Social Media and the Nurse Educator: How Nursing Educators Can Use Social Platforms More Effectively

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated January 30, 2024
Edited by
    There are benefits and disadvantages to nursing educators using social media platforms to teach nursing students. Being aware of both can help improve outcomes.
    Nurse educator making video on smartphoneCredit: Getty Images/Maskot
    • Social media platforms offer nursing educators a unique opportunity to promote community, collaboration, and cohesiveness.
    • Concerns about social media use in nursing education include potential breaches of confidentiality, cyberbullying, and cyber-incivility.
    • It is crucial that nursing educators carefully monitor social media use and create policies that regulate behavior while utilizing the platform to improve student skills and abilities.

    According to a recent Journal of Nursing Education study, social media may help address asynchronous learning and foster a sense of community and collaboration among students.

    Researchers noted that nursing faculty must find unique ways to engage and accommodate students accustomed to digital technology, including using it as a learning device. Social media emerged as an educational tool in the mid-2000s, and while still relatively new, incorporating these platforms into the classroom can potentially help promote engagement.

    While the average nursing faculty member is in their 50s, researchers noted, that does not necessarily mean they are not tech-savvy.

    “This is a fallacy because nurses who teach grew up in a technology-rich environment, even helped to develop some of the technology used in nursing education today,” Dawn Sarginson, Ph.D., RN, a certified nursing educator at the University of Illinois Chicago and a member of the study team, told NurseJournal. “It is our personal experience that nurses of all ages are engaged in technology, including social media, especially in light of COVID-response teaching requirements.”

    Still, the study results are important to nursing education and practice, with implications for preceptorships, residency programs, and more.

    “Social media has the potential to enhance student growth and learning across complex skill sets, facilitating success and supporting student development,” the researchers wrote.

    Social Media and Nursing Education: Key Study Findings

    The researchers analyzed 19 studies that reviewed a range of social platforms, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, X (Twitter), WhatsApp, and YouTube. Some studies evaluated social media from a learning management perspective, while others looked at student preferences or the feasibility of implementing e-learning projects for a nursing educator.

    [by social media],” Sarginson said. “In one study, students reported that a dedicated Facebook page supported their learning. Two-thirds of students in another study reported nursing programs should include social for information sharing. Additionally, a study showed that social media supports active learning.”

    The researchers identified several positive outcomes, including improvements in:

    • checkSkill development
    • checkSocialization
    • checkAbility to collaborate
    • checkConfidence
    • checkA student’s sense of community

    Students also reported using social media to share educational knowledge and experiences, which helped reduce anxiety.

    While the researchers identified several benefits, there were also some concerns, including:

    • xDistraction, particularly related to X (Twitter)
    • xTime-consuming
    • xMissing important announcements
    • xNot fully understanding how to use the digital platform
    • xInappropriate mixing of personal and academic lives.

    Researchers also noted concerns about cyberbullying and the consequences of nurse educators using social media platforms without policies to guide use, including a loss of privacy and a breach of patient confidentiality.

    Using Social Media in the Nursing School Classroom: Tips and Advice

    When used appropriately, social media can enhance nursing educators’ jobs by providing a cohesive and collaborative digital environment. It is crucial to choose the social media platform based on the nurse educator’s goal and the learning management system used.

    The researchers noted that the collaborative and communication environments that can occur through social media may help students improve socialization skills and build confidence.

    “The platform selection would depend on the course objectives and the faculty intent for learning,” Sarginson explained. “My prior work has shown that using Facebook with unfolding case studies may provide an environment for scaffolding learning and rich interactions as students learn together. Another example is the use of Youtube, where students present videos they have created of group work for each other to learn and for grading.”

    In addition to using YouTube as a presentation platform, nurses can also use it to learn more about essential skills. Collaboration is an important characteristic in the nursing profession, and Facebook can help nursing students collaborate with their classmates and instructors.

    According to Sarginson, a good first step is to include social media in nursing theory and clinical courses so that students have a place to establish community, inclusivity, and connectivity. However, it is crucial for faculty to implement digital technology with care and to monitor it for bullying and cyber incivility.

    “As students’ learning needs change, pedagogy also needs to change. However, faculty and administrators are cautioned to manage and supervise social media engagement in the courses and create structures that minimize concerns,” the researchers wrote. “Future research of higher quality may better answer ongoing questions about the role of social media in nursing and health care education.”

    Meet Our Contributor

    Portrait of Dawn Sarginson Ph.D., RN, CNE

    Dawn Sarginson Ph.D., RN, CNE

    Dr. Dawn Sarginson joined the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), College of Nursing Springfield Campus in the spring of 2018. She is a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) who primarily teaches pre-licensure and graduate nursing students. Dr. Sarginson had 16 years of clinical nursing experience before joining academia to mentor future nurses. In 2023, she was one of three Nurse Educator Fellows selected by the Illinois Board of Higher Education to reward outstanding nursing faculty. Dr. Sarginson’s scholarly focus in nursing education includes socio-emotional learning, social media in nursing education, interactive technology, collaborative learning, and active learning spaces.