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Using Social Media to Maintain Professional Connections While Traveling

how travel nurses can use social media to maintain relationshipsBy Leigh Morgan, Contributor
As a travel nurse, you probably meet hundreds of new people each year, which can make it difficult to maintain professional connections. Using social media is a great way to maintain relationships, but it's easy to make mistakes that can come back to haunt you. Before you make your first post, check out our guide to social media for nurses.

Post appropriate content

If you're using social media to maintain professional connections, it's important to post appropriate content. Don't post anything that could cause other medical professionals to doubt your knowledge, competence or commitment to nursing. You should be especially cautious when posting about things that happen while you're on the job. Even something that seems innocent could actually be a violation of patient privacy laws. If you violate patient privacy while using social media, your contacts are likely to doubt your professionalism, and they may even be required to report the violation, according to an article published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.
Jackson et al. report that online bullying is also a serious concern for nurses. Defaming another nurse, purposely excluding other nurses from participating in your posts and sharing pictures of colleagues without their consent are all examples of cyber bullying. If you plan to use social media to maintain your professional network, avoid this type of behavior when posting on your own account or commenting on other people's posts.

Choose your profile photo wisely

There's nothing wrong with having a drink or wearing a bikini, but if your primary purpose in using social media is to maintain professional connections, a picture of you drinking on the beach should not be the first thing your contacts see. Lydia Abbot of LinkedIn offers the following social media tips to help you choose the right photo.
  • Use a current photograph so that people know what you look like now, not when you were in high school. Avoid using filters that distort your appearance so much that people won't recognize you if they meet you in person.
  • Make your face the focus of your profile photo. People want to see what you look like, not what your kitchen looks like. If necessary, crop the photo so your face takes up more space than background items.
  • If possible, avoid using a selfie. Many selfies feature awkward poses, and some front-facing cameras produce lower-quality images than rear-facing cameras. Ask a colleague or family member to take the picture for you instead.
If you're ready to take on a new challenge and add more people to your professional network, visit the Nurses Choice job board to find your next travel nursing assignment.

Ask contacts if you have their permission to contact them

Platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook make it easy to send connection requests to the people in your personal and professional networks. Although there's nothing wrong with sending such a request, it can be helpful to ask for permission first. Some nursing professionals use social media only to keep in touch with family members and personal friends, so asking ahead of time can help you avoid the awkwardness of sending a request and having it denied.

Don't send automatic requests

Once a colleague agrees to connect with you on social media, it's important to avoid behaviors that could be perceived as spammy or annoying. If you're using Twitter, avoid sending automated direct messages to your followers. Digital marketing expert Jeff Bullas claims that sending an automated direct message before you've offered anything of value to the other person is "a bit greedy to say the least." Bullas also recommends avoiding mass invites and any other online behavior that could be classified as spamming.

Avoid venting about your work

Travel nursing can be stressful, but social platforms are not the place to vent about your job. Unless you use strict privacy settings, your colleagues, your employer and even your travel nursing agency can see what you write. Some nurses have even been fired for complaining about their patients, supervisors or employers on social networks. For example, Alyssa Rege of Becker's Hospital Review reports that a nurse employed by a Choctaw medical facility was fired after she made offensive comments about Native Americans. If you plan to use social media to maintain professional connections, keep your posts professional and avoid making negative comments.
Social networks make it much easier for travel nurses to stay in touch with their colleagues, but social media is filled with potential landmines if you don't use it correctly. Follow the social media tips above to project your professionalism to every one of your contacts.

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