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What should you do if you posted about a patient on social media?

New nurses or medical personnel may make the mistake of posting about patients on social media. Even experienced nurses might do this if a case hits them on an extremely personal level or if they want to use a situation to illustrate or clarify something. For instance, maybe they belong to a Facebook group that focuses on how obesity can harm your health, and a nurse decides to share his or her experience with a patient who came in last week.

So, you posted about a patient on social media and used aliases and changed details so that no one would (hopefully) suss out the patient's identity. However, that was a few days ago, and you feel guilty now about sharing that information. What should you do? Is your license in jeopardy?

Delete, and do not make that mistake again

The first thing is to delete that post to minimize its visibility. Next, learn from your mistake, and do not post about patients again. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has a nurses and social media guide to review that is easy to read and that should prove helpful. It also lists several ways in which a nurse can unwittingly violate the confidentiality of patients he or she should be safeguarding.

Understand that your post is still out there somewhere

A deleted post is still on internet servers, and you never know who has seen it already and who may have copied or pasted it or made a screenshot. So, this post could potentially become an issue for you later, and yes, a breach of patient confidentiality could put your nursing license in jeopardy. Lighter penalties may involve fines or reprimands. 

Take proactive steps

If an issue arises later, it looks better for your case and your ethical background if you have already self-reported the breach to your supervisor or another appropriate person. When reporting, explain why you did it, when it was posted and when you deleted it. Of course, also explain you will never do this type of thing again.

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Law Offices of Paul Chan

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