By Jennifer Larson
Are you using Facebook to connect with former nursing colleagues and
friends, or posting your résumé on LinkedIn? Do you follow discussions on
Twitter to learn more about breast cancer or diabetes care, or do you collect
pictures and recipes for healthy meals on Pinterest? Have you ever looked for a
new job or researched a hospital or health system on a social media platform?
If so, you’re one of a growing number of nurses
using social media in positive ways to enjoy yourself, advance your nursing
career or both.
“There are a lot of positive things you can do on
social media,” said Terri Gaffney, senior director for new product development
for the American Nurses Association. “It is a really quick and easy way to find
out what’s happening in the health care environment.”
The data also shows that there has been a surge in
the number of nurses using social media for matters related to their nursing
careers in recent years.
In the 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile
Usage by Healthcare Professionals, conducted by AMN Healthcare, more than 500 registered
nurses and advanced practice nurses completed surveys, and nearly 9 out of 10
reported that they use social media for personal and/or professional reasons.
So, for the 90 percent of nurses using social
media, here are some of the smartest ways to put this avenue to work for your
nursing career in a positive way:
1. Follow the basics of good social media behavior
Of course, it’s critical to avoid negative
behavior online—that is, posting any information that could be harmful to your
patients or yourself. By now, everyone has heard stories of nurses who posted
photos or information about patients or their employers on a social media
platform—and gotten fired or disciplined as a result.
Nurses must take care not to compromise their
patients’ privacy online. And it’s common sense to avoid posting anything about
your boss or employer that you wouldn’t want them to hear or read, because it
might just get back to them.
Some experts advise that nurses using social media
may want to set up separate personal and professional accounts and give them
strong privacy settings, but nothing is completely foolproof. Nothing on the
web is completely private, so don’t get lulled into a false sense of security.
2. Build your brand
When it comes to your professional reputation and
your nursing career, consider what image of yourself you are putting on social
media. As Gaffney puts it, “How do you want people to see you?”
Take a second look at the photos that you have
already posted or plan to post, as well as the information contained in any of
your social media profiles. Review your posts and what they say about you. You
want to avoid posting anything controversial that you might regret later.
Essentially, you want to put your best image forward, just in case a colleague,
a recruiter or someone you want to impress gets a look at it.
“Recruiters are checking social media sites now,”
Gaffney noted. “So if you’re whining about your unit on Twitter, recruiters are
going to see that. That’s not going to help your professional image.”
So let discretion be your guide.
3. Learn more
One of the best things you can do online is brush
up on health care topics that will help you stay at the forefront in your
nursing career. Maybe you want to read a journal article that someone has
posted, or you could follow a tweet chat on Twitter that discusses an issue
relevant to your practice of nursing. You can also participate in discussions
on a variety of other social media platforms.
“Ask questions to the huge body of healthcare
professionals engaging with social media,” suggested Wendy Sinclair, lecturer
in children and young people’s nursing at the University of Salford in the
United Kingdom. “Chances are people will positively respond and this will
4. Look for a job
If you’re interested in finding a new nursing
position, social media is definitely one way to go. AMN’s 2013 survey found
that almost half of RNs who reported using social media for job searches are
using it to look for job postings, another 39 percent research potential
employers, 25 percent look for people to help them in their search, 13 percent
contact a recruiter and 6 percent contact a human resources representative.
So where do you start?
“You have to do your homework and use the credible
sites,” Gaffney recommended.
Try the American Nurses Association’s Career
Center, for example, or a well-established website that’s dedicated
specifically to nurses like NursingJobs.com. Or you could go directly to a
hospital’s Facebook page to see if they have posted any open positions.
And don’t miss out on job postings on LinkedIn.
Just be sure your résumé is completely up to date and correct, in case an
employer wants to check you out, too.
5. Engage in professional networking
Many nurses find it is well worth their time to
connect with other nurses and health care professionals through LinkedIn. In
fact, many leaders prefer this site as their go-to professional social media
outlet. You can follow other nurses and leaders you admire, and you can join
groups of professionals with similar interests.
A great way to make use of LinkedIn is to post
updates about your career, such as speaking engagements, journal articles,
committee work, awards or community service. This can help position you as an
expert in your field and raise your profile. You can employ this same strategy
on platforms like Twitter, too.
“We’re talking about leveraging the old business
strategy to help nurses position themselves to be influencers and to influence
the changing health care system,” Gaffney said.
6. Reach patients and the public
Part of your role as a nurse is educating patients
about good health. You might be able to do that on social media in a more
Researchers at UC San Francisco have found that
using Twitter and other social media platforms is a great way to reach young
adults with messages about good health. Specifically they looked at
conversations on Twitter about the dangers of using indoor tanning beds, which
increases a person’s risk of skin cancer. Their analysis was published in an
editorial letter in the July 12 issue of The Lancet.
Consider what you might be able to do on various
social media platforms to get messages out about important health topics, such
as the benefits of getting a flu vaccination. You may even want to consult your
employer to find out if you could do so as an official voice for your
Additional resources: The American Nurses
Association’s Principles for Social Networking National Council of State Boards
of Nursing’s White Paper: A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media. AMN
Healthcare’s 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare
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