Email and Social Media Etiquette


Email and Social Media Etiquette

Email and Social Media can be powerful tools for communication, and have become integral parts of our personal and professional lives. It is important to use these tools carefully to ensure our messages are received as intended, and that we don’t inadvertently post or send something harmful, to ourselves or others.

For people working in health care the line between inappropriate and acceptable social media and email use is even narrower.

Here are a few tips to help you use your social media and email safely and effectively:

Email Etiquette

  • Never communicate confidential information over email. This includes discussing the health and situation of a patient. Any email can be sent to the wrong person, intercepted or forwarded. Patient’s privacy must be respected at all times.
  • Avoid typing in all capital letters. Traditionally, all caps signifies yelling. Even if your capital lettered-email is indicative of excitement, it still appears unprofessional. As a general rule, all caps are always a bad idea. Similarly, avoid using emoticons or symbols in a professional email message.
  • Try to have serious or important conversations face to face or by telephone. Tone can be very difficult to decipher via email, and therefore important conversations should be avoided.
  • Use spell check, whenever possible, to avoid simple typos. Although a spelling mistake is not the end of the world, if it is sent to the wrong person it could suggest a lack of professionalism on your part.

Tips for Social Media Use

Via the British Columbia Nurses Union

  • Avoid posting information regarding your work: the type of service that was provided, the type of shift it was, any negative exchange with the public, your employer, a patient, or a colleague.
  • Avoid posting negative commentary regarding your employer, your health care community, your patient (patient includes the family and community being served).
  • Never use negative stereotypes, derogatory language or foul language on social media.
  • Never post comments regarding a patient on social media, whether positive or negative.
  • Never use any identifiers regarding patients, community, family, your profession or your employer on social media, such as proper names or even vague references such as “bed number XX”, “a XX nurse” or “this XX town”.
  • Be wary of “liking” posts. You may be held accountable for someone else’s negative statement.
  • Be aware that even altruistic actions can be seen as unprofessional. Avoid posts that identify your profession, provide health care advice, or that offer recycled or excessive health care equipment/medication. These charitable acts, of not employer sanctioned, may potentially be considered unprofessional. Utilize your College’s Practise Support person to discuss these dilemmas prior to acting.