It’s 2018, and social media is almost unavoidable. Facebook alone has over 1.94 billion monthly active users, as of March 2017, with five new profiles created each second. Now take into account that 76% of Facebook users are female.1 All of these statistics can come together to point to this:
NICU parents are going to want to friend their NICU nurses on Facebook.
NICU parents, particularly moms, spend day after day with the nurses who care for their babies, and friendships often form. When my twins were released in April of 2008, six months before I would even open a Facebook account, my NICU nurse and I exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. I sent her updates on the girls, and she sent Valentine’s Day cards and offered to babysit so my husband and I could have a night out.
It’s only natural that parents are going to want to continue the relationship beyond the NICU, and they want to keep in touch with you too! These days, Facebook is the most common way to do that. What we must remember, though, is that with Facebook, a good deal of our lives are on display: pages we’ve liked, articles we’ve shared, some groups to which we belong and with which we interact. Here are a few things to keep in mind when taking certain delicate relationships to the online level.
Wait until you are discharged
You see her every day and may consider her a friend, but while your baby is her patient, it’s inappropriate to send your nurse a friend request.
“We strongly encourage staff to wait until the baby is discharged before they friend any families on Facebook or any other social media, mainly because it is too easy to cross that very gray line,” says Rhonda Reed, BSN, RNC-NIC, the Director of NICU and Neonatal Transport at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas (Ms. Reed is also a member of the Hand to Hold Board of Directors). Ms. Reed says the hospital has a strict social media policy for their staff, which prohibits them from discussing patient information via social media, even if the patient (or parent) initiated the contact.
In the future this will come up with therapists, teachers, anyone you see regularly, really. But a good rule of thumb to live by is this: if you or your child are still in their care, resist the urge to friend them on Facebook.
If you want to connect with your nurse online (after you’ve been discharged of course!), ask her permission first. Many people have strict personal social media policies and prefer to keep their personal lives just that – personal. And no one wants to accept a friend request out of obligation. Respect her boundaries and ask her a simple question before leaving the unit that one last time: “May I send you a friend request on Facebook?”
Use Facebook lists
Facebook users can create lists and share certain posts with specific audiences. For example, you may want to create a list of close friends and family for your NICU-related updates. Or you may simply filter out people you don’t know that well by putting them on a restricted list.
Maybe you want your NICU nurse to see your baby updates, but you’d rather she not see you living it up on New Years Eve? Lists are perfect for this. And keep in mind that your NICU nurse may do the same for her former patients, as to separate her personal life from her professional. Visit Facebook’s Help Center for more information on using lists to organize your friends.
If you remain connected to your NICU nurse, fantastic! From what we hear, nurses love keeping up with NICU grads and watching them grow. But remember that as much as she loves you and your baby (and all of her former patients!), you are no longer her charge. Avoid sending her messages every time you have a question about breastfeeding or diapers or sleep. These are now best directed at your pediatrician and other support networks.
NICU nurses and other healthcare professionals truly become parts of our lives during our journeys. So while its understandable that a parent will want to continue the relationship beyond the NICU, it’s important to use caution in how that occurs.
We’d love to know how you have handled social media relationships with your NICU nurse or other member of your child’s care teams. Leave us a comment and tell us!
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You can find Hand to Hold on Facebook on our main Hand to Hold page, at NICU Family Voices, and at NICU Family Forum, our interactive peer support page. We’re also on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.