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Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Nurses

4 minMarch, 08 2024

Don’t risk your license or your reputation—nurses have to be careful online!

For nurses, there are certain dangers to be aware of when posting online. First and foremost is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA privacy regulations require health care providers to protect patient confidentiality and health data. In terms of social media, that means nurses cannot post protected health information (PHI). HIPAA defines PHI as individually identifiable health information transmitted by or maintained in electronic media or any other medium or form. 

Even if you don’t outright name a patient or post their photo, the stories you share on social media can be an infringement on HIPAA without you even realizing it. For example, maybe you once posted that you worked in the emergency room, and maybe months before that, you posted the name of the hospital. Then, at some point in the future, you write about a patient who touched your heart. Even if you don’t mention the patient by name, the specifics of the case, and the fact that they can be traced back to the hospital and department, can become a trail that leads to a HIPAA violation.

A HIPAA violation will not only put your job and nursing license at risk, but you might even have to pay a fine ranging from $100 to $50,000.

It’s crucial that nurses remember that social media is a public forum. If you post negative comments about coworkers or your workplace, your employer may see it and the post could be grounds for getting fired.

Many health organizations also discourage nurses from connecting with or “friending” patients on social media. If the patients and nurses become close online there’s a chance they can share personal information. You must not transmit PHI on a public network even if it’s only going to the patient—even if that patient is your friend or relative.

Using Social Media in Nursing

Nurses and social media can mix safely! There are plenty of upsides to using social media as a nurse, as long as you use it mindfully and responsibly. Social media gives nurses the opportunity to meet and engage with colleagues throughout the country and world. You can commiserate over struggles that only fellow nurses understand, share ideas, and offer support.

In fact, following the American Nurses Association on Facebook, X, LinkedIn, or Instagram can help you stay informed of key issues that affect nurses. And Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation’s Facebook group or @HealthyNurseUSA on X are places where we can encourage one another as we focus on our own health, using #HealthyNurse. ANA members also have access to the ANA Community site where nurses can discuss topics that interest them.


Social Media Guidelines for Nurses

Nurses have been fired for posting on social media. Keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re using social media safely and not risking your job or a patient’s privacy online:


  • Know and follow your organization’s social media policy. Most organizations have one and some places, such as the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, even post theirs publicly.
  • Take advantage of privacy settings.ANA’s Principles of Social Media in Nursing states that nurses should know and understand the privacy settings for different social networks. But understand-- using those settings does not guarantee safety.
  • Maintain professionalism in person and online—remember, these are public forums. Don’t disparage your patients, your employer, or your co-workers. Even if they’re not identified, it’s not a good practice — in person or online.
  • Consider adding a disclaimer in your social media bio. If you do list the name of your employer, you may want to add a sentence to your bio explaining that your opinions are your own, such as, “The views expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.”


  • Post patient stories. Even if you have the best of intentions, you could accidentally share PHI and be in violation of HIPAA.
  • Indiscriminately post from your workplace. Even if you’re posting a fun photo of you and coworkers, there could be a patient, family member, or a visible chart in the background. If your workplace’s policy allows you to post while at work, check your surroundings carefully before posting a picture. Double check anything you write to make sure it does not infringe on a patient’s privacy. Consider having another coworker review it before posting.
  • Connect with patients or their family members online. Sharing PHI over social networks is never completely safe. If you were online friends with someone before they became your patient, avoid discussing or sharing information about your nurse-patient relationship over the internet.
  • Complain about your employer. In fact, if you want to ensure you stay in compliance with your organization’s guidelines, it may be a good idea to make no mention of your workplace at all.
  • Post anything that can shame the nursing profession. Nurses are the most trusted profession. It might not be fair, but nurses are held to a higher standard, and that’s the same on social media as anywhere else.

For more information on social media and nursing, read ANA’s Principles of Social Networking in Nursing. For real-life examples of nurses fired for posting on social media, read “Social Media: a HIPAA Danger Zone”.

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