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Social Media in Nursing: Pitfalls and Opportunities

Using social media in nursing practice may be a productive activity, but before introducing this approach, it is essential to carry out preparatory work. Firstly, as Milton (2016) states, a provider needs to make sure that the content published online and sent to patients does not contain information that can be judged biased or unethical. Ignoring this step is evidence of unprofessional behavior and ignorance of the basic principles of the nurse-patient communication process. Secondly, it is important to control that those materials sent via social media are understandable to recipients and cannot be controversial.

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For the interaction of healthcare providers with patients to be productive, interested parties should use those platforms that allow exchanging not only text but also video and audio files. This will help attach various training tutorials and enable medical staff to have a comprehensive picture of the problems and experiences of the target audience. In addition, data exchange in different formats can be more convenient than regular text messaging.

Despite the potential benefits of using social media in nursing, some pitfalls exist. For instance, Smailhodzic, Hooijsma, Boonstra, and Langley (2016) note the “loss of privacy” as one of the negative outcomes of online interaction (p. 442). Close contact between patients and providers can lead to bias on either side, which is undesirable in care practice. Another potentially negative aspect of such communication is a loose communication style, which is unacceptable in conditions of professional correctness. According to Smailhodzic et al. (2016), utilizing social media can be both by patients’ and nurses’ way of releasing negative emotions. These pitfalls are important to be wary of and avoid by observing the necessary norms of online interaction.

During the transition to online interaction with patients, nurses should take the necessary preparatory steps to make communication not only productive but also objectively justified. According to De Gagne, Yamane, Conklin, Chang, and Kang (2018), providers should develop a protocol for monitoring social media activity to ensure that all digitally transmitted content is consistent with the principles of ethical collaboration. Also, the communication process itself should be designed so that both parties could have constant access to a particular online platform to maintain regular contact.

The competent use of digital technologies in social media allows nurses to conduct effective educational activities among the target audience. As Piscotty et al. (2015) remark, online communication facilitates the exchange of valuable experience and helps find individual points of contact with each specific case, which increases the outcomes of care. Also, the authors note the convenience of virtual interaction in the context of the speed of contact between stakeholders, which eliminates the need to spend time on physical examinations at patients’ homes (Piscotty et al., 2015). These advantages serve as strong arguments in favor of the use of social media.

Nevertheless, although social media is a convenient tool for the interaction of nurses with patients, this practice may have some negative implications. For instance, from the perspective of providers, Piscotty et al. (2015) mention periodic “distractions and interruptions,” which adversely affect the productivity of performing immediate duties (p. 64). As the authors argue, from the standpoint of patients, online communication with medical professionals may be fraught with the inadvertent disclosure of personal data (Piscotty et al., 2015). Cyber attacks and software failures can lead to the theft or loss of confidential information. Therefore, when establishing a network of interaction through social media, it is essential to foresee all potential pitfalls and make efforts to prevent them.


De Gagne, J. C., Yamane, S. S., Conklin, J. L., Chang, J., & Kang, H. S. (2018). Social media use and cybercivility guidelines in US nursing schools: A review of websites. Journal of Professional Nursing, 34(1), 35-41. Web.

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Milton, C. L. (2016). Power with social media: A nursing perspective. Nursing Science Quarterly, 29(2), 113-115. Web.

Piscotty, R., Voepel-Lewis, T., Lee, S., Annis, A., Lee, E., & Kalisch, B. (2015). Hold the phone? Nurses, social media, and patient care. Nursing 2019, 45(5), 64-67. Web.

Smailhodzic, E., Hooijsma, W., Boonstra, A., & Langley, D. J. (2016). Social media use in healthcare: A systematic review of effects on patients and on their relationship with healthcare professionals. BMC Health Services Research, 16(1), 442. Web.

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