Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger Discusses Social Media Pitfalls for Nurses

It seems like almost everyone enjoys social media. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all fun places to reconnect with friends, debate issues of the day, and blow off steam. But as every nurse knows, nurses must present themselves as professional to their community and to protect their patients’ privacy. While fun, social media is also a serious hazard when nurses portray themselves as unprofessional—pictures of one too many margaritas on vacation—or violate confidentiality—gripes about the third colostomy bag you had to change during your shift. Seemingly funny posts, sarcasm taken out of context, and “gallows humor” can all easily be misconstrued and lead to ethics complaints. If you find yourself facing allegations of unprofessional conduct because of social media posts, you need to contact an experienced licensing attorney immediately.

If you are a nurse in Kansas or Missouri facing an allegation of misconduct or an investigation, call attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule a free consultation. Your career, reputation, and livelihood are at risk, and the challenge facing you is one you cannot work your way through alone.

HIPAA Concerns and Patient Privacy

You hopefully already know that is a violation of HIPAA to share any patient information with anyone outside the medical environment, including on social media.  There have been stories in the news about medical professionals who record or photograph patients while they are sedated or asleep. Never engage in this unethical conduct.

Social media can make the line between ethical and unethical conduct less clear.  It is a smaller world than we often believe, and a comment made to your social media “friends” can easily be forwarded on to others, including patients you are treating or their family. A flippant comment on Facebook about changing a patient’s colostomy bag, even if you did not name the patient in your post, can come to that patient’s attention, raise ethical concerns, and complaints.

Unprofessional Behavior

You already know that nurses are held to a higher standard than other professions.  Pictures involving drinking, recreational drug use, or any other conduct that makes the nurse appear unprofessional and can lead to ethics complaints.  So while a simple post with a picture of your crazy night on vacation that you intended to be shared only with your friends may not seem like a serious issue, it can be taken out of context by a patient who believes you are doing that partying on the night before her surgery.

Workplace Complaints

Workplace complaints expressed on social media pose a complex problem.  You have a first amendment right to make certain statements, and federal, and state labor rights may protect your right to complain about workplace conditions on social media. Generally speaking, courts see social media as the “virtual watercooler” where employees are allowed to gather and gripe. But there are many variables at issue when it comes to workplace complaints, such as whether you are a public or private employee and whether the comment was about the workplace or patients.  Usually, public employees have more expansive rights than employees of a private employer, and while employees are generally allowed to complain about the workplace, they are typically prohibited from complaining about patients or customers.  Because this is a tricky area, I recommend keeping your privacy settings to private so that your posts are limited to those you know.

Contact an Experienced Kansas and Missouri Licensing Attorney Now for the Advice You Need

Don’t let a poorly considered social media post mean the end of your nursing career. You have worked too hard to attain your nursing license to lose it because you failed to attain professional legal advice when you needed it. You need to speak to a licensing attorney as soon as you become aware that there are allegations concerning your professional conduct or ethics.  Contacting an experienced licensing attorney now can mean the difference between getting back to helping your patients or clients and losing your career forever.

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger is prepared to advocate for your best interests and defend your nursing license. Call Attorney Sanger at 785-979-4353 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney experienced dealing with professional licensing issues.