Over the last few years, the world has seen an explosion of electronic communication and social media. The world has become a much smaller place thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. It is estimated that Facebook has one billion monthly visitors while Twitter has more than three hundred million.

These social media sites are the perfect platform on which to share and translate information on virtually every topic. Nurses often use social media platforms to discuss issues with patients, healthcare, and to promote their own profession.

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However, nurses have found themselves embroiled in significant legal problems both for the organizations for which they work and also for their own registered nurse licensure. And this, because they posted inappropriately on the sites. The words ‘going viral” have come to be associated with any post or tweet that is inappropriate or even mildly controversial. And this can be detrimental to your career as a nurse. And prospective employers perform background checks on social media. Enough said.

The following media stats will prove the importance of maintaining professionalism

These statistics say it all:

CareerBuilder partnered with Harris Poll to conduct its annual survey on the practice of employers searching through social media sites to research not just prospective employees, but also current employees. The results are staggering.

  1. Over the last ten years, the number of employers who screened prospective candidates through social media searches has increased by 500 percent!
  2. 60% of the employers have researched job candidates by browsing through social networking sites.
  3. 49% of the employers discovered information online that prevented them from hiring a potential candidate.
  4. More than 25% of these employers found content on these sites that resulted in either a firing or a severe disciplining of a current employee.
  5. Of all the employers within the healthcare industry in the survey, a whopping 59% of them utilize social media to research prospective candidates!

Why are hiring managers trolling the online profiles of prospective employees?

According to the survey:

  1. 53% said it is to determine if the prospective employee has a professional online persona
  2. 30% said it is to see what others are posting about the prospective employee
  3. 21% said they’re looking for a reason which would prevent them from hiring the prospective employee

So, what online content prevents an employer from hiring a prospective employee?

According to the survey:

  1. 46% is due to provocative/inappropriate images/video, etc.
  2. 43% is due to references to the potential candidate using drugs or drinking excessively
  3. 33% is due to discriminatory or inflammatory statements involving religion/race/gender equality, etc.
  4. 31% is due to negative statements about current or a previous employer
  5. 29% is due to poor communication skills (misspellings, bad grammar, etc.)

What does this mean for nurses?

Obviously, these statistics mean that if you want your employer to hire, and not fire you, you must do more than interview well and perform your job proficiently. You also need to make sure that your online image is professional  As a nurse, you are representing whatever medical employs you, and this doesn’t necessarily end when you are off duty.

To ensure that your online image is professional, you need to do the following:

  • Activate and customize privacy settings on all your online accounts
  •  Remove yourself from any posts that friends may have tagged you in that are morally questionable, and also activate a setting that allows you to review anything that has been posted to your Timeline.
  •  Post a public photo of yourself that has a polite/professional appearance (no revealing body posts, muscle shirts, or smoke billowing from your mouth – even if you think you look good)
  •  NEVER bad mouth your current employer, or previous employers. Save these scathing comments for a private conversation with a trusted friend. And then be conservative about what you say. If you are unsure, rather keep your thoughts to yourself.
  •  Think twice about posting your personal opinions (regarding politics, abortion, gay rights, immigration reform, etc.). Your opinions on controversial issues do not need to be shared.
  •  Highlight your strengths, especially on a work-related site such as LinkedIn.
  •  Refrain from using vulgar language.
  •  Don’t post scantily-clad selfies!
  •  Proofread everything posted publicly so it is grammatically correct.
  •  A good rule of thumb is to only post comments/images that you wouldn’t mind sharing with family, even grandparents. This is usually a good marker.

So, the next time you’re thinking about posting that photo where you are dancing on a bar in a revealing outfit with random hotties pouring shots down your mouth, ask yourself if you’d want your employer to see that. Even if you have privacy settings on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts, any other person you tag in the photo may expose the image to all his or her friends, and so it will be viral before you know it. In a small community, such as the nursing community, it is likely that your photos will be shared by others and then worse still, seen by your superiors. Even though you think that Snapchat activities disappear quickly, this is not the case if someone takes a screenshot of one of your more debauched moments. But here’s the thing: your secret is not so safe.

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