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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Irresponsible use of social media, a serious concern for aspiring health professionals

The Philippines is the Social Networking Capital of the World. Filipinos use about any social media tool available: Facebook, Googleplus, Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

According to stats as of July 18, 2011, in Facebook alone, there are about 25.5 million Filipinos, with most of the users coming from the ages 18-24 (38% of Facebook users in the Philippines). This age range is, in our country, the age of students who are in the middle of their college years or, if they are pursuing Medicine, the early years of medical student life.

Based on what I see from Facebook, I see a lot of my students with Facebook accounts, including students of medical technology, nursing and medical school, among other health sciences. A lot of them are expected to pursue eventually, a career in medicine.

From the Facebook walls, one can easily see every time a student makes a harsh comment to a teacher or a tactless remark, complains of being bored while on duty, make funny poses with props while on training or duty hours, takes a picture of a classmate sleeping during a lecture or also while on duty, and posts embarrassing pictures of oneself or a friend. Perhaps because of a student's being too excited about sharing his or her experience in a ward, he or she takes pictures of his or her group with a patient or groups of patients for documentation not thinking of the possible consequences of his/her actions.

These are just some of the examples how students and even young doctors may be using social media irresponsibly. The bad news is these individuals may not be even aware that what they are doing is inappropriate. They might not realize the possible effects or damage it could bring to their own and other's future careers.

Borrowing what Dr. Neil Baum wrote in KevinMD, the most precious possession of a physician is his or her reputation. And this reputation can be smashed in just a nanosecond with irresponsible use of social media.

The American Medical Association and the British Medical Association have released guidelines pertaining to professionalism in the use of social media. It is ironic that the Philippines appears to have none yet despite it being the Social Networking capital of the World.

I think medical as well as schools offering pre-medical health-related courses should start to pay attention to this issue and promote awareness to responsible use of social media in line with professionalism since the medical profession is one profession that puts high value to reputation. Hospital employers here and most especially abroad can easily check online to know more of a potential candidate through his social media profile and the wrong post or photo can potentially ruin one's future or present career.Making students aware of problems that may arise from indiscriminate posting in Facebook and other online or social media platforms might even help save their own careers.

Responsible social media usage is CebuMD's advocacy. A convention of a certain specialty or a certain professional association (like Philippine Nurses' Association, PAMET), various medical societies and specialties as well as the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges including its Student Network is a good venue to talk about social media concerns under online professionalism. Online professionalism is a relevant, timely and definitely interesting topic to explore.

Being a physician-educator, blogger, and social media practitioner, CebuMD is willing to accommodate requests for a talk on this topic here in the Philippines.

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