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Nursing Program Social Media Policy

(Adopted August 2012)

The information on this page is for students who have been accepted to the TMCC Nursing Program and are current students.


The purpose of this policy is to define and describe acceptable use of social media within the Maxine S. Jacobs Nursing Program.

Social media may be defined and described as sharing information through social networks and the Internet for rapid knowledge exchange and dissemination among many people. Nursing students, and nursing faculty (referred to collectively as "nurses") have a professional obligation to understand the nature, benefits and consequences of participating in social networking of all types.

Nurses must be aware that social networking venues are shared by their patients and colleagues. Unintended consequences of social media use can breach a patient's privacy, damage a patient's trust in the individual nurse and the profession, and further damage a nurse's professional and personal future. Employers and educational institutions may also monitor social networking sites and make judgments, positive or negative, about a nurse's professional suitability. Sharing patient information, even with names removed, may be enough to trigger a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violation and its associated policies.

Definition of Terms

  1. Content: Including but not limited to: text, files, profiles, concepts, opinions, images, photos, videos, sounds or other materials that are transmitted, communicated, shared, submitted, displayed, published, broadcast or posted.
  2. Social Media: Internet-based or electronic applications and personal websites that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content such as but not limited to: profiles, opinions, insights, pictures, videos, experiences, perspectives and media itself.
  3. Social Media Communications: Any medium used in content and communication exchange including but not limited to: blogs, photo sharing, online comments and posts, instant messages, videos, podcasts, microblogs, social networks, online communities and wikis. Examples of social media applications include but are not limited to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Craig's List, YouTube, LinkedIn, BlogSpot, Second Life, Upcoming, Flickr and Wikipedia.

Principles for Social Networking

  1. Nurses must not transmit or place online individually identifiable patient information. Nurses must know their legal and ethical responsibilities, as well as their own organization's policies regarding their responsibility to protect patient privacy, whether online or offline. Merely removing someone's name (or face, in the instance of images) from a communication does not necessarily protect that person's identity. Under federal law (HIPAA), protected "individually identifiable information" includes health information that identifies the individual or can reasonably be used to identify the individual, in any form (oral, written, or otherwise) that relates to past, present or future physical or mental health of an individual.
  2. Nurses who interact with patients on social media must observe ethically prescribed patient-nurse professional boundaries. The precepts guiding nurses in these matters are no different online than in person.
  3. Nurses should evaluate all their postings with the understanding that a patient, colleague, educational institution, or employer could potentially view those postings. Online content and behavior has the potential to either enhance or undermine not only the individual nurse's career, but also the nursing profession.
  4. Nurses should take advantage of privacy settings available on many social networking sites in their personal online activities and seek to separate their online personal and professional sites and information. Use of privacy settings and separation of personal and professional information online does not guarantee, however, that information will not be repeated in less protected forums.
  5. As the patient's advocate, nurses have an ethical obligation to take appropriate action regarding the instances of questionable healthcare delivery at an individual or systems level that reflect incompetent, unethical, illegal or impaired practice. Nurses who view social media content posted by a colleague that violates ethical or legal standards should first bring the questionable content to the attention of the colleague so that the individual can take appropriate action. If the posting could threaten a patient's health, welfare, or right to privacy regarding health information, the nurse has the obligation to report the matter to a supervisor or designated person within the institution or entity for follow-up. If the questionable practice is not addressed in the clinical agency and/or academic institution/nursing program and seriously jeopardizes the patient's safety and well-being, the nurse may need to report the problem to external authorities. Accurate reporting and factual documentation, not merely opinion, should always support such responsible actions.


Violations of this policy can result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the nursing program.


American Nurses Association (ANA), (September, 2011).
ANA's Principles for Social Networking and the Nurse: Guidance for Registered Nurses. American Nurses Association, Silver Spring, Maryland.