Nurses around the country need to be aware that what they say on Facebook can get them into serious trouble with their state nursing boards. In fact, their posts can cost them their nursing licenses.
This is true for posts nurses make to their personal Facebook pages, posts they make while they are off duty, and posts that they make while they are on duty at work. Even seemingly harmless, innocent posts can land nurses in hot water with their state licensing boards, and devastate their careers.
Nurses Whose Facebook Posts Violate Patients' Privacy and Confidentiality Risk Losing Their Licenses
State licensing boards investigate, and discipline nurses for misconduct. Although the specifics vary from state to state, most nursing boards prohibit nurses from violating patients' confidentiality and will bring disciplinary action against those who do.
Nurses can violate patents' privacy in their Facebook posts. Posting pictures of patients on Facebook is an obvious way nurses can violate patients' privacy, but inadvertently revealing too much information about patients in Facebook posts is another way nurses can get in serious trouble.
For example, a Texas Children's Hospital nurse posted to a vaccine-related Facebook page about a pediatric hospital patient who had the measles. Although the nurse didn't mention the patient's name, she did mention other information about him and the rarity of his condition. Her online profile also included her job title and the hospital where she worked.
These Facebook posts made it possible for someone to identify the pediatric patient, in violation of his privacy. This is one example of how a nurse's Facebook posts can violate patient privacy and confidentiality and land them in hot water with their state licensing board.
Nurses Whose Facebook Posts Threaten Patient Safety Jeopardize Their Licenses
State nursing boards will also investigate and discipline nurses who pose a threat to patient or public safety. It's possible for nurses to reveal in their Facebook posts that they pose a danger to the patient and/or public safety and subject them to discipline by their state nursing boards.
A good example of this is an Indiana nurse who admitted on Facebook to removing the oxygen from a patient who died shortly thereafter. In the post, the nurse said that she asked the patient if he wanted her to remove the oxygen equipment and let him “go and fly with the angels.”
This is an egregious example of how a nurse's Facebook posts revealed that the nurse posed a threat to patient safety.
Nurses' Inappropriate and Unprofessional Facebook Posts Can Land Them in Hot Water With State Licensing Boards
Most state licensing boards have broad discretion to investigate and disciple nurses who engage in unprofessional conduct. This is a general term that can apply to many different kinds of behavior, including Facebook posts. Posts that can be construed as unprofessional or inappropriate can land nurses in hot water.
One New Mexico nurse provides a good example of what not to post on Facebook. The nurse made multiple Facebook posts that landed her in trouble. In one, she said that she was bored during her shift in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU), implying that a patient needed to die for there to be something for her to do. In other posts, she made disparaging, explicit comments about Native American women. In each post, she identified herself as “Amanda Francis RN.”
The message is clear. Nurses, think before you post to Facebook. Your license depends on it.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help Nurses Whose Licenses Are at Risk Because of Their Facebook Posts
It can be difficult for nurses to know what they can or can't say on Facebook. Joseph D. Lento and his knowledgeable Professional License Defense Team have years of experience successfully defending nurses around the country, and can help nurses whose licenses are on the line for things they said on Facebook. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.