3 of the Best Social Media Tips for Medical Students

Best Social Media Tips

Social media provides ever-more essential opportunities for promoting health care. From blogging to tweeting, networking, and everything in between, medical professionals can not only reach out to current and potential patients, but can also define their online reputation. Yet, it is important to follow guidelines like those provided by the American Medical Student Association because social media can also be a minefield of potential conflicts. The three points below are some of the best social media tips, each of which shows how medical students in particular can protect themselves and their future careers through careful, professional, and ethical behavior online.

Practice Professionalism

As a representative of the medical profession, you should maintain ethical conduct while using Facebook, Twitter, and related media. Take the time to consider the short and long-term consequences of your actions, especially in terms of potential impacts or viral spread. You should specifically assess whether you would say the words in your posts aloud in front of your boss or professors. Since around half of all employers in the field will review your social media profiles, according to the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, your reputation is on the line. Accordingly, be honest about your certifications, provide disclaimers about your position as a student, and avoid political advocacy. If you feel obligated for the latter, then speak with a university representative about potential complications.

Stay Separated

Another one of the best social media tips for medical students is to maintain separation between your different lives. Your social media profile is much more public than your everyday life, but few US medical schools have clear policies about appropriate conduct online, as noted by Kind et al. You should keep your presence online as a student separate from your personal profiles to prevent any potentially disrespectful, defamatory, vulgar, libelous, or inflammatory words or images. As a representative of the medical field, you must respect all people, no matter their age, ethnicity, gender, orientation, characterization, or marital or military status. At the same time, you should avoid requests for medical advice and minimize all interaction with patients past or present. Perhaps most importantly, be sure to read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy as it continuously evolves to ensure that you maximize your security and privacy.

Post Carefully

Similarly, and perhaps most importantly, never discuss confidential information online. Remember to follow the standards of patient privacy and confidentiality as laid out in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As Kevin Pho, MD, founder of KevinMD.com points out, you should be especially sure to protect patient privacy and avoid discussing specific cases. Otherwise, should any patient recognize themself in your online posts, there will be legal and professional ramifications. This last social media tip also covers the restrictions of specific social networking sites, apps, and blogs. It is important to be aware of copyright laws surrounding questions of the right to use content, from photographs to videos and much more besides.

Following the tips above will help ensure that you get your career off to a solid start – by avoiding potential controversies. Although social media feels fun, it has the potential to both help you reach out to the broader public and alienate you from them. Remember that your posts live forever, so any rants and raves you post today will still be around when you’re searching for a job. Potential employers will search your digital pasts, so make sure that you maintain a respectful, professional, and ethical online presence.

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