Monday January 26th 2015

Uniting on social media guidelines

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

The use of social media and other electronic communication is expanding exponentially; the latest statistics indicate that there are 150 million U.S. Facebook accounts, and Twitter processes more than 250 million tweets worldwide on a daily basis.

Social networking can be a positive tool that fosters professional connections, enriches a nurse’s knowledge base, and promotes timely communication with patients and family members. ANA and NCSBN caution nurses that they need to be aware of the potential consequences of disclosing patient-related information via social media and mindful of employer policies, relevant state and federal laws, and professional standards regarding patient privacy and confidentiality.

“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,” said NCSBN Board of Directors President Myra A. Broadway, JD, MS, RN, executive director, Maine State Board of Nursing.

“Social media can be a powerful tool, one with the potential to enhance or undermine not only the individual nurse’s career, but also the nursing profession,” said ANA President Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN. “ANA hopes these principles provide a framework for all nurses to maintain professional standards in a world where communication is ever changing.”

ANA’s e-publication, “ANA’s Principles for Social Networking and the Nurse,” provides guidance to RNs on using social networking media in a way that protects patients’ privacy, confidentiality, and inherent dignity. It is available as a downloadable, searchable PDF, which is compatible with most e-readers. It is free to ANA members on Nursingworld.org; non-members may purchase the publication at www.nursesbooks.org. ANA also provides additional resources at its Social Networking Principles Toolkit page at www.nursingworld.org/socialnetworkingtoolkit.

NCSBN’s white paper, “A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media,” can be downloaded free of charge at www.ncsbn.org. NCSBN is also developing electronic and hard copy versions of a brochure for nurses and nursing students that details professional standards regarding patient privacy and confidentiality in social networking. And a YouTube video on social media is being produced. Both products were expected to be available in November 2011 and will be accessible via www.ncsbn.org free of charge.

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