and employers. The resolution also asked ONA to promote the formation of employer policies and education that would protect RNs and other health care workers from having their rights violated through the use of social media devices.

— Susan Trossman is the senior reporter for The American Nurse.

ANA resources

Social media
For guidance on social media practices for RNs, visit ANA’s Social Media Toolkit at www.nursingworld.org/socialnetworkingtoolkit.

Related story
Read “At the push of a button: Patients, nurses use apps to augment health care” in the Sept./Oct. 2013 issue of The American Nurse online at TheAmericanNurse.org.

What do you think?

Stay tuned for more updates on this workplace issue. In the meantime, have you or one of your colleagues been video recorded or photographed at work? Write to TANeditor@ana.org.

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