The 2020 international health crisis has brought welcome positive attention to the “heroes” who are on the front lines facing down a deadly and merciless virus.

With quarantines in place it can be difficult for medical professionals to find the social space to unwind, vent or share how difficult the job can be. Many healthcare workers, especially nurses, inadvertently turn to social media as an outlet. But there can be serious repercussions to posting anything that could be considered unprofessional, insensitive or offensive.

Posts that can be considered unprofessional for California nurses

Nurses should be cautious about posting anything related to their day at work, and even what they do outside of the healthcare facility. Based on recent complaints and cases, these are five topics to avoid when texting or posting on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform.

  1. Photos of patients, their room or social areas, even if the photo does not violate HIPAA. Nurses have been fired for posting pictures of trauma rooms and patients they care for at nursing home facilities.
  2. Pictures or stories that involve drug use or drinking even if this was done on vacation or on time off.
  3. Disparaging remarks about a patient or patient’s family, coworkers, bosses or the healthcare industry.
  4. Verbal or physical fights or arguments with a spouse or intimate partner.
  5. Profanity or racially derogatory comments.

The Board of Nursing (BON) accepts complaints about nurses from anyone, even those who live with the nurse or are friends or social media followers. Nurses should also employ a high level of caution when posting about positive effects of a healthcare service, especially in aesthetics and procedures that are considered cosmetic. Posts that appear online can be seen by anyone. Screenshots and retrieval services mean that posts that were only up for a very short time can be permanently stored.

Nurses whose friends or family members post a compromising picture or story about them should ask that the post be immediately taken down for the safety of their job and professional license.

California nurses who receive notice that they are being investigated by the California Board of Registered Nursing should immediately contact an attorney who works in professional licensing defense.