Social media equips medical practitioners with tools for coordinating treatment, collaborating on research, disseminating information to the public, and fostering healthy lifestyle habits. In a professional setting, nurses may experience a wide range of ethical issues when using social media. Reduced patient confidentiality and loss of trust in the patients are some of the most serious ethical issues nurses may face in a professional setting. Unfortunately, many nurses may not realize that their posts on social media might compromise patient confidentiality and trust and negatively impact their interactions with their patients.
Using social media by nurses in a medical context raises ethical concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality. The infraction may be unintentional or purposeful and take numerous forms. Some nurses might violate patients’ privacy with the information they post on social networking sites, for instance, by posting videos or images of patients without getting their permission and by exposing too much patient data that allows for identification (Hao & Gao, 2017). Patients may feel their respect has been breached, even unintentionally, which can ruin the therapeutic connection between nurses and patients. Worse, these unethical behaviors may harm the nurses’ professional reputations and the standing of medical facilities. Additionally, nurses may experience adverse outcomes like fines, employment dismissal, or a loss of their license.
Another ethical concern that could arise when nurses use social media is professional boundaries. Due to this, it is crucial that all registered nurses, including recently graduated ones, know their duties, responsibilities, and proper conduct when using social media (Hao & Gao, 2017). They should constantly be aware that all of their activity on social media platforms are viewed as public ones. The information they share reflects the integrity of all nurses and can also shape public perceptions of nurses. Additionally, registered nurses must speak up for their patients’ rights and report any suspected privacy violations. Finally, nurses must be conscious of the consequences of making incorrect social media posts.
Accountability is another ethical issue that may face nurses using the internet. The private details about nurses may be available online and accessed without restriction by patients (Grace & Uveges, 2022). Nurses are encouraged to use security settings and act professionally when using the internet for social networking to protect personal data and content. Nevertheless, they know privacy settings are not absolute and that online material will probably remain indefinitely.
Reduced trust from patients is another ethical issue that nurses who use social media may face. Keeping patients’ personal information private is critical to providing high-quality clinical treatment while protecting their trust in their healthcare providers (Surani et al., 2017). Most patients could be reluctant to provide personal information or medical history without assurances of privacy, which might lead to poor treatment. Patients may lose trust in nurses who post their information on social media.
In conclusion, when using social media, health professionals, including registered nurses, are accountable for upholding the standards of practice of the code of ethics. Safeguarding the privacy of patients’ patient data is essential for maintaining their confidence in their healthcare professionals and delivering effective clinical care. Nurses are advised to employ privacy controls and separate private and professional identities to keep personal information and content private when utilizing the internet for online social networking. Maintaining these ethical standards ensures patients are accorded proper care, thus improving therapeutic outcomes.
Grace, P. J., & Uveges, M. K. (2022). Nursing ethics and professional responsibility in advanced practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Hao, J., & Gao, B. (2017). Advantages and disadvantages for nurses of using social media.
Surani, Z., Hirani, R., Elias, A., Quisenberry, L., Varon, J., Surani, S., & Surani, S. (2017). Social media usage among health care providers. BMC Research Notes, 10(1).