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Social media and your nursing license: What you need to know

Social media is an integral part of American culture these days. People post about everything in their lives -- their greatest triumphs, their worst fears and even what they have for dinner.

If you're a nurse, however, you have to watch what you post because it could cost you your job and your license. Here are some guidelines you need to use:

1. Never post anything that constitutes a breach of privacy.

Your employer -- and the state's licensing board -- takes patient privacy very seriously. You can never publish anything in a text, message, or through an online post that:

  • Includes photos or videos of a patient
  • Uses a patient's name
  • Provides information that could be used to somehow identify a patient
  • Is directed toward a patient or former patient
  • Promotes health care services
  • Takes a controversial view on a health topic (like anti-vaccination sentiments)
  • Disparages your co-workers or place of employment

Remember, there is no such thing as privacy online. For example, a Texas nurse was fired after her revealing posts to an anti-vaccination group were copied by someone in the group who was there purposefully to gather information about those associated with the movement.

2. Think twice before you post anything personal that's questionable.

Anything you do in your private life that could affect your ability to care for others or puts others in danger could put your license at risk. This includes:

  • Posts that indicate (even jokingly) that you use drugs
  • Posts that show you drinking
  • Threatening or abusive language toward others

You should generally behave online no differently than you do at work. Keep your language in check. Don't post if you're particularly emotional or angry about a subject.

If you're contacted by the nursing board about an online post, don't try to handle the issue on your own. An attorney with experience defending professional licenses against allegations of misconduct can help you assess the situation.

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