Back to Top Social Media and Nursing - The Ottawa Hospital
Nursing Next

Social Media and Nursing


Nursing Next

Social media has revolutionized communication in our modern world. Nursing is no exception, and our profession is being impacted by these new tools of communication. Here at The Ottawa Hospital, we have launched a new social media campaign. It is the first of its kind for clinical nurses working at a hospital.

Social media can be defined as tools for information sharing among people (Fraser, 2011). There are many different types of social media. The common denominator is that they enable a person to locate, respond to, and share content.

Our social media campaign is based on four platforms:

  • Facebook TOH Nurses: a platform where users can share text, photos, links, videos and other content with an audience. Users have control over who can view their information (Facebook “friends”, “friends of friends”, everyone). Information is organized by the person who generates the content, i.e. posts from Jennifer Jackson.
  • Twitter TOH Nurses: a platform for sharing short pieces of information. This can be a link, text, or a photo. Unless settings are restricted, information is accessible to anyone. This open access is referred to by users as the “Twitterverse”. Information is categorized by hashtags, i.e. #TOHNurses, which arrange content in lists, based on the topic.
  • Instagram TOH Nurses: a photo and video sharing application. Information is arranged based on both the person who generates the content, and by hashtag.
  • Pinterest TOH Nurses: an online organizational tool. Pinterest doesn’t have content, per se: it links users to content elsewhere, and acts a database. Information is arranged by theme, which is identified by the user. For instance, a recipe would be identified as “Food” and shared in that category.

So why do these tools matter? In his inspiring TED talk, Clay Shirky illustrates how social media has become a communications revolution. Social media tools allow an unprecedented sharing of information. Gone are the days when only people with access to research or libraries would have knowledge.  Everyone can share their knowledge- and knowledge is power! We also have the ability to communicate back and forth with anyone, anywhere in the world. We no longer have degrees of separation, where the corporate body generates information, sends it to managers, who send it to educators, who send it to staff. We can now communicate directly with clinical nurses, giving them the power to decide what information is useful and important for their nursing practice.

Social media has many advantages for nurses. It provides the ability to share new research, discuss problems, instantly access cutting edge information, and learn from each other in real time. We can share positive information about nursing, spreading a professional image of nurses. Social media can also be used for advocacy, by arranging an event, collecting funds, or contacting political leaders. Nurses can look up safe medication dosages at the bedside, read journal articles the day they are published, and speak about their passion for nursing. All of these elements are positive impacts of social media on the nursing profession.

There are also disadvantages to the use of social media. There are legal and ethical implications for the violations of privacy, patient confidentiality or practice standards. The College of Nurses of Ontario reminds nurses that the legal responsibilities of our profession do not end at the walls of the hospital. Social media can also spread very quickly, and once a message is shared, it is very hard to take back. It has been said that you should consider the information you put on social media to be as permanent as a tattoo. It can also be difficult to control exactly who has access to your personal information, putting users at risk for identity theft.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to support social media use (adapted from Fraser, 2011):

Do’s and don’ts of social media for TOH nurses:


  • Know that you are responsible for the content of all of your posts (as per the TOH Social Media policy, No. 00672).
  • Connect with others. Join communities, groups, and websites for people with common interests.
  • Use your real name. To share your information, people need to be able to find you. It also allows you to build a profile online, representing your knowledge and expertise.
  • Remember that your online posting should be considered as permanent as a tattoo.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation. You want to represent yourself as a professional.
  • Discuss the joys and difficulties of being part of the nursing profession.
  • Take opportunities to advocate for your patients and profession, by questioning content that shares a poor image of nursing, raising money, or starting a letter writing campaign.
  • Actively manage your profile online, through whatever method you chose. That way, if someone looks to contact you, they will find the information you have prepared, rather than whatever is floating around the internet.
  • Manage your security settings. Pictures from a beach vacation may be fine for friends, but not something for the world to see. There is no one responsible for your profile content except you.
  • Separate work and personal time. Facebook can be a useful tool in the workplace. It can also be inappropriate for the workplace. It is up to you to know the difference.
  • Share the computers at work, and ensure that social media doesn’t take precedence over patient care.


NEVER post identifying information about a patient. EVER. This includes pictures and text descriptions. For learning purposes, it is important to share our experiences. This is best done as

  • either a generic case, or talking about a population (patients with breast cancer, a person with CHF etc.).
  • Speak badly about your colleagues or employer. If you are having problems at work, they need to be addressed constructively in the workplace. If you vent online about someone, you could face legal or disciplinary action.
  • Use TOH or other employer logos as part of any postings.
  • Post spam, pornography, foul language, or any inappropriate content.
  • Use online gambling at work.
  • Avoid sharing nursing examples in terms of place or location. “A while ago, on an inpatient unit…” has less risk than “On Tuesday in ICU…”. This will help to protect patient confidentiality.
  • Comment on anything litigation or legal matters while at work.
  • Accept friend requests from patients. The College of Nurses of Ontario states that it is up to the nurse to maintain professional boundaries in the nurse-patient relationship.
  • Use social media to belittle or criticize others.

Despite some risks, there are many positive ways for nurses to use these new technologies in practice. The question is not whether social media will impact nursing. The question is, will nurses be left behind? Or will we drive change and innovation for our profession?

Join us in supporting nursing excellence: TOH Nurses Social Media Links

Fraser, R. (2011). The nurse’s social media advantage: How making connections and sharing ideas can enhance your nursing career. Indianapolis, Indiana: Sigma Theta Tau International.

– Jennifer Jackson, RN, BScN Hon.


Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Anonymous - March 20, 2014

Welcome to social world 🙂

You might also like…

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.