Athletic Trainers and Social Media
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June 19, 2017
By Mackenzie Simmons, ATC
Over the last decade, the use of social media has increased tremendously. Working in a high school setting, I always see my athletes with phones in their hand scrolling through their Twitter feed, catching up on Instagram or sending pictures to their friends on Snapchat. Whether I am taping their ankles, getting them ice after practice or working on documentation, there is at least one smartphone in the athletic training facility at all times.
While smartphone usage isn’t a huge concern, the popularity of social media sites could be a problem depending on what information is being shared. Therefore, it is important for Athletic Trainers (ATs) to be knowledgeable in how their own social media sites are being used, and how to make sure athletes and others around you are not using it in an inappropriate way.
There are different social media platforms that are frequently utilized. The most popular are the social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. However, LinkedIn, Youtube and Flickr are used for professional networking and media sharing. Each website can be used in a positive way, but there are also disadvantages to social media. Several advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.
Although it is important to be cautious about using social media while working in a healthcare setting, there are some benefits. The biggest advantage is that many patients can use social media and the internet to become more informed about their health concerns. In addition, as an AT, you can post videos, blogs or articles that show people the right way to stretch, exercise or eat healthy. This benefits the way ATs are viewed as healthcare professionals, and shows you are a reputable resource. Also, social media is a great way to stay connected with colleagues, former classmates and other healthcare professionals. These websites make it easy to check in and maintain contact with other ATs, physical therapists and doctors, among many others.
Social media can be detrimental in healthcare for various reasons. First and foremost, it is easy to be noncompliant with HIPAA policies when social media is being used. Sharing too much information about a patient can be grounds for termination from the company or can result in a lawsuit. As a precaution, many people set their social media accounts to private, which is a good step.. However, it is important to know your posts are not ever completely private so do not post anything you will regret. Also, social media can be addicting. It may be tempting to check your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram while at work, causing you to be distracted on the job. As an AT and healthcare professional, you need to pay attention to practices and games in case an injury occurs.
After looking at some of the advantages and disadvantages of social media, there are some benefits to using these sites if you take necessary precautions. Here are some tips for safe social media usage:
- Do a search for yourself on Google. You might be surprised what shows up from your social media sites. Use this search to adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
- Be aware of your company’s social networking policies. Some companies require you to place a statement on your website saying your website only reflects your personal views and not the views of the company. It is important to be aware of the policy beforehand in case a situation arises.
- You do not need to be friends on social media with every person you have ever met. By having a lot of friends or followers, you are allowing more people to have access to your personal information.
- Consider using a nickname or using just a shortened name for your social media sites. It decreases the likelihood people will be able to find your profile or profiles.
- Make sure you establish rules for your athletes in regards to social media. They should know personal information regarding an injury or an athlete should never be shared, as this would be a HIPAA violation.
Eschenbrenner, B., & Nah, F. F. H. (2015, August). Social Media in Health Care. In International Conference on HCI in Business (pp. 76-85). Springer International Publishing.
Ventola, C. L. (2014). Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(7), 491–520.