Today’s residents are using social media to shine a light on the residency experience and to share the latest news and information related to all aspects of medicine. This helps humanize the medical profession, giving patients invaluable insight into the realities of being a physician. It also offers opportunities for residents to network, collaborate with experts, search for employment opportunities, and more.
However, due to its public nature, social media has downsides for residents and attendees alike. The potential for breaking patient confidentiality, spreading false medical information, and unprofessional conduct are the main hindrances associated with social media in residency—and the medical profession at large.
We asked medical residents about the ways in which “social media is a help or hindrance to you as a resident.” Here’s what they had to say.
Social media may be the future of medical education
Abeeha Naqvi, MD: “I believe social media, when used correctly, can help residents. It can be a great and quick way to de-stress after a long, strenuous day. Additionally, it can be professionally beneficial, as much of the learning material is now available on social media."
"Using the internet and social media as a tool is part of the future of medicine, and it shouldn’t be avoided completely."
— Abeeha Naqvi, MD
It helps me stay updated on trends in medicine
Jake Jacob, MD: “Social media is a great way to stay updated with the latest medical research and breakthroughs. Medical journals and organizations often share their findings on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, so I can easily keep my knowledge current. Plus, there are medical discussion groups where doctors worldwide share their experiences and insights. It's like having a vast network of experts at my fingertips.
“Also, social media helps me connect with patients. Many people nowadays get a lot of their health information from social platforms. I can reach a wider audience and provide trustworthy advice by sharing accurate medical information or tips on staying healthy. Of course, I need to ensure the information I share is evidence-based and accurate, but it's rewarding to know I can contribute to people's well-being beyond the hospital walls.”
"In a way, social media has become a bridge between my medical knowledge and the community."
— Jake Jacob, MD
It can spread false information and false hope
Christina Pedro, MD: “Social media is seen more often as a hindrance because many patients arrive at the clinic thinking they have the medical solution to their problem and just need access to the medication.
“However, social media has also helped by providing connection through music, games, food, and other shared interests.”
"Many patients read social media as factual without fully understanding the triggers for the symptoms and the root of the problem, but it also brings to light important topics that must be addressed."
— Christina Pedro, MD
Ravi Patel, MD: “I learn many things regarding patient care and lifestyle from other bloggers.”
Mark Winfield, MD: “It’s a hindrance, because it can be a big distraction.”
Sunder Sham, MBBS: “It will keep you updated with current advancements in medicine, and it also helps to share anything new or interesting we encounter during daily work.”
Boyer Bran, MD: “You can learn a lot from social media and apply it to patients.”
When used appropriately, social media can benefit residents in how it helps them navigate difficult patient cases, network with other medical professionals, keep up to date with new cutting-edge medicine and technology, and help educate and spread awareness to their patient population about certain medical disorders.
However, social media is a double-edged sword, as it can be a distraction and a time waster if boundaries are not put in place. Unprofessional conduct or patient identifiers may also be unintentionally used on social media, which can cross ethical boundaries that may result in disciplinary actions within a residency program. As a rule of thumb, do not publish anything on social media that you would not say in person to your attending.
Remember to be careful about what you share on social media regarding your personal life, never disrespect your coworkers, and avoid using patient identifiers.
Every medical resident has a question to ask and a story to tell—a comical moment, a prickly patient encounter, or a hack for staying sane during residency. We survey medical trainees for their best questions and answers and bring them to you in this column. Engaging, enlightening, and entertaining—from resident to resident!