Some disturbing examples of inappropriate use of social media by nurses were shown in a presentation at the CRANAplus conference in Darwin yesterday.

NSW nurse Laurie Bickhoff, a member of the Emerging Nurse Leader program, suggested there is serious cause for concern about the way some nurses are using social media.

Ms Bickhoff, who has been active in tweet-reporting the conference, said nursing education and organisations needed to help nurses to better negotiate the social media space.

She cited research showing that nurses are mainly using social media for support and connection to debrief informally, for professional connections and for reflection.

A survey by the Nursing Times found that 41 per cent of respondents said colleagues had used social media inappropriately, for example, including patient information or photographs.

As well as affecting patients’ trust in their carers and the profession more generally, inappropriate use of social media could have legal consequences and affect nurse’s current and future employment, she said.

Ms Bickhoff illustrated her point with a cartoon of three beggars on street with signs saying “unemployable due to stupid personal stuff I put on my facebook page” and “me too” and “for me it was an embarrassing YouTube video”.

Looking at the positives

Meanwhile, the potential positives of social media for health professionals were highlighted in a workshop by Ben Crough, who is close to finishing pharmacy studies at the University of New England, Armidale, and has been an active tweeter from many health conferences.

Colleagues and community members have thanked him for providing such coverage, and he’s also found social media engagement a valuable professional and networking tool, as well as news source.

Ben Crough also presented to the conference on his experience on a month-long practicum last year in the Kimberley, where he will return in December as an intern with the Kimberley Pharmacy Service.

He will be working in Broome, Derby and Fitzroy Crossing, as well as providing services to remote communities, and says he’s become a convert to remote area health because of the passion of remote area health professionals who “sacrifice their own interests to put their patients first”.

He would like to see all remote area health services, including community controlled health services, incorporate pharmacy services.

And here is an example of Twitter-based advocacy…

It seems appropriate to end with this #FridayFollow…

• Further reading on social media: a presentation by University of Sydney researchers Julie Leask and Cameron Webb on social media for researchers; and some practice advice for nurses.

• You can track the CRANAplus conference coverage here.