Being Empathetic on Social Media

About 80% of people in the United States use social media, and healthcare professionals are also included in that group. Recently, many people have been fired or suspended due to the content they post on social media. For instance, labor and delivery nurses from Emory were fired due to a TikTok about patient “icks” (something that prompts disgust or is a turn-off) they posted. While social media can be a boon for healthcare, we need to practice empathy and professionalism when everything that gets posted is public and can stay online forever. 

The Value of Social Media 

Social media is a great tool for healthcare professionals. It can be used to spread awareness, network and advance your career, and stay updated with new policies and technology. As a healthcare professional, you can help inform the general population and mentor any budding professionals. 

There are many healthcare influencers that have made a following on social media by sharing their experience. Nurse Blake, who is active on TikTok, regularly posts content about his job as a nurse and about patients. Even though both Nurse Blake and the nurses at Emory were sharing information about their patients, one of them receives a lot of followers and positive feedback, while the others were reprimanded. What makes the two different? How do you know what you should and shouldn’t post? 

Get Consent 

If you want to post a video with someone else, you always need to get consent. Even if they don’t appear in the video and you only mention a name or some identifying feature of theirs, stay on the safe side and make sure you have their consent. Posting a picture of a patient without permission, which is what a Floridian nurse did in 2021, is a big breach of patient confidentiality. Even if a patient consents, make sure you protect their identity by using initials or pixelating identifying features, or even by acting as the patient and using stock photos instead, like in this video. 

Practice Empathy 

Even if you remove all identifying information about a patient and you seek to be extremely broad when speaking, putting patients in a bad light or mocking them isn’t a good move. A primary reason why the nurses at Emory Hospital were fired was due to the disrespectful nature of the comments. Sharing stories and experiences are not inherently bad but being unprofessional and making fun of people you work with and for is a different story.  

If you want to share a story to help inform others, practice empathy. Imagine yourself in the other person’s place. If you saw a video about you in that context, would you feel ashamed or bad about yourself? Would you know it was about you? Is your personal information and life going to be affected? Is the content something that would make patients distrusting and uncomfortable with healthcare providers?

Be Mindful 

Using social media is fine but be mindful of the content you post. Even if you aren’t posting as an employee of your facility, everybody can access your content, and you are still a representative of your company. Maintain your professionalism, and refrain from posting content that can be used to identify your patients or content that puts them in a bad light. Under HIPAA, healthcare providers cannot share patient health information without the patient’s consent or knowledge. Use your best judgement, and if you’re ever unsure about whether to post something, just don’t post it. Social media is a great tool when used correctly, but many people forget that anything posted on the internet can be accessed by anybody and it will stay there forever. Stay diligent! 


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