DiversityNursing Blog

How Nurses Should Be Using Social Media

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Nov 14, 2016 @ 03:36 PM

social.pngPrivacy on social media feels like it's fading away when it seems as though everyone, and their mothers, are posting their daily lives on line. Need an answer to something, you can check online forums. If you forget someone's birthday, Facebook will remind you. 
 
You find yourself posting photos of your trips or special moments in your life. You even get into political views and other opinion related discussions online. But privacy in healthcare is something everyone takes seriously. So how does Nursing and social media work together in balance? Read below to find out! 

Thanks to a technologically advanced society and easy access to digital sources of communication, social media is becoming an increasingly effective, wide-ranging tool for nurses. However, with this resource comes great responsibility. As nurses navigate social networking sites, chat rooms, blogs and public forums, there is a dangerously thin line between professional and personal online etiquette. Health care employees must maintain patient confidentiality and privacy at all times, as well as serve as a positive representation of their place of employment. Inappropriate use of social media often leads to disciplinary action; and in the most serious cases, can negatively affect a nurse’s career and license.

Privacy Issues Regarding Nurses Using Social Media

“Nursing is a profession that is laden with risks related to disclosure of protected information,” says Jonathan Greene, social media expert and author of Facebook is a Pub Crawl: 15 Simple Strategies for Social Media Excellence. “For that reason, nurses have to be careful about anything that would violate HIPPA standards.”

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), confidential information should be shared only with the patient’s informed consent, when legally required, or where failure to disclose the information could result in significant harm. Any breach of trust associated with a nurse-patient relationship has damaging repercussions, and often winds up hurting the overall trustworthiness of the nursing profession as a whole.

Breaches of patient confidentiality or privacy on social media platforms (whether intentional or inadvertent) can occur in many different ways, such as:

  • posting videos or photos of patients – even if they can’t be identified
  • posting photos or videos that reveal room numbers or patient records
  • descriptions of patients, their medical conditions, and/or treatments
  • referring to patients in a degrading or demeaning manner

A violation of patient confidentiality takes place as soon as a nurse shares information (or even the slightest bit of details – no matter how insignificant they may seem) over the Internet with someone who is not authorized to receive such information. Examples include reflecting on the severity of a car accident victim’s injuries, or even commenting on the number of medications that a patient has to take.

Beneficial Ways that a Nurse Can Use Social Media

With the ability to establish positive interaction and communication with patients (and their family), Debi Deerwester, DNP, FNP-BC, Chief Clinical Officer/Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer/Vice President of Clinical Operations at WhiteGlove Health, says there are many ways a nurse can utilize social media to a healthcare advantage, such as promoting the profession through educating the public.

Social media outlets and actions beneficial to nurses include the following:

  • Blogging: “Blogging on the industry they love in a positive and thoughtful way, [nurses] can become subject matter experts,” says John Lincoln, of Internet marketing company Ignite Visibility. “Having an individual blog and social media presence shows their dedication to the field, helps them stay on top of trends in the industry and looks great to employers.”

He also suggests that increasing visibility through an online presence can help nurses get ahead in their career, which in some cases, could lead to a higher position and/or a raise.

In addition to promoting their value within the workplace, nurses can also use social media to promote their outside, health-related endeavors and interests. “Usually I reserve public posts about health care to try convincing colleagues to buy my books,” says Nick Angelis, author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School).

  • Twitter: Offering a popular real-time form of communication, Twitter is often seen as one of the easiest ways to maintain contact with people, especially in times of crises. From posting health safety notices to explaining drug recall information to answering emergency questions, nurses can provide quick responses and critical assistance to the public.

Twitter is also an effective way to create a health-related conversation with the public, or get a healthcare-related topic trending. “…nurses can probably capitalize on social media as an excellent tool for creating awareness about preventative health campaigns, general flu/pandemic information, educational tidbits…,” says Greene.

  • Facebook:With the ability to leave messages (both public and private), upload videos, and post photos, nurses are able to connect with others on many different levels when using Facebook, and can also help bridge the information gap between health care providers and patients.

“There is an inherent need within healthcare to pass information on to a particular patient and to connect with a patient on a level that promotes not only biological health, but also psychological health and community health,” says Ben Miller, a student at Vanderbilt Law. “In this sense, a nurse Facebook messaging a teenage patient about medicine changes is easy and builds trust within the system.”

  • YouTube: The visual and audio aspect of YouTube has a profound effect on a viewer’s understanding of health care, medical concerns, surgical procedures, and other treatments.

“I use YouTube to broadcast educational videos about anesthesia school…,” says Angelis. “In general, social media can be a positive force to enhance the role of nursing in the community and the perception of nursing among our friends and the public at large.”

  • Discussion Groups & RSS Feeds:Social media also provides nurses with an outlet to connect with other healthcare professionals for personal, emotional, and educational reasons. From getting tips on how to cope with workplace stress to answering questions about advanced nursing degree programs, there are many nurse-specific online groups to join or participate in.

“Social media groups can provide support and help nurses stay positive even in hard times,” says Lincoln. “By following the right social media feeds on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn, nurses can get the latest medical news.”

According to Greene, nurses who interact with others across social media channels also have an opportunity to “humanize the nursing profession.” Examples include spotlighting employer achievements, sharing nurse profiles, and providing one-on-one communication.

How Nurses Should NOT Use Social Media

“From a legal perspective, nurses using social media to reach out to patients pose a few major privacy issues,” says Miller. “Since most social media systems present security problems (in how they’re “built”, infrastructure, and/or how the user interacts with the specific social media system), open sharing of sensitive and confidential information leads to conflict with HIPAA.”

“Most of these social media systems (such as Facebook) are not as privacy forward as we believe,” Miller says. “Even something as simple as texting among nurses about a specific patient raises huge privacy issues.”

Also, social media platforms tend to create a false sense of security for nurses who often believe they are voicing their opinions, engaging in discussions, and posting images under the protection of privacy settings. Anything sent privately to an individual or posted on a closed forum has the potential to become public knowledge. Additionally, deleting statements and images from a social media account does not mean they have been completely removed from the Internet.

As a rule of thumb, nurses should not use social media to:

  • Complain About or Comment on the Health of Patients: The American Nursing Association warns against making disparaging remarks about patients (even if they’re not identified) in order to avoid problems with social media. “Do not talk about how rude a patient is, how bad they look or unhealthy they are…it will find a way to leak out, and even if it doesn’t, it causes others to view you in less professional nature, as well as the institution you are associated with,” says Lincoln. “It can also damage others perception of your character.”
  • Post Photographs of Patients: After posting a picture of a young cancer patient on Facebook, a nursing student was expelled from school, and the nursing program barred from using the pediatric unit for teaching after the administration was alerted. The hospital and patient were easily identified through the picture, which is a violation of HIPAA.

Even if a nurse gains permission from a patient to take pictures, employers can still take action. Despite getting the consent of a patient to photograph an injury, an emergency room nurse who shared the images on a nursing forum for learning purposes was disciplined even though the patient’s face was not visible; the type of injury made it easy to identify the patient.

  • Rant About Place of Employment: Because of the nature of work that a nurse does, speaking negatively on social media about co-workers, administrators, job duties, their place of employment, and/or workplace policies can lead to disciplinary actions. These types of negative online comments also place a hospital or doctor’s office in a bad light, as well as jeopardize a nurse’s job security. Even when opinions are voiced under the strictest privacy settings, there is always the possibility that online commentary can reach unintended readers.

To minimize the chances of violating workplace policies, using a personal email address as a primary means of identification on social media accounts instead of an email address associated with a hospital or place of employment is highly recommended.

Additionally, when writing a blog or participating in online activities that have the potential to negatively impact the reputation (or go against the policies of a healthcare employer), avoid establishing a direct connection to the place of employment. For this reason, many nurses comment anonymously or write blogs using a pseudonym.

  • Blow Off Work-Related Steam: Because of the visibility that social media platforms provide, Lincoln says it is critical for nurses to maintain composure and professionalism at all times.

“One of the most important things for a nurse to avoid is speaking negatively about a patient on social media,” he says. “This might seem like a no-brainer, but everyone gets frustrated at times and in many cases in medical situations, a nurse may feel overwhelmed.” Lincoln stresses to refrain from saying anything negative about “patient interaction, the prospect of patient recovery, or even just a general bad day on the job.”

  • Use Offensive Language and/or Voice Offensive Comments: Since nurses work with a diverse flow of patients that come from a wide range of economic-, racial-, ethnic- and religious backgrounds, making social media comments that are threatening, harassing, profane, obscene, sexually explicit, racially derogatory, homophobic, or deemed controversial are often grounds for discipline at the workplace.

Social Media Policies

An increasing number of hospitals, medical facilities, and healthcare employers are developing and implementing social media policies, including the likes of the American Medical Association, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Kaiser Permanente. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) also offers a white paper titled “A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media.”

Lincoln feels that Massachusetts General Hospital’s social media policies are an example of having “really done it right.” Not only does Mass General have social media guidelines in place for employees, but also a policy established for those who interact with the hospital on social media.

“Please understand that we cannot respond to every comment, and that we cannot offer medical advice, diagnosis or treatment via the Internet. If you have a question about your specific medical condition, you should contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.”“For your privacy, you should consider carefully before posting personal medical information to the Internet. Please remember that your posts and comments are available for all to see.”“Users are responsible for content submitted to social media sites.” -from Guidelines for Participation in Mass General Social Media

 

“I am a strong believer that every company should have a social media policy in place,” says Lincoln. “This can help avoid legal issues, and give employees and clients a clear perspective on what the company is comfortable with being shared online.”

Consequences of Social Media Abuse

The consequences regarding a nurse’s improper or inappropriate use of social media platforms come with varying levels of discipline – all of which are dependent upon the action in question, workplace regulations, and any social media policies already in effect.

For example, not only can a medical facility take action against a nurse who has violated a patient’s privacy, but also the state board of nursing. State laws can additionally come into play, and it is not uncommon for legal and criminal investigations to take place when a nurse crosses the line.

Disciplinary actions that individuals can face include:

  • fines
  • suspension
  • required sensitivity training
  • expulsion from nursing school
  • being fired from a job
  • loss of licensure
  • criminal charges
  • jail time

The most serious offenses often involve law enforcement, with some cases being referred to the FBI for investigation of HIPAA violations, as seen in the firing of two nurses who photographed and posted the pictures on the Internet of a patient that underwent an X-ray procedure for rather sensitive, easily identifiable circumstances. Incidents of a sexual nature, such as exposing the image of a patient’s buttocks online, can also involve the Sex Crimes unit of the local police department.

Nurses who abuse social media (as well as digital and electronic media while on the job, such as taking cell phone pictures of patients) also cause their employer to come under scrutiny and suffer consequences, such as the admissions ban imposed on nursing home Kitsap Health & Rehabilitation Center for employing workers that took nude photographs on their cell phones of dementia patients. The incident led to an investigation of the facility, and the threat of being cut from the Medicare/Medicaid program, which provides vital reimbursements of funds for the services they offer.

In conclusion, social media policies for nurses will continue to evolve in order to keep in line with advancements in technology and the Internet. The key to successfully navigating the ups and downs that come with having an online presence and identity is to find a happy, safe, and responsible middle between enjoying the personal and professional benefits of social media without breaking the rules of patient privacy and confidentiality.

In addition to being mindful of the importance regarding the disclosure of patient- and workplace-related information via social media…keeping up with workplace policies, relevant state and federal laws, and professional standards as they apply to the nursing profession are just as significant.

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Topics: social media

Nurses and Social Media -- The Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @ 11:10 AM

social-media-image.jpg

Social media can and is a wonderful and easy way to connect with people on a personal or professional basis. Most platforms are free and easy to use. It's not difficult to find people and topics of interest. People can find and connect with their peers, family, and friends. They have unlimited access to the entire world.

Before anyone begins (or continues) their adventures into the world of social media, there are a few points to be aware of as a healthcare professional. With freedom comes advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • Connecting with anyone in the world. Simply Googling a word, topic, business, or an individual will give anyone complete access to anything they want to know. Whether they are blogging, using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform, there are people there to talk to.
  • Networking has never been easier. Sharing information and learning is at anyone's fingertips. Whether they are talking to someone local or across the world, social media brings you together. Distance is no longer a problem.
  • Since 80% of all internet users are looking for health information, anyone can and will reach a large audience with their outreach and posts. People want information and Nurses have plenty to give them. They are able to correspond at their convenience and have the time to do so.
  • Education for Nurses and others is available. There are numerous groups and programs that offer classes and give them opportunities to learn and interact with their peers and other students.

Communication flows easily and in abundance on the internet and that's also where the disadvantages come into play.

Disadvantages:

  • Privacy doesn't truly exist on the internet. Regardless of any and all security features, once something has been posted, it's there forever. Even deleting it doesn't get rid of it. It is still stored somewhere in the clouds and is never truly gone. It's crucial that a person think twice before posting. Screen shots cause the comment or post to remain forever on someone's computer.
  • The risk of inaccurate information becoming a "fact" is common. It takes a bit of work and due diligence to research the accuracy of what you’re reading, but it's worth the time. A person should only share or repeat what they themselves have thoroughly researched and confirmed as accurate.
  • Not HIPAA compliant. Very few software programs meet the strict guidelines for HIPAA regulations, including but not limited to Skype and Google Hangouts, texting and email. Unless the individual is discussing a patient as a Nurse and on a secure platform, one should never post anything about their patients.

Violating HIPAA regulations has resulted in healthcare professionals facing disciplinary actions such as:

  •  Fines levied
  •  Suspension from work
  •  Being expelled from Nursing school
  •  License revoked/fired
  •  Criminal charges being brought
  •  Incarceration

Abuses on social media as a Nurse are far reaching. Whether a Nurse violates HIPAA or behaves in an improper and unprofessional manner (arguing online, breaching patient confidentiality, harassment, etc.) can and does impact not only them, but their employer and their professional affiliations as well. This can also involve the state board and violate state laws.

Posting the pictures of patients, even when their identity is concealed, has resulted in the above actions being taken against a Nurse and other healthcare professionals.

The best rule of thumb with social media is this: Remember that what you are about to post will be accessible to 7 billion people, so post as if everyone will read it. Social media can be fun as long as you understand the good and the bad.

Related Articles:
As a nurse, how do you use Social Media?

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How to Use Social Media to Further Your Nursing Career

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Jun 19, 2015 @ 12:35 PM

Posted by Brooke Olson

healthecareers.com 

How to Use Social Media 3 630x210 resized 600Nursing is one of the most prominent — and much needed — professions in the healthcare industry, with over three million registered nurses worldwide. This number is set to grow over the coming years, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that employment of RNs will grow 19 percent in the decade leading up to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth will be fueled by demand for healthcare providers for the aging population, the federal health insurance reform, and the increase in chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and dementia that require care. While more nurses will be required to provide care for patients across the country, there will also be more competition for the top nursing jobs.

If you’re keen to maximize your chances for the role of your dreams, read on for some top tips for using social media sites to further your career in 2015.

Network on LinkedIn

One of the best sites for networking is LinkedIn. Millions of professionals and businesses around the world use the social media platform, and as a result it’s the perfect place to network with key people in your industry and further your career in the healthcare industry.

To start yourself off on the right foot on LinkedIn, make sure your profile is completely filled out. A comprehensive profile that will get you noticed on LinkedIn will include a business-suitable photo and your skills and achievements you have acquired during the course of your education and career.

LinkedIn makes it easy for you to ask for recommendations to go on your profile from people you’ve worked with over the years, whether co-workers, bosses or clients. In addition, don’t forget to optimize your profile and job title with relevant keywords, as this can make a big difference in search results.

Once you have your information up to date, it’s time to start working on adding connections. Apart from making requests to connect with people you already know, it’s also a good idea to join relevant LinkedIn groups and participate in discussions about any topics where you can contribute useful information or an unusual insight — this is a fantastic way to generate interest from potential new ones. In addition, regularly sharing interesting articles and information with all of your connections and update LinkedIn with your career successes and new skills is a great way to stay engaged with your current contacts.

Create a Personal Brand

Social media is a great avenue through which to promote your personal brand. Blogs, Twitter, and Instagram, for example, are all fantastic platforms to use to get your name out there and develop a brand for yourself. Although you might only associate the word “brand” with businesses, developing your own personal brand is a great way for many professionals, especially contractors, to promote themselves.

Build a consistent personal brand by ensuring that you always use the same font, image, language, and even logo, on any online profiles. Creating and maintaining a distinct voice will set you apart from others, helping you to stand out in a competitive industry.

Showcase Yourself as an Industry Expert

Blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter in particular are great platforms to demonstrate your ability to be an industry expert, and is used by many workers to foster relationships and build a profile in their industry.

Publish relevant and engaging content on your blog and distribute it on social media to showcase your experience, skills, and knowledge of healthcare to potential employers and contacts. In addition, share pictures, infographics, quotes, links to articles your connections might find helpful or informative. It’s important to stick to posting about your industry and/or specialty, and refrain from posting personal information in order to build a loyal following and give employers an idea of your passion and what you might offer their company.

By networking, building a personal brand, and showcasing yourself as an industry expert via social media, you will set yourself up to generate more interest when you apply for jobs, and can even bring employers directly to you.

Want a career in nursing? Search hundreds of nursing jobs across the U.S. today!

Topics: registered nurse, nursing, health, RN, social media, career, healthcare industry

Hammered And Heedless: Do Dangerous Drinking Videos Harm Teens?

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Feb 23, 2015 @ 12:46 PM

MAANVI SINGH

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Type "drunk," "hammered," or "trashed" into YouTube's search bar and some pretty unsavory videos are likely to turn up.

And that can't be good for teenagers and young adults, researchers say. User-generated YouTube videos portraying dangerous drinking get hundreds of millions of views online, according a study published Friday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Do you think dangerous drinking videos harm teens?

These videos often present wild bingeing in a humorous light, the study found, without showing any of the negative consequences, like potentially fatal alcohol poisoning and accidents caused by drunk driving.

The researchers didn't reveal which videos they looked at, to avoid singling out particular YouTube users.

Our own unscientific search turned up many videos under the words "drunk fails," with people who are publicly intoxicated or completely passed out, as well as sleazier stuff like Best Drunk Girls Compilation, Part 1.

There's been lots of research on paid-for alcohol advertisements and product placement on TV shows, in the movies and in music, says Dr. Brian Primack, an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh and the study's lead author. "But we haven't really looked at YouTube before," he tells Shots.

Primack and his colleagues looked at a cross-section of 70 YouTube videos that showed unsafe drinking. Together those videos pulled in over 330 million views. Even though the videos weren't paid for by alcohol companies, nearly half of them referenced specific brands of alcohol.

The researchers weren't able analyze who is watching these videos, Primack says, because YouTube no longer makes that information publicly available. But Primack suspects that many viewers are underage, because of previous research he has done on YouTube demographics..

It's also not clear how watching these videos may influence young people's decisions on alcohol use.

This is just a preliminary study, Primack says, but the findings highlight the fact that the Internet is full of unhealthy messages about alcohol. Researchers should look more carefully at sites like YouTube and Tumblr, as well as apps like Instagram and Snapchat, he says.

"We already know that visuals are influential for teens and peer influence is important," Primack says. "Sites like YouTube combine both. You've got video paired with likes, comments and peer-to-peer dialogue."

We contacted YouTube, but a spokesperson declined to speak on the record. YouTube does have a policy against harmful or dangerous content and viewers can report inappropriate videos for review.

But these videos are still easy to find, Primack says, and there's no way to completely shield children from negative depictions of alcohol use, Still, he adds, "I don't think the right response is to freak out and block kids' Internet use."

Instead, parents and educators should push kids to think critically about the messages they're exposed to on the Internet, says Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health at Boston University who wasn't involved in the study.

"By actually understanding and talking about it, kids become resistant to these messages," Siegel says. "They'll be able to see that these portrayals online aren't realistic."

Public health agencies could also make better use of platforms like YouTube to put out their own messages, Siegel says.

Source: www.npr.org

Topics: study, research, social media, teens, teenagers, alcohol, drunk, YouTube, videos, Internet

Nurses and Facebook: What You Need to Know

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, Mar 17, 2014 @ 12:24 PM

by Danielle Logacho

Let’s say you’re a nurse at a local hospital. For the past several weeks, you’ve been for afacebook resized 600 young boy who needs a heart transplant.

One day, you learn that a donor organ has become available. You are elated – and you decide to share the news on your Facebook page.

“Great news! A new heart has been found for my five-year-old patient at Children’s. Be brave, Aiden – we’re all rooting for you!”

Good idea? Not really.

That’s because a post like this – while well intentioned – is a breach of confidentiality. There’s enough information here to identify the patient, his condition and the hospital where he is receiving treatment. Put it all together, and you’ve got yourself a HIPAA violation.

The truth is, there can be real consequences to nurses’ irresponsible use of social media. State boards of nursing may investigate reports of inappropriate disclosures on Facebook and other social media sites. If the allegations are found to be true, nurses can face reprimands, sanctions, fines, or temporary or permanent loss of their nursing license.

Many organizations have social media policies that govern employees’ use of social media, even if it’s for personal purposes. If yours is one of them, be sure to read and understand the guidelines.

Even if your employer does not have a specific policy, the main rule of thumb should be familiar to you: as a nurse, you have the legal and ethical obligation to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality. 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) specifically defines “identifiable information” and when and how it can be used. Such identifiable information could cover the past, present or future health of a patient, or it could be something that would lead someone to believe that it could be used to identify a patient.  Brush up on your understanding of HIPAA.

How do you avoid problems? Do you need to stop using Facebook altogether if you’re a nurse? No, but you do need to be careful. Here are a few general guidelines:

- Simply put: Don’t reveal any personal health information about your patients in your posts. (And don’t think that it’s OK if you reveal their details but give them a fake name.)

- Don’t post any photos of your patients, even if they are cute kids. Photos are specifically called out in HIPAA as identifiable information.

- Maintain professional boundaries, even online. Friending your patients or patients’ families is, in most cases, a no-no. The Mayo Clinic’s guidelines for employees say, “Staff in patient care roles generally should not initiate or accept friend requests except in unusual circumstances such as the situation where an in-person friendship pre-dates the treatment relationship.”

- Don’t rely on privacy settings. No matter how meticulous you are about privacy settings, there’s no guarantee that a friend won’t like your post so much that she takes a screenshot and posts your “private” message elsewhere.

- Remember that anything online will be there forever, even if you delete it. Someone may have taken a screenshot before you took your post down. If you are under investigation, your posts can be still found on servers.

For more information, read A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

 

These guidelines are for informational purposes only and are not legal advice.

 

References

National Council of State Boards of Nursing. (2011). A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media [Brochure]. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/NCSBN_SocialMedia.pdf

Pagana, K. (2014, January 21). Facebook: Know the Policy Before Posting [Webinar]. In Nurse.com Continuing Education series. Retrieved from http://ce.nurse.com/course/ce630/facebook/.

Source: Chamberlain College of Nursing 

Topics: nursing, social media, Facebook, HIPPA, caution

How Social Media Usage is Changing RN Job Searches

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, Jan 06, 2014 @ 10:32 AM

By Jennifer Larson, contributor 

If you enjoy posting photos of your family on Facebook, watching videos on YouTube or pinning pictures of mouth-watering desserts or stylish outfits on Pinterest, you’re not alone. But nurses are increasingly, and more strategically, using social media for professional purposes, too.

AMN Healthcare recently released the results of its 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals, which looks at job search and career trends. The survey found that registered nurses, along with other clinicians, have “dramatically” increased their use of social media for job searching since 2010.

The vast majority of nurses, 88%, report they use social media for personal and/or professional purposes, and nearly half (43%) say they use social media for job searching.

Social media researcher and nurse Pamela Ressler, RN, MS, said she expects that nurses’ use of social media for a variety of purposes will continue to increase.

“Social media in and of itself is maturing,” said Ressler, who recently authored an online curriculum titled “Social Media for Nurses” for Sigma Theta Tau International. “Health care professionals, in particular nurses, have been very slow in the adoption of social media in the way other professions have. We’re a little late to the party but we’re learning.”

“I think the expectation is that people are going to be more involved” in using social media, added Marie-Elena Barry, RN, MSN, senior policy analyst for nursing practice and policy for the American Nurses Association.

Social media for nurses augments other job resources 

The AMN survey found that, generally speaking, nurses and other clinicians are using fewer resources to search for jobs, but they’re becoming more discerning in the way that they do so.

Social media is just one of the tools that they’re incorporating into their job seeking, and they tend to use it for looking at job postings, researching companies and seeing if anyone in their network could help them out.

The top RN job search resource is applying directly to a company website, and has stayed steady at 2011 levels of 72%, followed by online job boards at 55% (also remaining steady). Referrals are used by just under half (47%) of all nurses down significantly from 70% in 2011. Other significant shifts in this year’s survey include decreases in nurses’ use of search engines and recruiters.

Eventually, anyone who applies for a job is going to have a direct conversation with a recruiter or human resources member. But long before that step in the process, nurses can use social media to their advantage in gathering information, said Ralph Henderson, president of healthcare staffing at AMN Healthcare. Nurses can use their network of contacts to find out who’s hiring, who may be hiring soon, and what it’s like to work for those health care employers.

“When you do find a job that you’re interested in, use your network to find out more about that organization,” he suggested. “You can use social media to find out what the culture and work environment is like before you apply.”

LinkedIn now in top spot 

Another notable finding in this year’s survey: LinkedIn has finally upstaged Facebook in popularity as the main social networking choice for career purposes among health care professionals. Among nurses, 46% ranked LinkedIn as the top general social media site for career purposes, compared to Facebook at 42%.

Given that LinkedIn was designed as a professional networking medium, it’s not too surprising that nurses are turning to it for professional reasons, said Barry.

“It’s a really good way to share your information and people can reach out. It’s a great way to network and get new ideas,” she said.

In fact, Barry noted that she has personally started using LinkedIn much more in recent months for professional purposes. The ANA recently launched a staffing group on LinkedIn, and she’s become very involved in that.

“LinkedIn has become much more robust and has a lot of similarities to the conversational tone of Facebook now, with its groups,” said Ressler. “People are using it in a different way than LinkedIn was originally being used, which was just posting your profile up there and looking for jobs. Now there’s a lot more professional discussion going on on that site.”

Barry and Ressler both suggested that nurses search for groups on LinkedIn that they might already be affiliated with--a professional association, an alumni group or a specialty organization. Then follow companies or universities or organizations of interest, and follow links to new articles and journal postings to keep current.

Even if you are not actively seeking a new job, it’s important to stay active and keep learning, they stressed. Eventually you might need to call upon your network that you’ve already built and nurtured. 

When asked which health care-focused social media sites they prefer for career purposes, nurses chose NursingJobs.com as their top choice at 51%; NurseZone.com was also among the top favorites, cited by 32% of the nurses surveyed.

No risky moves 

In the nursing profession, you may still hear the occasional tale of social media use gone terribly wrong: a nursing student posts a picture of a patient without the patient’s permission, or a nurse makes an offhand, cutting remark about a colleague on Facebook that comes back to haunt her. 

Luckily, those mistakes appear to be fewer and farther between, as nurses have become more social media savvy. But just avoiding egregious problems doesn’t mean you’re making the most out of your social media presence. Managing your online reputation also means putting your best foot forward--at all times.

Henderson said that nurses should carefully consider images or information that they post on a social media platform. Like many, he suggests having a personal (private) presence and a separate professional presence.

On the professional side, Barry said she would encourage nurses to put together a very complete résumé and ask someone to carefully edit it before posting anywhere. Then check with references to make sure they’re on board, and put all that together on LinkedIn--or in shorter formats on other platforms.

Ressler also pointed out that it is important to regularly update your online profile--both to keep it as current as possible and to remind your network of contacts that you’re out there.  More and more nurses appear to be taking this advice to heart, with 59% reporting in the AMN survey that they have recently enhanced their social profile for professional purposes.

“Even if you’re not looking for a job right now, people will think of you when something comes across their desks,” she said.

Another important reminder: just because you have privacy settings, it doesn’t mean that the information will necessarily stay private.

“I just think that people need to be cognizant of what you’re posting, any comments or any pictures, because it’s there forever,” said Barry.

Fast facts from the 2013 Survey of Social Media 

AMN Healthcare’s 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals was conducted in the spring of 2013. Out of the 1,902 completed surveys, more than 500 were completed by registered nurses and advanced practice nurses.

A few key findings:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) of the nurses surveyed say they use social media for personal and/or professional reasons;

  • Among RNs who use social media for job searches, 49% use it to look for job postings, 39% to research a company, 25% to see if they know anyone who could help them in their search, 13% to reach out to a recruiter, and 6% to reach out to the HR department;  

  • More than half of the RNs surveyed (54%) said they have looked for a job in the past two years, down from 61% just two years ago;

  • Most nurses are still applying directly to companies via their websites; this key job search resource remained steady at 72% in 2013;

  • Nurses who use social media for job searching cited NursingJobs.com as their top site of choice (51%);

  • Twenty percent (20%) of clinicians have chosen to receive mobile job alerts, a doubling since 2010; RNs and allied health professionals are the most likely to choose this option.

© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

Source: NurseZone.com 


Topics: AMN Healthcare, social media, healthcare professionals, trends, media usage

Professional social networking for nurses

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 12:25 PM

Author: Anita Prinz, MSN, RN, CWOCN, CFNC, COS-C

WHEN MY GRANDPARENTS were children, they communicated in person or by letter. In my parents’ generation, the telephone became popular. Today, much of our communication takes place through social media—namely, social networking websites and services. Websites such as Facebook® and LinkedIn® and social media services such as Twitter® let us connect with a network of friends and colleagues to share ideas, updates, and events in a virtual community. Many nursing organizations are accessible on these sites. For instance, if you use the microblogging service Twitter, you can get up-to-the minute mini-messages ("tweets") on your cell phone from colleagues, or you can follow organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI).

Using social media for professional networking with colleagues worldwide is proving to be an effective way to advance your career. It’s easy and free, too. Social networking helps nurses think more globally and understand nursing perspectives in other parts of the country and world. Online nursing groups give you unlimited opportunities to network with like-minded nurses in your profession or specialty.

To network with peers in your specialty, you can join a nursing group or form your own specialty nursing group. You can stay in touch with group members by registering with the social media websites they use and creating a profile. Use of these websites is fairly intuitive for the average computer user.

FaceBook, the largest social networking site, claims to have more than 500 million active users around the world connecting to an average of 80 community pages, groups, and events. Professional nursing associations such as the ANA and journals such as American Nurse Today have Facebook pages that allow users to connect with an online community of nurses.

LinkedIn claims it has 100 million members worldwide and is gaining about 1 million new members every week. It maintains it gives users the keys to controlling their online identities because its subscriber profiles rise to the top of Google and other search engine results. With its job search tools and company pages, LinkedIn is a great site if you’re looking for work or exploring career options. You can search for employers you want to research and find out which companies’ profiles are the most viewed, fastest growing, and most connected. Posting your profile (which should include a photo of yourself, your current position, where you work, past work experience, and education) helps the right people and opportunities find you.

Twitter users can send and receive tweets (up to 140 characters) via the Twitter website, compatible external applications such as smart phones, or the Short Message Service (SMS). While Twitter use is free, accessing it through SMS may incur phone-service provider fees. Tweets communicate up-to-the-moment updates of any person or organization you’re following. ANA and STTI are a few of the nursing organizations that can tell you "what’s happening" on Twitter.

Some organizations are trying out their own social networking sites, such as STTI’s The Circle (www.nursingsociety.org/Pages/TheCircle.aspx). These sites require you to be a member of the organization.

Social media and nursing education

Social media can enhance nursing education. Some nursing schools have started to use social media to enhance their classrooms. For instance, Mesa Community College in Arizona has a manikin named Stella Bellman who has her own Facebook page. Stella provides welcome messages and notices about exams; more importantly, she provides simulation scenarios for students. Harriet L. Schwartz, PhD, assistant professor of professional leadership at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, calls Facebook her "cyber hallway" where she provides relational mentoring to her students.

Hospital networking sites

Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations are creating their own social networking sites and blogs as a marketing and outreach tool. As of May 2011, 965 U.S. hospitals were using social networking. One example is the Mayo Clinic (http://sharing.mayoclinic.org), which has blogs where patients and others can share their stories of strength and hope.

Make sure to find out your employer’s policies on using social media. Many healthcare organizations prohibit employees from using social media at work or using an organizational handle on a social networking site (such as Mary.nurse@hospitalxyz.org).

Privacy concerns

Sharing information on social networking sites is easy—too easy, some might say. Health care is one of the most regulated professions in the United States, and nurses are held to the highest standard of confidentiality. When using social media, always adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and maintain professional boundaries of the nurse-patient relationship.

Revealing private patient information is a leading type of social-networking misuse. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has published “Professional boundaries: A nurse’s guide to the importance of appropriate professional boundaries,” which addresses some of the issues involved. Currently, the ANA is revising its Code of Ethics for Nurses to include principles of social networking.

The distinction between the privacy of one’s personal life versus one’s work life is a gray area poorly defined by current laws. Consider this: Should your patient be your Facebook friend? Patricia Sullivan, APN, FNP-BC, states, "accepting a patient’s ‘friend’ request can damage the nurse-patient therapeutic relationship." When a patient becomes privy to a nurse’s personal information, erosion of trust may occur.

Control how much you share

Social networking sites offer tools that let you control how you share your information and communications; options include sharing with everyone and sharing with friends only. Sharing with friends only is recommended as the default—yet making it your default doesn’t guarantee your posts will stay between friends. For example, suppose you post something witty about a challenging patient, while withholding names and identifying remarks. Your friends find your comments amusing and repost it on their Facebook “walls,” where friends of their friends see it and repost it on their own sites. Now your friends-only message has gone viral and is circulating around the social-media universe—and potentially can get back to the patient or your supervisor.

Nurses have been terminated for posting even seemingly harmless statements, such as "My job is boring." Five California nurses lost their jobs and are facing disciplinary action for discussing a patient on Facebook even though their posts included no names, photos, or identifying information.

Tom Breslin, Associate Director of Labor Education for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, suggests following these rules when using social networking sites:

  • Assume anything you post will be read by everyone, especially those you don’t want reading it.
  • If there’s something you don’t want your employer to read or to know about you, don’t post it.
  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your spouse, child, parent, or employer to read. (See Social networking: Some do’s and don’ts by clicking the PDF icon above.)

Realize the risks

Most employers can terminate employees for making disparaging comments about their employer, coworkers, or patients. Posting defamatory remarks on the Internet can lead to civil lawsuits alleging defamation or slander. What’s more, postings to social media sites generally are considered permanent, even if you delete them. Electronic information is easily distributed, archived, and downloaded, and copies of your deleted posts may still exist on search engines or in friends’ electronic files.

You might ask, "What about my freedom of speech?" Privacy in the United States is a given natural right guaranteed by several constitutional amendments. But U.S. laws regarding digital rights vary by jurisdiction. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been working actively with employees who believe they’ve been terminated unjustly for social networking activity. A Connecticut ambulance driver was fired for posting negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook; the case was settled by the NLRB more than 6 months later, but the employee’s reputation has been damaged.

Is your boss watching?

Nursing recruiters pore over social networking sites for new nursing hires. Many nursing employers use these sites to do background and character checks, scanning them for questionable posts or photographs of employees or applicants. In multiple cases, nurses have been terminated for violating employers’ Internet communication policies, and some employers have rejected applicants based on Facebook or other postings that cast the applicants in a bad light.

Social networking is a great tool you can use to expand your professional network, connect with colleagues, and increase your nursing knowledge. But using it carelessly can imperil your job and livelihood. Let common sense and discretion guide you online. Maintain appropriate boundaries and privacy and adhere to your employer’s code of professional conduct and social networking policies. Remember—you’re a professional nurse 24/7.

Note: This article is not meant to constitute legal advice.

Topics: social networking, control, risks, privacy, social media

Social Media Guidelines

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 12:18 PM

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From NCSBN

The use of social media and other electronic communication is expanding exponentially as the number social media outlets, platforms and applications available continue to increase. Individuals use blogs, social networking sites, video sites, online chat rooms and forums to communicate both personally and professionally with others. Social media is an exciting and valuable tool when used wisely. The very nature of this medium however can pose a risk as it offers instantaneous posting opportunities that allow little time for reflective thought and carries the added burden that what is posted on the Internet is discoverable by law even when it is long deleted.

Because of inappropriate use of social media, some nurses have lost their jobs, been disciplined by the Board of Nursing, been highlighted in national media, been a target of lawsuits, and been criminally charged. What do nurses need to know so that they can use social media, both personally and professionally, without worrying about repercussions? NCSBN has developed some guidelines for using social media responsibly.

NCSBN is thrilled to announce that they have collaborated with the American Nurse’s Association (ANA) on the professional use of social media. NCSBN has endorsed ANA’s principles of using social media, and ANA has endorsed NCSBN’s guidelines. ANA and NCSBN recently hosted a collaborative Webinar and they are planning further collaborative efforts to get the word out about using social media appropriately without harming patients. These are the social media guidelines from the National Student Nurse Association. NSNA Social Media Guidelines.


Topics: inappropriate, job loss, NCSBN, nurse, ANA, social media

How the Internet has Changed Nursing

Posted by Hannah McCaffrey

Wed, Jun 27, 2012 @ 03:00 PM

From WorkingNurse.com By Christine Contillo

It’s clear that we’ve not just entered the Information Age — we’ve exploded into it. Information exchange is critical to both the advancement of science and patient care, and the impact of the Internet in the medical field has been enormous. Practitioners are now able to jump the barrier of time and access research findings worldwide; and in nursing it’s caused the creation of an entire subspecialty (nursing informatics) meant to manage the amount of information available.

But nurses studying informatics aren’t he only ones finding ways to improve their skills bynurse on computer surfing the web. According to a survey of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, more than 98 percent of nurses responded that they use the Internet or email. The survey continued to ask in what way the Internet was used, and the answers may surprise you.

No More Pencils, No More Books

Beginning with nursing education, students everywhere have access to virtual classrooms and degree programs. Online education means that the limits previously imposed by location and time become less important. Busy students with a computer, or those in the workforce trying to fit school into their already packed schedule, should be able to find a few hours at home for study.

Similarly, many states now require continuing education (CE) for licensing. Nursing needing those hours can get them without leaving home, which in many cases removes important constraints such as child care. Sites such as WorldWideLearn.com allow the student 24/7 access to courses and technical support. Employers can select educational seminars and show them in real time in a conference room or select courses that have been archived for their nurses to watch later.

Nurses were instrumental in developing accredited online continuing education for Wild Iris Medical Education. The company established the site Nursing Continuing Education to help nurses (and other health professionals) across all 50 states fulfill CE requirements. Prices range from free to $65 depending on the individual requirement and number of contact hours offered. Fees can be paid with a credit card — how else? — online.

Podcasts

For those nurses who are pretty comfortable with technology, podcasts are another avenue to investigate. Similar to audio versions of magazines, they can be heard on MP3 players for up-to-date information. Check out PodFeed.net and searching “nursing” or listen to “Nursing Education on the Go” at Podcast Alley.

Streaming Radio

Somewhat similar to podcasts is streaming radio, or radio shows that are available worldwide. AM/FM radio is usually limited by geographical distance, but streaming radio listeners only need access to the web, some free software to download, and a set of speakers.

Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, is a nurse educator in the metro-NYC area and host of “Health in 30,” which airs live at 5:30pm on Fridays on WRCR-AM 1300. Ms. Ficarra lines up expert guests for her weekly show, announces the topic ahead of time, and fields questions as they are phoned in. Without the Internet her show could only be heard locally, but the vast audience afforded by online listeners has enabled her to win wider recognition. In fact, in 2007, she won the Excellence in Journalism award given by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Blogs

Nursing blogs are web logs and can range from silly to academic. Just as journals are intimate thoughts, blogs can detail nursing practice issues, patient stories, fears, triumphs or even family and leisure activity. Blogs allow nurses to vent their frustrations to their peers and share valuable resources for patient care. Following a few favorites allows you to peer into the mind of the writer. The ability to comment allows you to enter into an electronic relationship that nurses in remote areas may treasure. Certainly information about individual patients must protect their identity, but sharing the means of resolving practice issues helps to improve practice standards everywhere.

Information Sites

According to Family Nurse Practitioner Roseann Neuberg, the impact brought by the Internet to her clinical nursing practice is “huge,” and she identifies it as a valuable source of patient education material. “There are just so many things I can do in terms of patient education,” she says. “I can look up issues or treatments while my patient is sitting right next to me. I can print it up, hand it out, and be sure that they understand what I’m saying before they leave. When I prescribe a medication I can check the price and look for alternatives. I can even use a program to check for drug interactions.”

Tracy Plaskett, a staff nurse at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, says, “When I get my patient assignment, I’m able to look up any unfamiliar terms in the notes instantly. I can check spellings and make sure that medication orders are correct.”

Ms. Neuberg is quick to point out that she sticks with sites she knows are accurate and updated frequently in order to feel confident that the advice she is giving is sound. Two such sites are UpToDateOnline.com and Epocrates.com, which provide current information about clinical management and treatment of disease. Both require a subscription and password.

Mobile Medicine

Lynda O’Grady, RN, has found another important use of the Internet. Ms. O’Grady is part of a large travel medicine clinic, assessing international travelers who participate in academic programs, sometimes to remote and disease-infested areas. Using special software she’s able to assess their individual medical risks. If she has questions she can access advice from organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. But what she finds most helpful is her membership in the International Society of Travel Medicine. Through a listserv available only to members she’s able to gain up-to-the-minute answers to questions posed, such as, “Where is the nearest medical clinic to Daar es Salaam?” or, “What do you recommend for altitude sickness for a patient allergic to sulfa?” Thousands of members pose and answer questions for each other, some providing clinical advice that only a person actually living in that area might be able to give.

Support Groups for Patients

Nurses may want to suggest online communities to patients experiencing chronic illness or going through debilitating treatments. Immune-compromised patients may be unable to attend in-person meetings, but staying in touch with a virtual group may allow them to feel less isolated. CancerCare is one professional association that helps organize free groups for patients as well as their caregivers. Virtual communities and forums have been vital to patients sharing treatment experience and offering support to each other.

Consults

The Internet can be used in a novel way for clinical consults. One home care nurse described how she and her colleagues became discouraged trying to evaluate decubiti. When described in the paper chart by different clinicians using different languages or terms it was often difficult to determine if progress was being made. Solution? They used a digital camera to capture an image that could be sent daily via the web to the practitioner. In this case a picture really was worth a thousand words.

Job Searches

Work-related issues can be shared via the Internet. Nurses interested in relocating can do a web search to conduct virtual tours of hospitals they might be interested in, file an application online, get driving directions, or book travel plans through a travel site such as Velocity. When looking to change jobs they can post their resume online. Even low-cost phone communication can be run through Vonage or Skype — both require an Internet connection and headset instead of a phone line or cell phone.

Creating Community

The Internet facilitates a feeling of community and can create the ability to investigate job issues easily. Union members can use online forums to discuss contract negotiation issues, salary, benefits and legal information. New healthcare legislation and practice agreements, as well as regulatory mandates, can be tracked through blog sites. There is just no excuse now for remaining uninformed.

Brian Short, RN, discovered the importance of a nursing community over a decade ago. When Mr. Short was still a nursing student, he created AllNurses.com for the purpose of online support and education. Two years ago the site claimed to cover 400 nursing topics every day and a total of 1.5 million posts. In an interview given at the time of its 10th anniversary, Teresa Burgess, RN, pointed out the importance of the online nursing community for its ability to be used for mentoring and creating a sense of shared purpose.

Let’s end with a word of warning, however, when it comes to using the Internet. While the examples given prove that use of the Internet can be beneficial to nursing practice, we must all bear in mind that much of what we find there remains anonymous and subject to scrutiny.
Our own critical thinking must be used to determine when and how best to use the available information, and to evaluate the value and truth of what we read. Certainly if what we find can nudge us toward being better health professionals, then the monthly cost of Internet service and the time spent in connection with others is well worth it.

Topics: diversity, nursing, technology, nurse, social media, communication

Social Media in the Workplace and Interviews

Posted by Wilson Nunnari

Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 10:46 AM

The news that some employers have asked for direct access to the Facebook accounts -- including user names and passwords -- of people applying for jobs at their firms has set off a firestorm of controversy.

The reports have raised questions about whether the practice is illegal and if such a policy could expose those employers to potential discrimination lawsuits. The dust-up has even triggered calls by some in Congress for a federal investigation into the practice.

But those recent events only highlight a new reality: The identity that individuals create in the world of social media is quickly becoming an important factor in hiring decisions and in people's broader professional lives.

"The questions around employer access to social network log-ins reflect a broader debate in society about a host of digital privacy issues," says Andrea Matwyshyn, a Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics. "This is a new concern -- the degree to which employers can gain access to all role identities through one virtual space. There is no parallel to that in the real world."

While the reaction to the practice has been swift and intense, it's hard to predict if it will become a lasting trend.

But, Matwyshyn says, she began hearing about employers requesting access to the Facebook accounts of potential hires as far back as 2008. To date, however, she says, there is no good data on how widespread the practice has become.

The fact that it exists at all is not entirely unexpected: According to Matwyshyn, a number of studies show that most employers look at candidates' online profiles when making hiring decisions, noting a 2011 survey by social-media monitoring service Reppler that found that 91 percent of recruiters report using social-networking sites to evaluate job applicants.

But checking out a publicly available profile on Facebook -- or even asking a job candidate to "friend" someone in human resources at a company where they are applying for a position -- is worlds apart from gaining unfettered access to someone's account through a password.

"If you can take Facebook passwords, what about Gmail passwords?" asks Stuart Soffer, a non-residential fellow at The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School and managing director of IPriori, an intellectual-property consulting firm.

If left unchecked, Soffer says, the practice could expand beyond human resource departments evaluating potential employees.

"What about allowing Facebook access to insurers so they can see what you are saying about your health?" he says. "They could use it as a basis for judging the risk of insuring you."

The request for access to log-in information also raises some serious legal questions.

Clearly concerned about the legal and business implications of privacy breaches, Facebook has come out against the practice, stating that sharing or soliciting a Facebook password is a violation of the company's statement of rights and responsibilities.

twitter logo

"We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it's the right thing to do," Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan says. "But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating."

Matwyshyn says employers could be essentially asking job candidates to violate their contract with Facebook if they ask for passwords, creating "an untenable conflict between contract law and employers' perceptions of their own interest in vetting candidates."

In addition, if a Facebook account includes information on an applicant's race or age, for example, that could potentially expose the employer to claims of discriminatory hiring practices. According to Matwyshyn, it is legally hazy whether accessing someone's Facebook account where that information is available is akin to asking it in the interview.

"Arguments can be made that this is a back-door method to gaining information that the prospective employer wouldn't otherwise have access to," she says.

Meanwhile, the issue is getting the attention of Congress. Senate Democrats Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal, from New York and Connecticut respectively, have asked the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the practice.

But even if it is eventually prohibited or otherwise curbed through legal or legislative channels, Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard predicts that the use of social media in hiring decisions will continue to be a flashpoint in the years ahead.

"The core of the problem is the blending of personal and professional lives," Rothbard says. "We are still in the infancy of trying to understand how to deal with all this."

Opening the Window -- and Closing a Door?

Just how far employers can legally go to check out job candidates online may not be clear -- but why they are looking for new methods of evaluating applicants is easy to understand, says Wharton management professor Adam Grant.

Research, he says, has shown that the typical job interview is a poor tool for predicting which candidates will succeed. If that does not work, companies need to find something that does.

"Applicants are very motivated to put their best foot forward in an interview," Grant says. "It is very difficult to spot the people who will represent an organization well. But on Facebook, you can see the applicant making day-to-day decisions -- it is a window into how an individual is likely to act."

In fact, recent research has provided evidence that online profiles can be very revealing about specific personality traits.

facebook

A paper published recently in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology entitled, "Social Networking Websites, Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye," studied 518 undergraduate students and their Facebook profiles.

The researchers found that the Facebook profiles were a good predictor of the so-called "big five personality traits:" conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion, emotional stability and openness. And for a subset of the group where the researchers were able to contact supervisors at companies that had hired those students, there was a correlation between scores on two personality traits -- emotional stability and agreeableness -- and job performance. (SeeHREOnlineTM story here.)

"There is strong evidence that social networking is a valid way of assessing someone's personality," says Donald Kluemper, a professor of management at the Northern Illinois University College of Business and a co-author of the study.

But he says that does not mean there is evidence that an unstructured perusal of a Facebook account will result in better hiring decisions.

"Until a method is validated in a number of ways, including a study of adverse impacts and the legal issues, I wouldn't recommend companies rely on social-networking profiles," Kluemper says.

Now, the use of social-media information is far from fine-tuned, with recruiters typically checking out social media to get a general sense of the person applying for a job or to hunt for any red flags. But it is possible the use of that information could become more sophisticated.

"People are mining that data right now for other purposes, including targeting ads to the right people," says Shawndra Hill, a Wharton operations and information management professor. "It is not out of the realm of possibility to focus that on other outcomes, like how good a match someone is for a job or whether there is a high likelihood they might do something illegal."

While the value of that data may be apparent, it remains to be seen how social media should ultimately fit into some aspects of professional life.

Take the less-controversial practice of managers' friending their colleagues through Facebook. Rothbard says this practice creates numerous potential headaches. Two years ago, she and some colleagues did a series of interviews with 20 people at a variety of levels and in a number of different industries, and found that people were often unnerved friending either bosses or subordinates.

"People felt very uncomfortable with crossing the private and professional boundary when it came to the hierarchy [within an organization]," Rothbard says. "They talked about friending their bosses with similar discomfort and language as they did when they spoke about friending their moms."

Interestingly, Rothbard adds, the rules for social networking in the workplace may differ based on gender.

She led a study of 400 students in which participants were shown Facebook profiles, told that the person was either a boss, a peer or a subordinate, and then asked to rate the individuals based on how likely they were to accept that person's friend request.

The findings: Female bosses with bare-bones profiles were less likely to be accepted than those who revealed more personal information, while the opposite pattern held for male bosses.

"Women who have limited profiles are more likely to be shunned than the women who have a more active presence," Rothbard says. "People see them as cold. But male bosses who reveal less information are more likely to be accepted than those who reveal a lot of information."

The increased scrutiny of people's virtual lives may change the way individuals operate in the social-networking realm.

According to Rothbard, there are essentially four ways of dealing with privacy issues. There are those who control their list of friends carefully, rejecting friend requests from people with whom they don't want to share personal information. Then, there are those who accept virtually all requests, but are very careful about what they post, limiting that content to very safe, less revealing information.

There is also a hybrid approach in which people use privacy settings to share some information with close friends and less-sensitive material with others. And, finally, there is the "let it all hang out" crowd -- those who are comfortable sharing all their information with a large group of close (and not so close) friends.

Grant predicts more people will opt for the more-controlled, filtered approach as they realize their social-media profiles are being scrutinized by potential employers.

"As employers gain this information, so do candidates," Grant points out. "So candidates may use Facebook more carefully and remove the cues that are so valuable [to employers]."

Soffer agrees people will become much more careful about their social-media personas.

"There are ways around this," Soffer says of the unwanted exposure of social-media behavior. "One thing that could happen is people will start having two Facebook accounts." One will be for close friends; the other, a more sanitized version for employers.

But there is always the potential that something posted for viewing by a small group of close friends on Facebook could get out into larger circulation. And for that reason, some argue, the risks of being active in the social-media space outweigh the benefits.

"If you are a CEO, or aspire to be a CEO or director of a public company, I think it makes sense to refrain from social networking," says Dennis Carey, vice chairman at Korn/Ferry International. "There are other ways to communicate with employees and the outside world through properly controlled channels. Some of the messages that are conveyed can be misconstrued or taken out of context by a third party."

The fear of a photo or comment made long ago coming back to haunt you is hardly unfounded. Because sites such as Facebook have been around less than a decade, it is not certain how long someone's social-networking history will remain accessible.

"It is unclear how long the information persists," Hill says. "Firms have different privacy policies, and often privacy policies change over time. While there are policies that allow for deleting data you no longer want on the site, it is hard to guarantee that this information won't live on a database somewhere."

The controversy worries some fans of the social-media revolution.

"I worry that there is already a sense right now that our participation online may come back to haunt us," says Chris Ridder, co-founder of the law firm Ridder, Costa & Johnstone and a non-residential fellow at The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

"It inhibits our ability to express ourselves," he says. "If we can only express public relations-like statements, it takes away a good bit of the utility of the Internet. I think it would be a shame if we were to lose the playful aspect of this new technology."

_____________________________________________________________________________

How would you feel if someone asked for your account information to Facebook or Twitter in an interview? What if your boss did it? Do you think this is a privacy violation? Should there be legislation on this? Let us know in the comments; we want to hear from you!

 

Topics: hiring, Workforce, employment, education, nursing, technology, Articles, Employment & Residency, health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, cultural, social media, communication, mobile, iphone, internet use

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