Nurses, Social Media, and Social Networking: Where Are We?

Social Network


In 2015 I completed  the Certificate in Editing from New York University.

During the program I met people from several different fields: journalism, fashion, politics, diplomacy, sports, publishing, television, art, science and more. Some, like me, were in pursuit of the certificate in editing; some, the certificate in magazine and website publishing; others, the certificate in journalism; and some simply wanted to take courses to increase their knowledge and exposure to social media, website management, and digital technologies.

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In every class, I was the only nurse. Of course, this is a poor sampling, but  when I look at websites and articles that encourage professionals to join the social media universe, few recommendations come from nurses  or nursing organizations and few recommendations are directed toward nurses. If you click the link to Storify, you will find a collection of articles and posts from different web and social media sites about social media and professional nursing; yet, in comparison to other fields, for example medicine, there’s not much emphasis for professional nurses to engage in social media, or encouragement for nurses to interact, share experiences and knowledge, and collaborate across various social media and digital platforms.

Professional nurses should interact, share science and research, and collaborate via social media with the same ferocity as other fields.Here’s a section of a research article about social media and nursing:

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Social media can be an effective tool to reach nurses globally, to disseminate information quickly, and to solicit feedback broadly regardless of geographic barriers. There are multiple uses for all types of social media in education, practice, and research to promote health. Social networking sites and podcasts could be effective tools to reach out to and educate a wide range of nurses regardless of their demographic or background characteristics, and could be used to promote culturally competent care. Social networking sites could be useful for nurses to create social networks of their own and to engage with other healthcare professionals or patients. Nurses can use social networking sites to identify clinical resources, search for job openings, and exchange ideas with others. Social media can also be used in research to recruit participants. Furthermore, content on these sites can be mined and analyzed for innovative care models such as to predict and to track infectious disease outbreaks. The popularity of podcasts can be used to facilitate continuous education in nursing, for virtual clinical practice collaboration, and for patient education. The podcast offers a learning strategy for those who find reading challenging such as people with low literacy levels and learning disabilities. Podcasts can also encourage active learning and self-expression because learners can record and broadcast contents independently. (Kung and Oh, 2014, pp. 64-72)

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The researchers also found that overall, nurses in their study used social question and answer sites, blogs, and Twitter more than other forms social or digital media. The common thread among all three groups was that most nurses who engaged in social media were young, generally ages 20 to 29.  The National Student Nurses’ Association, Inc. (NSNA) publishes recommendations for young nurses on the dos and don’ts of social media in nursing. Other professional nursing organizations have done the same including the American Nurses Association (ANA) and in the interest of professionalism and patient privacy, rightly so. However, organizations, institutional and professional, should consider educating nurses in the positive aspects social media and social platforms as effective tools in mass communication and dissemination of important clinical information.

Kung and Oh found that most nurses in their study who used Twitter as the preferred social media platform were not only young, but also male; yet, the average American registered nurses is 47 years old, and female nurses continue to outnumber male nurses 9 to 1 based on US census data.

In a random, nonscientific crawl through Twitter, I’ve encountered more advance practice nurses with Twitter accounts and followers compared with nurses who do not have advance nursing degrees; yet, BSN and non-baccalaureate RNs nurses significantly outnumber advance practice nurses.

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Social media is an even playing field without age, gender, race, education, or socioeconomic bias; it simply requires the desire to share, network, and learn, and if you’re a nurse, it’s probably some of the easiest learning you’ll do in your career.

Brian Secemsky, M.D. ( a first year resident at the time of the original post, wrote the article Why Every Young Physician Should Have a Professional Twitter AccountSecemsky discussed the importance of professional image and social media on professional careers as well as the advantage of keeping abreast of healthcare issues, research, professional identity, and networking through social media. Everything in Secemsky’s article and other articles about social media in medicine applies to social media and nursing.

If you’re a nurse new to social media, here are a few pointers:

  • The list of social media platforms is extensive and only a few are mentioned here. Use the platforms that works best with your interests. For example,  if you plan on using a lot of photos, consider including Pinterest and Instagram in your social media arsenal.

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  • If you enjoy writing, consider developing and maintaining a blog that links your blog posts to Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms automatically.
  • Every professional nurse should maintain a LinkedIn profile (premium account is not necessary) and connect with fellow professionals. Never connect with someone you do not know unless it is through a trusted mutual acquaintance. Take the time to develop a thorough profile. LInkedIn is your online CV not just a one-page resume.
  • Separate your professional and personal accounts. You don’t want your Game of Thrones comments in the same feed as your comments on serious healthcare issues.
  • If you’re brand new to Twitter start with a personal account to learn the ropes-hashtags, direct messaging, favoriting, tweeting and retweeting. A fun way to learn is to engage in Twitterchats while watching  favorite TV shows. Hashtags indicate a discussion subject.

    If you want to tweet comments during Game of Thrones, search for #GameofThrones. Others in the same Twitterchat will see your comments and for the length of the show you’ll be a little interactive community. You also get a little buzz when your comments are retweeted.

  • Choose a name for your professional account that sounds professional and include your title or credential (JaneSmithRN-C, JohnDoeDNP, etc). This means on Twitter your ID will be @JaneSmithRN-C or @JohnDoeDNP.  Your credential (s) will help increase viewers and followers with similar accomplishments.
  • Twitter allows 160 characters to describe yourself in your bio. Use this tool to describe your professional interests and purpose of your account.
  • Facebook promotes Facebook Pages for business accounts versus personal accounts, and like Twitter,  the two should be kept separate.

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  • On Twitter, include a photo. Although we’re going digital, people like to see a face or some type of visual that affirms they’re interacting with a person.
  • Include a background in the header of your Twitter account because again, viewers are visual. Also, the background gives your site a little of your personality.
  • Don’t just tweet words. People are drawn to photos and images.
  • Once established on Twitter, gain a voice to promote your expertise then consider a logo. A logo says you’re serious about being a recognized brand. Use a site such as for a relatively inexpensive but professional logo, approximately $15.00. Prices start at $5.00 but remember the adage about getting what you pay for. A $15.00 logo can be delivered in less than 24-hours.
  • When you start on Twitter, you’ll want to build a following quickly especially when you find people who have hundreds, thousands, and tens-of-thousands of followers. people iconIndividuals gained those followers over time and with consistent quality tweets. Follow individuals, organizations, and journals worthy of your time and that reflect your interests. Anyone can choose to follow you, but you are not obligated to follow in return. Remember, you’re trying to build a professional community. Who you choose to follow reflects on you professionally. In your posts and in your selection of whom to follow aim for quality, not quantity.
  • If you have doubts about something you’re about to post, don’t post it. Make sure you understand the lengths you must go through to change any event that involves a patient or someone you work with even if it’s a life-saving event or other positive outcome (see Ten Simple Rules for Doctors on Social Media).
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links to information and guidelines on social media

for nurses and physicians




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