Social networking and social media are not new concepts. Social communication has gradually advanced from face-to-face conversations and early forms of written and print communication to using the telephone for party lines and conference calls. Now we are using computers for group email (list serv), online forums, chat rooms, instant messaging, and blogs. Interactive social networking websites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com are becoming popular for staying connected with friends, classmates, and others with similar social, political, or entertainment interests.  Some examples of professional networks are LinkedIn, Tagged, and Plaxo. These sites and professional organization websites are helpful for making business contacts, finding jobs, and discussing challenging professional and business issues. 

The newer features of social networking allow the users to more easily exchange documents including articles, policies, and documentation forms. Some websites allow the nursing community to mentor newer nurses; recommend great job openings; and give advice about going back to school for advanced degrees. What's also helpful is that these discussions are archived and can be searched for later use.  

Professional and social networking have many benefits for nurses, but some nurses have not been very cautious about their use of these websites. Here are some examples of how to avoid making mistakes online.

  1. Think before you post messages, photos, and videos. You would never want to tarnish your professional image, to embarrass a colleague, or to hurt your chances of career advancement.  
  2. To protect yourself from identity theft, you must be aware that social networking sites are not private and limit the amount and type of personal information you share.
  3. To avoid risk of a HIPAA violation, never publish patient information without written permission.

For those who want to share new techniques you discovered, search for cost-effective ways to deliver patient care, or to announce your recent accomplisments, there are many great websites waiting for you to post your news or to ask your questions. Happy blogging!