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Policy # C1960: Social Media and Electronic Communication

Description: To describe appropriate use of electronic communication (such as email) and define inappropriate use of social media and associated reporting requirements. Consequences for misuse of social media are provided.

  1. Legal Guidelines

    1. Nursing students have ethical and legal obligations to maintain privacy and confidentiality at all times. Students must not post any identifiable student, faculty, or patient information. Removing the individual’s name does not necessarily protect the person or patient’s identity, and sharing information, even with names removed, may be enough to constitute a violation of one or both of the laws listed below and may have academic, employment, and legal consequences (American Nurses Association, 2011).

      1. FERPA - the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
      2. HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  2. Course materials including presentations, assignments, and associated images or recordings are the intellectual property of South Dakota State University and protected under copyright law. It is unlawful and unethical for nursing students to share class materials or recordings/images of class materials.
  3. Use of Electronic Communication
    1. Electronic communication guidelines include the use of email, discussion boards, and other type-written communication related to College of Nursing activities.
    2. When using electronic communication, students should follow the netiquette guidelines.
    3. When communicating with College of Nursing instructors and staff, students should follow email etiquette guidelines.
    4. Students should refer to the course syllabus for preferred methods of communication with faculty. Text messaging is not appropriate for official communication between faculty and students.
  4. Use of Social Media
    1. Social media is defined as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
    2. Nursing students must not refer to patients, faculty, peers, or clinical agencies in a disparaging manner, even if they are not identified.
    3. Nursing students must uphold the legal guidelines (FERPA, HIPAA, and Intellectual Property) in all social media content.
    4. When using social media, students should only post content that reflects positively on them, the College of Nursing, and SDSU.
    5. If students post content regarding the College of Nursing or SDSU, it should be clear that it does not represent the College of Nursing or SDSU and that the content posted represents only the views of the student.
    6. Students representing the University on social media in an official capacity must adhere to South Dakota State University Social Networking Guidelines.
    7. Inappropriate online postings may negatively impact future career opportunities and the nursing profession. Employers and educational institutions may conduct web searches on prospective employees, including online information and postings, and may use that information to make hiring decisions.
    8. Communication with and about Patients
      1. Communicating with patients or family members via social media is prohibited. “Online contact with patients or former patients blurs the distinction between a professional and personal relationship. The fact that a patient may initiate contact with the nurse does not permit the nurse to engage in a personal relationship with the patient” (National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 2011, p. 3).
      2. Students must not post any personal or health related information associated with patients or others such as name, diagnoses, age, room numbers, photographs or other images, injuries or treatments of patients, or other information in regard to: procedures, surgeries, births, deaths, or any incidents on any social media.
      3. Nursing students must not transmit, by way of any electronic communication or social media, any patient-related information or image that is reasonably anticipated to violate patient rights to confidentiality or privacy or to otherwise degrade or embarrass the patient.
  5. Reporting of Inappropriate Use of Social Media

    1. Nursing students must promptly report any identified breach of confidentiality or privacy by SDSU nursing students, other SDSU students, other nurses, or other health care professionals to a faculty member, advisor, or supervisor.
    2. Nursing students who view content that violates ethical or legal standards should first bring the content in question to the attention of the individual who posted it so that this individual can take appropriate action. Just as nurses are required to report posts that could threaten patient privacy regarding health information or patients’ health or welfare (American Nurses Association, 2011), nursing students are obligated to report posting violations.
  6. Consequences
    1. Any student failing to adhere to the standards set forth in this policy is subject to administrative action, including any and all of the following: written reprimand, course failure, administrative withdrawal from the nursing major, and administrative withdrawal from the university.
    2. Any post that could be harmful or reflect negatively on other students, the College of Nursing, SDSU, or any other persons, may result in liability for the individual sending the message.
    3. Posting photographs/recordings without permission from the individuals in the photographs/recordings may also result in legal consequences.
  7. Associated Links
    1. American Nurses Association (2011). ANA’s principles for social networking and the nurse.
    2. National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2011). White paper: A nurse’s guide to the use of social media.
    3. Policy C2230 Use of Mobile Devices in the Clinical Setting.

Policy # C1960
Reviewed  by the Bylaws and Handbook Committee: 12/9/16, 5/5/21
University/SDBOR links updated: 05/2021