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Nurses criticised for messages spread on TikTok

Nurses have made headlines in the US for using social media platform TikTok to spread health information some believe is unhelpful.

One such nurse was spotlighted for her video claiming that the best way to prevent STIs was to wait until marriage to have sex.

The now-deleted video featured the woman in scrubs under the handle Nurse Holly.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, the woman explained that she wanted the young girls who follow her to know "that there can be benefits of saving sexuality for one partner”.

"In the comments, I acknowledged that of course using protection will help prevent STDs if one is sexually active. I just wanted to present another option to my young audience," she said.

"I understand that my voice will not be accepted by many as it’s an unpopular view. This video was simply created with the intention of helping little girls see that saving sex for one partner may have certain benefits."

The nurse had around 400,000 thousand followers on TikTok before the video she made about STI prevention went viral. She has now amassed over 1.7 million followers.

As the video was spread around social media sites like Twitter, other nurses took to TikTok to counter Nurse Holly’s point or add their voice to the conversation about prevention.

A nurse named Diego posted a video with the text: “Did you know that one of the best ways to prevent STIs is to stop stigmatizing them so people feel comfortable talking about them?

“While abstinence is a valid way to prevent the spreading of STIs, more comprehensive education about the spectrum of options available is important. Creating a safe space for people to talk about their intimate history, being nonjudgmental, and actually attempting to be helpful is best practice in healthcare.”

Earlier, a nurse practitioner posted a tweet directed to Saint Thomas Health, that read: “…this is one of your nurses and she seems to have missed the lectures on sexually transmitted infections as well as refraining from shaming patients. It is very disturbing that she cares for anyone.”

The video also helped fuel a broader conversation on social media about its misuse when it comes to discussing health conditions and patients. A nurse named Sarah criticised a TikTok video posted by another nurse of her impersonation of patients with mental health conditions and the “screaming mother of a baby that was just coded unsuccessfully”.

The Association for Healthcare Social Media (AHSM) last week published a statement saying the body “recognises the need to actively address social media behavior that may perpetuate health misinformation, exacerbate distrust of health professionals, or result in professional consequences for the poster”.

The group added that while there is need to address such concerns in a timely fashion, the perception of a fragmenting medical community may further drive distrust in the medical profession.

“Though disciplinary action is often necessary for social media misuse, we believe this should be executed through protocols set forth by hospitals, health institutions, training programs, and/or professional schools … rather than in a public forum.”

Among other channels of reporting, AHSM called on people to notify the individual or individual’s institution of observed social media misbehaviour prior to plastering it across on social media.

In the wake of the online debate, other health professionals were spruiking the benefits of using sites like TikTok responsibly to spread health information.

Dr Rose Marie Leslie, who has a background in health education, told the BBC that she get hundreds of messages from teenagers asking for videos on specific topics.

She also explained that her followers have told her that social media is an easy way for them to learn something new and useful.

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