Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics

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To post or not to post…
What is appropriate to post on social media? Ratings from students, faculty members and the public. Jain A et al. Medical Education 2014;48:157-169.
Reviewed by Chris White


What was the study question?
Do medical students, medical school faculty and the general public differ in what they consider appropriate Facebook® content?

How was the study done?
Medical students, medical school faculty and employees at the University of Michigan completed an online survey containing 29 fabricated medical student profile Facebook® screenshots related to the following themes: same-sex pairs, opposite-sex pairs, comments on patients, substance use (alcohol, smoking, marijuana), comments on medical school, parties, partial nudity and clinical pictures. Participants rated each screenshot from two perspectives on a 5-point Likert scale: 1) appropriateness of the screenshot; 2) "Would you feel comfortable having the student who posted this as your doctor in the future?"

What were the results?
All three groups rated as least appropriate screenshots containing derogatory or private patient information and marijuana use. Faculty members and the public were more likely than medical students to rate images as inappropriate and to be less comfortable having posting medical students as their future physicians.

What are the implications of these findings?
This is the first published study showing the public's perception of medical student postings on online social media, and not surprisingly, their views are similar to those of medical school faculty. The authors hope this information will help medical students better appreciate the impact of their social media postings on the public's (i.e. their future patients') perception of their professionalism. I think the study would be more persuasive if the "public" came from a broader cross-section of patients. If interested, here's a link to the survey: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~purkissj/FacebookSurvey.pdf

Editor's note: These results are important for medical students and their educators to be aware of. That their social media use may impact present and future patients' views of them is essential for medical students to know (SLB).

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