1. Hader, Richard RN, CHE, CPHQ, NE-BC, PhD, FAAN

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I used to think the word "tweet" was defined as a sound that a bird makes until my boss said he wanted to "tweet" me. I looked at him strangely and said, "You want to do what?" He replied, "I want to be able to send a tweet to you rather than e-mail so you'll get the message right away." My boss then proceeded to give the entire administrative staff a 45-minute lesson on social networking, with a follow-up lesson with our corporate communications manager so that he was assured we were all listed as his "followers."


This whole experience made me realize that I'm disconnected from the newest methods of communicating. I wanted to learn more about social networking, so I asked my 22-year-old daughter if she could show me around this new world of interaction. I went on one of the most popular websites for social networking, and I felt like I was being a snoop and invading others' privacy. I was surprised about what others placed on the Internet for the entire world to see. I quickly came to the realization that this new form of communication will forever change the way we'll interact with each other. I know I have some catching up to do, but admittedly I still question whether I want to participate.


New leadership challenges have arisen from this new form of communication. Some staff members might choose to discuss work-related issues and concerns on the Internet rather than keeping them within the confines of the work environment. Their thoughts and commentary may be less than flattering to your department or organization and can cause myriad new workforce issues. For example, staff members may choose to use blogging to discuss interpersonal conflict situations, share inaccurate or misunderstood information, or breach patient confidentiality. I recently had a staff member bring me a copy of a social blog in which a nurse had detailed the types of patients for whom she had cared during the last shift she worked. Even though the discussion didn't disclose patients' names, the presentation was disrespectful and didn't produce a favorable image of her, the patients, or the organization. Although inappropriate, this discussion took place during her personal time and didn't violate any of our current human resource policies.


Nurse leaders need to take proactive measures to ensure that staff members are using social networking appropriately. Work-related matters of any type should be kept within the organization because discussions can be misinterpreted by others and can easily destroy the professional image of nurses or the organization for which they work.

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However, social networking can also provide benefits. Many professionals have set up sites that are exclusive to a particular profession so they can network and easily share information, dialogue, and receive feedback and input from others. It's also a vehicle to learn about professional employment and development opportunities.


Technology hasn't only changed the way we work and play, but it's also significantly impacted how we communicate with each other. Social networking is similar to learning a new language. It takes time, persistence, and hard work to grasp all the nuances but after it's mastered, it will open up an entire new world of knowledge if used appropriately.


Richard Hader

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