In the Media: Hospital Ban Stirs Debate About Social Networking Media

    • February 25, 2010

Last fall, the New England Baptist Hospital temporarily banned employees from using social networking media to protect patient privacy.

But for nurses, there are many benefits to social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, according to Amy Barton, Ph.D., R.N. the associate dean for clinical and community affairs in the nursing department at the University of Colorado in Denver and a collaborative member of Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN), a project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

It is “imperative” that nurses learn about social networking tools to improve patient outcomes, she argues in the current edition of the journal Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Social networking sites facilitate communication and learning, Barton says. And that will help nurses and their patients. As an example, she sites a networking site pioneered by nursing faculty at the University of Colorado in Denver that enables nursing faculty to connect across the state to share ideas, information, resources and learning activities. She also says social networking sites can be used to facilitate virtual journal clubs, where nurses can access professional literature and discuss health policy.

In October, the New England Baptist Hospital decided to temporarily ban social networking media because hospital employees were revealing private information about patients in online posts, according to an October 2009 story in the Boston Herald. At the time, administrators had put in place strict policies about email but none regulating the use of social networking sites. The ban is to remain in place until the hospital develops tools to monitor use and content, according to the article.

In addition to Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other sites for general audiences, there are also numerous online social networks for nurses, including www.nurseconnect.com, www.nursespace.com, and www.nursescafe.com.

What do you think? Should health care organizations allow nurses to use social networking sites on the job? Share your views at nursing@rwjf.org!

Please note that this column is designed to feature feedback and comments from readers. Editors reserve the right to use the comments our readers submit to nursing@rwjf.org, but will only use a commenter’s name with express permission.