Social Media Posts That Can Cause Big Trouble

Article Categories: Legal and Ethics & Other

Claire has been a CNA for five years, and she is very aware of patient confidentiality rules. She thought it was harmless when she shared the photo of a 2-year-old burn patient with her husband through Facebook’s private messaging. She mentioned the patient’s name as well as details about the patient’s parents, who are prominent people in their local town.

The problem became worse when Claire's husband showed the photo to his colleagues at work, one of whom (unknown to the husband) is a near relative of the patient. The relative told the parents, who acted swiftly to file a complaint with the hospital where Claire works. The hospital faced a HIPAA violation, and Claire was fired as a consequence of her actions.

What an unfortunate situation! Claire thought there was zero chance for the photo to cause her any complications at work because she did not actually share it for every single one of her Facebook friends to see, only through a private online conversation with her husband. Yet this seemingly harmless act cost Claire her job.

The fact is, there is no such thing as total privacy when it comes to online sharing sites. However slim the chance, once a patient's private information is on the internet, it is not safe and private anymore.

Social media has become a very powerful tool to connect with others, and as such, nursing assistants should be extra cautious in how they use these sites to share or discuss work-related matters.

Aside from photos and patient information, what other information should not be shared on social media?

1. Trash talking a colleague or boss

It is normal to want to vent your frustrations to someone. If you need to vent to someone, let that someone be a person you trust, not the 2,500 followers you have on Twitter, even if it pertains to someone anonymous. People are good at putting two and two together, and the situation can get pretty ugly. You even risk losing your job. As a general rule, NEVER trash talk to anyone, anywhere. Furthermore, future employers will not look forward to hiring someone who might do the same to them.

2. Ranting about your organization

Organizations work hard and spend a lot of money to maintain their brand image, and therefore do not want negative comments spilling outside their proper channels. Also, it is very improper to post criticisms online about the institution that gave you the opportunity for your current job.

3. Spilling your complaints or frustrations regarding a patient

Facebook is not a therapist, so it is highly inappropriate to blow off steam on social media regarding a patient. CNAs should be professional and composed at all times.

4. Photos of you being inappropriate
What you do in your private life is your own business, but photos of you drunk or being otherwise inappropriate on social media are a no-no because they raise an issue of trust. Pictures of unprofessional behavior violate a patient's trust. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, a Board of Nursing may conduct an investigation on the grounds of unprofessional behavior and unethical conduct.

5. Your organization’s propriety or business information

Whether a hospital or a facility, most of these organizations are also businesses. But even non-profit organizations have information that should not be shared because it could negatively affect their operation. Organizational plans, mergers, future recruits, and financial data are just some of the types of information that a CNA must never share on social media.

Nursing assistants must be aware that we live in a technology-rich world wherein data sharing is just a click away. If you are a CNA, never give out any information about a patient online, or spread anything negative about your job, workplace, or colleagues. The consequences of improper social media use can be devastating to you, your patient, and your organization. Remember to always maintain professional boundaries while using electronic media.


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