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How to be an online nurse influencer

By: Amber McCall, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC, CNL

Tips for building followers and expanding your healthcare impact


  • Nurses can be influencers well beyond their immediate circle of patients, clients, and colleagues. 
  • Social media professional profiles are recommended, which are different from personal profiles. 
  • Instagram Stories is popular for reaching an audience and easy to use.

I recently searched the online journal indexing sites PubMed and CINAHL for the exact phrase “online influencer.In addition to “influencer” being flagged as incorrectly spelled, my search returned only three results for PubMed and one result for CINAHL. Not much has been published on the concept of “influencer” in the medical or nursing literature, but the term is highly significant for nurses today. 

When two marketing magazines, MM&M and PR Week, published their 2018 list of top 50 health influencers (, the top 10 spots were dominated by business professionals from companies like Amazon, Apple, CVS Health, and PillPack, and health organization leaders from organizations like the University of Pennsylvania Health System. These individuals are considered change agents within the health sector. These influencers are impressive, but you can have influence, too, even without millions of online followers. 

Expand your reach

Believe it or not, you can make a difference with just a few followers. A nano influencer is someone with just a few thousand followers within a well-defined sector. Carrying a consistent message across your branded social media accounts will draw in your targeted audience.  

Market your nursing niche

Nurses may not be fully aware of the business side of nursing, but we market every day. We share our health services with our clients, we promote our colleges of nursing to potential students, and we’re advocates of healthy living. In an increasingly competitive world, it makes sense to consider the use of influencer marketing to support our causes. 

Below are a few ways you can connect with your audience to spark a positive movement toward your cause. 

In practice

You influence clients well beyond the face-to-face time you spend with them. Even if you feel as though you’re one nurse in a large organization of health team members, you influence your community by connecting with individual clients. Whether you work in a large urban center or a remote, rural area, people are watching youlive and online. If you don’t believe me, just think of the many emergency department nurses who cover up their last names on their badges. These nurses have experienced connection on an entirely different level. 

Case in point: Let’s say a nurse works on a bariatric floor. He can share healthy eating tips on his professional Instagram account specifically for postsurgery bariatric clients. 


If you’re a nurse faculty member or administrator, you influence potential and current students. Gone are the days when students only Google their professors. Now they actively seek out faculty on social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. I don’t recommend being online “friends” with current students; however, that doesn’t stop students from requesting an online connection with you. Best practice is to have a personal account remain personal (friends and family only) and a professional nursing-specific account to promote your cause. 

Case in point: Given the choices students have for continuing education, many potential applicants are looking for why they should select a certain school. If they’ve followed a nurse leader on Twitter, they may be more likely to consider applying to that influencer’s college of nursing. And, as a bonus, the only cost of that marketing is time to write about 280 characters. 

Health promotion

As a nurse, you stand for health promotion. You can influence others in your personal and professional life, as well as those aware of your online presence. People are watching you. Think about how you can influence them. 

Case in point: A nurse who just graduated and passed her NCLEX-RN® is followed by her family and friends on Facebook and Instagram. She’s immediately increased her credibility to all of these followers—she’s a legitimate influencer. This RN can share tips on maintaining balance to avoid burnout while completing her 9-month orientation. 

Understand the technology

With limited time and the need to capture your target audience’s attention, you may need to decide which social media platform (Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter) is best for you. However, currently Instagram Stories is highly recommended and worth consideringespecially if you’re interested in connecting with Generation Z.  

Instagram Stories is a collection of photos and videos that’s available for viewing for 24 hours. What makes such an ephemeral blast of content so special? It’s discoverable as long as your professional profile is public (meaning those who don’t already follow you can find you and become new followers). You also can add hashtags to Instagram Stories, which means that people who are searching for your key words (hashtags) can find you. For those with more than 10,000 followers, Instagram offers even more features, including adding outbound links (links to other online sites). Instagram Stories can help you build your influence and your relationship with your online community of interest. 

No matter which technology you use, you can impact your realm of nursing, all by being a nano influencer—starting today. 

Amber McCall is an associate professor at the Augusta University College of Nursing in Augusta, Georgia.  

Selected references

Bloom D. Five key trends shaping influencer marketing in 2019. Forbes. January 1, 2019. 

Laurence C. What are Instagram Stories and why do they need to be part of your strategy? PlannThat. 

Read A. Instagram Stories: The complete guide to using stories. Buffer. November 29, 2018. 


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