Medical Education Monday – Social Media

Today’s Medical Education Monday is going to take a bit of a different direction. I’ve run out of foreign medical students and doctor friends for the time being, so today I’m going to focus on a different aspect of Medical Education – Social MediaIn the mean time, if you know someone in medicine from a country we haven’t covered send them my way – I’d love to have them! If you missed it, you can read through the past editions of Medical Education Monday here

Original Photo Courtesy of Flick Creative Commons User: smemon87
Like other medical student bloggers, my experience has been that, while really wonderful and up-to-date on most all subjects regarding student relations and professionalism, my school has largely ignored the prospect of students or physicians having a presence in Social Media. We’ve had one or two discussions on the subject whereby a (non-tweeting, non-blogging) professor stood at the front of the room and declared “The Facebook” a bad place to spend time. We were basically told not to “friend” patients and that was that. 

This obviously overlooks a very large, and likely more positive, realm of social media – blogs and Twitter. 

Most people use Facebook as a personal outlet – a place to stay caught up with friends and family members. I don’t think any of you need to be told not to friend your patients on your personal Facebook accounts. So, why are we dodging the larger issues? Why are we ignoring the fact that there needs to be a set of rules and examples in place to avoid issues like what happened with the Kansas nursing student who posted a placenta photo on her Facebook*. 

We really need to stand up and demand a defined set of rules for social media use, not because most of us are breaking any rules with our blogs or tweets, but because without one we are all at the mercy of what a school administrator arbitrarily finds to be “unprofessional.” And, as we saw last week with the Twitter & Blogging Physician Professionalism War of May 2011, the definitions of professionalism vary widely amongst people in our profession. 

So, why don’t I simply talk to my school admins and request that a set of rules be put in place? Well, like fellow med student blogger Fresh White Coat said so well, after the lectures and “advice” we’ve been given regarding the use of Social Media I simply don’t trust that a constructive, rather than restrictive, policy will be devised.

That being said, I’m going to take some time over the next few weeks to write some posts about how I feel my use of social media has made me a better student and will make a better doctor. If we can show the nay-sayers just how beneficial the world of Twitter and blogging can be to us as students, perhaps we can move forward in the initiative to get uniform guidance, support and protection laid out. Until then, we are quite literally at the mercy of an arbitrary definition and pliable area of gray. 

I’m going to need your help, though. If you’re a medical student, doctor or patient (that covers basically all of you) please leave a comment telling me how you think social media has positively influenced you. Has it connected you to other students? Other physicians? Given you an outlet to discuss issues that are important to you? Kept you up-to-date? Helped you learn to engage in academic and medical conversations? If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment, feel free to contact me.  

Over the next few weeks I’ll compile your positives and many of my own and discuss the pros of social media. We all know the cons and I don’t think I need to waste my time listing that out here, instead I will discuss things like

  • Why I choose not to blog anonymously
  • How Twitter communities of patients and activists have helped me
  • How meeting med students from around the world has been beneficial 
  • Staying up-to-date & aware thanks to Tweeting/Blogging students & docs

I look forward to hearing your opinions!

*I’m not here to debate the rightness or wrongness of this, but for the record I 100% believe the school was in the wrong to dismiss her from her studies.