Social Media: A Threat to Professionalism

Most everyone in the modern world is connected through social media, including medical professionals. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat is full of people sharing the details of their day, no matter how mundane. So it is no surprise that young physicians want to be included and share their day to day activities as well, especially if they are as exciting as seeing an amputation or an extremely rare disease. This openness however is not harmless as health privacy laws can be easily violated. A study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital attempts to 1. Understand what pediatric resident view as appropriate social media postings and 2. Recognize the degree to which these residents are exposed to postings that violate social media professionalism guidelines. The study used a survey with hypothetical social media posts and asked participants if these were appropriate and if they had seen similar posts. The study’s most surprising finding is that residents were not familiar with the institutions policy on social media (52%). Residents also frequently saw postings of derogatory marks about attending physicians and patients, which they identified correctly as inappropriate. Residents, also frequently saw postings of colleagues in scrubs drinking alcohol and their feelings were neutral about the appropriateness of the post.  Such findings demonstrate the need for clear guidelines of institutional expectations for its employees in regards to professionalism and social media postings.

  1. Dawkins R, King WD, Boateng B, Nichols M, Desselle BC Pediatric Residents’ Perceptions of Potential Professionalism Violations on Social Media: A US National Survey.JMIR Med Educ 2017;3(1):e2 URL: DOI: 10.2196/mededu.5993 PMID: 28143804 PMCID: 5309435

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