Staffing: Staying Current With Social Media


Networking with peers highlights a long list of online opportunities.

The first perception that comes to mind when one thinks of social media on the job, especially when it’s a fast-paced, high-stakes surgical environment, is people slacking off by glancing at their phones when they should be working. Social media is more than personal Facebook and TikTok accounts, however, and nurses could leverage it to make workdays more productive and even to advance their careers.

We recently surveyed surgical nurses about their perception of social media to gauge their current understanding of the medium and identify opportunities for teaching them about its many uses. A significant number of nurses said they didn’t feel using it could benefit their practice or career. To help change that misconception, we decided to develop a social media in-service.

We first researched how social media was used in the profession that included recommendations from the American Nurses Association and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Here are some of the topics we covered during the education sessions.

Nationwide networking. Being an active member on LinkedIn is a great place for nurses to network with other professionals and connect with colleagues to bolster their professional development and potentially advance their own careers. A recent study has shown that 57% of patients choose where they will go for treatment based on the quality of a healthcare organization’s social media presence and 81% equate such a presence to mean the organization will use advanced technologies to treat them. Nurses can create that same impression with potential future employers by how they interact on social platforms. The opportunities that are presented on these platforms, such as positions in nurse leadership or quality and safety, are ones that staff nurses may not initially seek out on their own. When they’re active on social media platforms, however, recruiters might reach out to them.

You can also communicate with members of your own organization that you might never otherwise meet. Social media allows you to interact with a peer at a sister facility to discuss their best practices, which could lead to you teaching them a new way to approach a case or you learning something from them. Getting out of our comfort zones on social platforms can help our profession grow.

Nurses also interact and share tips on the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association’s message boards and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses’ ORNurseLink online community, where research can be disseminated and knowledge of best practices can be exchanged. The American Nurses Association has online mentorship programs. These platforms, directly related to the perioperative nursing profession, are places where you can discuss your profession as a group with colleagues across countries and continents. Membership in professional organizations gets you increased access, but the organizations also offer many free access points. Nurses shouldn’t assume that everything on these sites is behind paywalls.

Real-time alerts. The latest updates from national public health agencies such as the CDC are shared via social platforms, as are links to articles in professional journals. Online access to this information was particularly crucial during the height of the pandemic, when protocols were changing by the week. Lobbying efforts to get laws passed such as mandating surgical smoke evacuation equipment in ORs are also frequently discussed on social media.

Shows of support. We attempted to explain how social media goes far beyond the platforms most people associate with the term. We showed YouTube videos that demonstrate how the nursing community, nationally and globally, band together when someone in our ranks is experiencing a difficult situation. A few examples include the overwhelming support shown for an ER nurse who was roughly arrested by a police officer after she followed hospital protocol by refusing to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient. And, of course, nurses recently used social media to rally around RaDonda Vaught when she was criminally charged for making a medication error.

The sessions also included examples of proper social media etiquette, because posting work-related items can quickly go downhill. Nurses learned about rules that should be obvious, such as not checking personal accounts during work hours and not posting complaints about the organization you work for. There have also been incidents in which well-meaning co-workers ran into trouble, such as the time an employee started a GoFundMe account to help with the medical expenses of a sick colleague. The employee didn’t realize that her colleague didn’t want her health status made public and considered the account a breach of her confidence.

As is often the case in medicine, the industry is behind the times when it comes to social media. Yet, there’s reason for optimism. After attending our education sessions about social media’s possibilities, the same nurses responded to the same survey questions much more positively. A higher percentage said they felt more comfortable navigating different platforms and had a better understanding of the valuable information that can be accessed there.

Technology has become an integral part of nursing practice, but RNs have varying levels of expertise when it comes to using social media platforms. Its strategic use can aid rapid dissemination of nursing knowledge to bedside nurses. Perioperative nurses have a unique opportunity to utilize online platforms to advance the profession. Regardless of how experienced you might be on any of these platforms, at the end of the day we’re all still figuring out how to live in this social media world. Used wisely, these always-evolving platforms have vast amounts of information that can be harnessed for tremendous good. OSM

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