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Image: jazbeck / CC BY

By Kirsty Machon
Journalist

 

When using social media, it is important to pause before posting and make sure you are not doing something you may later regret.

A study of Australian medical students has found that nearly all were using some form of social media, with over 99 per cent on Facebook, 96 per cent You-Tubing and 45 per cent on blogging platforms. The study also highlighted why their posts could land them in trouble.

The research was published in the Medical Journal of Australia, and involved a voluntary survey of 880 Australian medical students. Just over one-third of students admitted to sometimes using social media in a way that could be considered unprofessional.

Examples included posting images or descriptions of themselves while drunk, and posts containing frequent swearing. Some respondents also admitted they had posted things that could be considered sexist.

Other kinds of social media activity that could cross the line of professionalism were posts that discussed clinical sites in a negative light. Fourteen of the students who participated had posted information about a patient. A small group of students reported posting material that could be considered racist and 14 respondents said they had posted material depicting drug use.

More than three-quarters of the medical students reported that they were generally happy with their personal social media profiles. Most (85 per cent) had a private profile Facebook setting, which compares interestingly with a US study in which only 37.5 per cent of medical students had a profile set to maximise privacy.

How to set your Facebook profile to Private

Most of the student medicos in the survey agreed that they were held to a high standard of accountability in the community.

Almost three-quarters of the students had either read or been given information or guidelines about social media use by their university. The researchers for this study commented that universities might also consider introducing more specific activities designed to get students into the habit of reflecting on their social media use.

Four tips for social success

  • Hold that thought! Pause before you post.
  • Check your privacy settings … make sure you keep the social stuff among friends.
  • Know the rules: be aware of your professional responsibilities, including protecting the privacy of patient health information.
  • Know what ‘drunkbooking’ is and don’t do it.


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