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Teaching Patients via Social Media

Gina Varacalli

Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing


Arlene Holowaychuk RN, MSN

March 31, 2018

“I Pledge”

Teaching Patients via Social Media

When people think about the many roles of a nurse, does the role of a teacher come to

mind? As advocates and care-givers, nurses must also teach patients and their families. Teaching

is a vital component of the nursing profession. Nurses have special relationships with their

patients and are in an ideal position as trusted patient advocates to encourage and foster

teachable moments. With the advent of technology and social media, nurses can utilize these

tools to educate patients. In our fast-paced world, nurses can continue to foster patient education

by using social media responsibly and ethically. They can also enable patients to empower

themselves by having a more active role and voice in their care and treatment.

Social media and technology in general offer patients the opportunity to become involved

in their care. As social media use has become widespread, its use opens the door to the vast

sharing and utilization of information. This accessibility to information can improve

communication between patients and nurses. Patients have access to patient portals that allows

them to view personal information such as lab results. This can be done from the privacy of their

home or while using a smartphone at a coffee shop. The convenience and flexibility offered by

social media and technology can ease the burden of someone who might already be frustrated

and stressed.

Nurses work with diverse populations. Millennials (born1978-1995) were raised with

technology and are considered “digital natives” (Weatherspoon, Weatherspoon, & Ristau, 2013).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the aging “baby boomers” (born 1945-1965).

Although many in this population utilize technology, some are not inclined to do so. For those

patients, nurses must take a traditional approach to teaching. This can be done by printing

material (perhaps in larger fonts) and going over the information together. Patients eager to

utilize social media and technology can be referred to patient portals, web links, Facebook

groups, U Tube videos or even personal blogs by the nurse.

The advent of social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine

and text messaging allow users brief and rapid communication. This is not to suggest that nurses

skip personal interactions in regards to teachable moments. The specificity of content is in the

nurses hands. Nurses should always communicate clearly with their patients and understand the

preferences of the patient. Technology should be recommended on a case by case basis. As in all

teaching scenarios, one size does not fit all.

Nurses can utilize a personal blog to foster open communication with patients. However,

nurses should always protect patient privacy. Nurses should use social media responsibly.

Always adhere to guidelines put in place by employers. Professional and private boundaries

should always be followed. This is for patient protection as well as nurses. Discussions and

feedback should remain continuous and appropriate (Bassendowski & Petrucka, 2013). The

benefit of using social media should always be for the patient. Nurses should use social media in

a way that reflects well to the profession as a whole. Employers should never be disparaged in

any capacity (Arifulla, Olli, & Merasto, 2016).

The use of social media can empower patients to be active in their care and treatment.

When people are informed, they have a sense of control. Bringing education and social media

together can deliver better outcomes for patients (Eggertson, 2017). Nurses and patients work

together to improve social media. Patients can be involved in decision making as well as offering

opinions on current methods of treatment. Is the technology user friendly? Is it relative to a

patient’s situation? Social media is evolving and patient-nurse relationships can improve the

technology. The idea of being included in care is a positive experience for the patient. This

positivity can foster a readiness for learning. This will enable the nurse to teach more effectively.

The use of social media can heighten teaching moments between the nurse and patient.

Nurses can introduce technology to patients who are unfamiliar. For patients unwilling to

participate in social media, nurses are able to utilize technology to learn traditional teaching

strategies. Nurses have special relationships with patients and can foster the education process

more effectively. In a fast-paced world, nurses use social media to manage their time effectively.

Retrieving information is fast and convenient. Social media use in teaching patients can enable

the patient to feel included and empowered in their care. Appropriate use of social media should

protect the privacy of patient and nurse. Involving patients in the teaching process will produce

positive results.


Arifulla, D., Olli, J., & Merasto, M. (2016). Nurses Guidelines for using social media by Finnish

Nurses Association. Nursing Informatics, 617-619. doi: 10.3233/978-1-61499-658-3-617

Bassendowski, S. L., & Petrucka, P. (2013). Are 20th century methods of teaching applicable in

the 21st century? British Journal of Educational Technology, 44, 665-667.


Eggertson, L. (2017, May/June). Empowered by Technology. Canadian Nurse, 113, 28-30.

Retrieved from

Weatherspoon, D., Weatherspoon, C., & Ristau, C. (2013). Speaking their language: Integrating

social media into childbirth education practice. International Journal of Childbirth, 1, 2-