July 12, 2017 | | Comments 0
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Privacy and social media in the nursing unit

We all consider our privacy to be sacrosanct, a cocoon in which we wrap ourselves to feel safe and in control. We value our personal space and believe that others have an obligation to respect our wishes in regard to what is commonly known and what we wish to keep private.

Your role as a manager means you have become the “Privacy Police.” It is your job to protect the privacy of your staff, the hospital, your patients, and yourself. This juggling act is made more difficult by the fact that privacy is a very fragile commodity these days, and we have far less influence than we had previously thought. Large leaks of personal data in the online environment have made privacy a matter of public commentary and personal challenge.

The word “privacy” has been part of our lives back to our earliest moments of awareness, when we were told that “some things are private” or “do not talk about that at school; it is private.” However, as we swept into the 21st century, the term “privacy” began to take on a new meaning or perhaps to lose its meaning entirely. Invasive social media and the unrelenting celebrity-chasing paparazzi have somewhat neutralized the concept of privacy, making it largely a word with diminishing relevance in today’s world. Yet, on your unit, the idea of privacy remains important and fundamental to your staff and patients.

We consider privacy to be freedom from unwanted invasive scrutiny. Young people today hear about hacking and high-level release of private information, and they accept it as a natural part of life. Privacy has become relative to the degree of interest in your business and your ability to keep others out of it. Your young nurses were raised in a world calling for more transparency with decreasing value on personal privacy; these are often the values they bring to your unit when they are hired.

As a manager, you are faced with a boatload of privacy rules and regulations that fall to you for enforcement. You must ensure that your unit protocols are protecting personal health information largely driven by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA; U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). HIPAA applies to all healthcare personnel and providers. Your manager role means you must ensure your nursing staff understands and complies with rules about documentation, photography, telephone release of information, and the media’s need to know.

You can help your staff understand release of patient information, for example, by identifying who is nonessential and who is on a “need-to-know” basis. Make sure they understand the boundaries and then ensure that they adhere.

You also need to help Boomers grasp how social media really works. Many of them get on sites in order to keep up with younger family members. They may not understand the insidious seepage of information based on the link provided by these sites. Your younger nurses might provide information to the more senior members, helping them understand the full impact of such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, and others. But do not assume that everyone just naturally knows the privacy limitations on your unit; annual review of current privacy standards is a good time to emphasize how this information helps protect the hospital as well as the individual nurse from legal repercussions.

Frank, open conversations about the right to privacy can move it from a gray area for social media followers into a priority for all activities on the unit.

Source: Managing the Intergenerational Nursing Team

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Filed Under: accountabilitystaff development

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About the Author: Kenneth Michek is the Associate Editor for nurse management at HCPro.

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