Introducing Medical Students to Social Media
The modern medical student is no stranger to social media networks, most likely having never lived in a world without internet readily available in schools, homes and libraries. As sources of readily consumable information, many students look to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and podcasts to supplement their medical learning in addition to interacting with others of similar interests. While studies lack evidence of quality, many have found social media to be satisfactory learning platforms for students. However, due to the informal nature of most social media networks, it can be difficult to adhere to principles of professionalism, patient safety and privacy, and transparency. Many medical schools have developed guidelines regarding online behavior, but there is no clear consensus on what level of involvement a physician in training should have. In the same way that you would guide students on how to maintain professionalism at the bedside, how can you appropriately guide your students to interact on social media platforms?
AMSA, the American Medical Student Association, has a helpful introductory guide on the basic principles of navigating the many pitfalls associated with medical information on social media. The guide advises students (and physicians) to respect patient privacy, copyright laws, and adhere to standards of professionalism. One can easily imagine how a single tweet designed to educate could violate patient confidentiality, opening the user up to a minefield of medico-legal issues. In contrast to usual social media behavior, AMSA recommends users to be clear about their identity, to disclose potential conflicts of interest, and to exercise caution when listing professional affiliations or advocating political views. With these basics under their belts, your students can benefit from the medical dialogue on social media without sacrificing their burgeoning professional reputation.