Like many of your friends on social media, you probably share your reflections of your day, your family or your job. A stressful day with a co-worker may compel you to vent on Facebook, and an emotional encounter with a patient may inspire you to tweet a message of hope.
However, as a nurse, sharing your on-the-job experiences may quickly cross the line into inappropriate behavior. If you are under fire because of your social media activity, you may be concerned that your career is at risk.
#TMI: Too much information
Federal regulations to protect patient privacy and confidentiality seek to provide an atmosphere of trust between patients and their medical teams. A patient who worries that doctors or nurses will publicize personal information may be reluctant to share details that could affect the kind of care he or she receives. Your social media posts may have crossed the line if you included any of the following:
- Information about a patient's physical or mental health
- Details about a patient's past medical treatment
- Facts that can lead someone else to identify the patient in your posts
- Comments about a patient that are demeaning or degrading
- Videos or photos of patients
Even if you remove the comments or photos, they may still exist in the cyberworld. In fact, sharing patient information with anyone, even medical professionals who previously worked with the patient, violates federal laws if that medical professional is no longer involved in the patient's care.
The consequences of breaching patient privacy or confidentiality can include losing your job, losing your nursing license, facing federal charges and answering to a civil lawsuit.
#CYA: Contact your attorney
If your professional license is in jeopardy, you certainly will want to resolve the matter with the most positive outcome possible. The sacrifices you have already made to reach your goal of being a nurse will be in vain if the administrative board revokes your license. Even a suspension may end up creating a financial hardship for you and your family and damaging your chances of finding work when the suspension is over.
Having legal counsel is an excellent way to ensure you have the best chances of protecting your future. An appropriate advocate would be an attorney who has years of successful experiences defending nurses in front of Pennsylvania disciplinary boards. If you have been accused of violating state or federal privacy laws, you may also need an attorney's assistance for any criminal charges authorities may bring against you.