Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 20 Mar 2011, and is filled under Volume 6 No 1.

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How are you using Social Networking Tools?

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Technology in Education Column

by Dr Sandra Bassendowski

Here is our current installment of our most recent feature, written by one of our CNA Centennial 100 Award Winners, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski, Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Sandra recognized a need, and offered to write this important column for the CJNI – this column is focused on how technology can be used in nursing education and by nurses in general. Sandra has been recognized by the Canadian Nurses’ Association, as well as the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the University of Saskatchewan for her inspiring, dedicated work in her educational practice.

Did you know that there are hundreds of Web 2.0 tools available online for individuals to use for networking, collaborating, and communicating?  The one that gets a great deal of publicity is Facebook and in the beginning it was primarily used to share photos and vacation updates with friends.  In 2011, we are becoming increasingly aware of unethical situations that are surfacing within professional and work environments.  For example, a recent news item describes action taken by a school of nursing to dismiss a student after she posted a photo, taken during clinical, which was deemed inappropriate.  The questions that are being asked in nursing education relate to the extent of parameters between personal and professional boundaries or if a certain degree of ‘blurring’ is occurring.

The Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) has developed an InfoLAW paper on Social Media and the document states “nurses, like other health care professionals, are held to a high standard of confidentiality with respect to all patient information. Professional practice standards may also be applicable when nurses use social media in connection with their professional activities and require nurses to display professional conduct towards both patients and colleagues. Failure to abide by these standards can lead to serious legal consequences” (Confidentiality, ¶2). The Canadian Nurses Association states that the registered nurse “applies ethical and legal principles related to maintaining client confidentiality in all forms of communication: written, oral and electronic (e.g., blogs, social networking sites, camera phones, text messaging, e-documentation, electronic health records)” (Professional Practice, ¶PP3).

Although I am not a “friend” on Facebook, I decided to research the educational uses of social networking tools and determine how they can be effectively implemented to enhance a teaching and learning environment.  I am currently exploring a social networking tool for its ability to support course content and provide a forum for communication and collaboration with both graduate and undergraduate nursing students.

The tool that I decided to use is called NING; it is password protected and students have to be invited to participate so it provides the necessary boundaries for a nursing education course.  In addition, I have stressed that this is a professional nursing education site and that the content (blogs, photos, videos, podcasts) that students add to the site must be professional and evidence based.

I believe that the social networking tool has the ability to support the co-creation of content (Kaminski, 2009) with students taking responsibility to evaluate resources that they find online and determine if and how these resources add to existing course content.  In addition, students can post questions or short research based narratives for other students to respond to or to comment on from their perspective. The site can be customized and I have added a Twitter tool to provide short course updates and news on a regular basis.

Although I have a great deal to learn about the use of a social networking site for teaching, I think that it is a valuable experience for me, as an educator, to use this tool to determine its pedagogical significance. In addition, it provides students with the experience of working within professional parameters on a social networking tool.

CNPS provides all of us with some key points about risk management: Avoid posting /sharing confidential information from your work as an unnamed patient or person may be identifiable from posted information; respect and enforce professional boundaries as communicating with clients through social media sites may extend the scope of professional responsibility; present yourself in a professional manner in photos, videos and postings, and make your personal profile private and accessible only by people you know and trust (Risk Management, ¶1).


Canadian Nurses Association. (2011). Canadian Registered Nurse Examination- Competencies. June 2010 – May 2015. Professional Practice. [Online]. Available:

Canadian Nurses Protective Society. (2010, December ). Social media. InfoLAW, 19(3). [Online]. Available:

Kaminski, J. (2009). Editorial: Harnessing the wave of co-creation. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics, 13(3). [Online]. Available:

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Bassendowski, S. (Winter, 2011). How are you using Social Networking Tools?  CJNI: Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, 6 (1), Technology in Education Column.

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