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Social Media Use and Medical Students’ Professionalism

The use of social media is widespread and heavily adopted by med students. A study at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California investigated whether a course on professionalism in social media use among medical students would positively impact students’ online behavior. As a result of the class, 40% of the med students indicated that they would edit or change their web presence and 24% said they would spend less time on social media. Another 36% did not respond to the survey at the end of the course (they were probably too busy using social media!)

Two studies at Penn State College of Medicine showed that medical students need training on social media use to abide by standards of professionalism. In the first study ethical situations involving patients (compromising patient confidentiality via social media, for example) were posed to students and they described how they would respond.  The second study investigated the use of social media in evaluating residency applicants; there was a disconnect between the way students thought residency program directors should handle applicants’ posting of inappropriate pictures on social media (only 3% of the students thought they should be judged based on any postings) and the way program directors usually interpret such content (more than 50% would reject applicants who post objectionable content).  Many in medical education circles feel that medical schools have an obligation to train medical students on the appropriate use of social media to ensure that they uphold the standards of the profession.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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