Social media, like Facebook, is an important way to keep in touch with friends and not feel so isolated when you are in medical school and your residency. It’s a wonderful tool, but it can backfire if you don’t realize some of the pitfalls.
Unlike high school and college, once you are in medical school, you are part of a profession. (Yup, from the moment you start). So there are a few important rules you need to know about using Facebook or any social media network.
1. Never friend patients or their families. This is an important rule to follow. Even if they are the nicest people in the world just make up your mind now that the answer is “never.” Once you are in practice, you may choose to use social media by developing a page for people to “like”… but don’t do it while you are in training!
2. Beware changing privacy rules. Facebook in particular is notorious for changing who can see what. You need to check – often. Everything on your Facebook page should be “friend only” .
3. Make sure you know what other people can find out about you on the Web. Residency programs routinely use search engines to screen for “red flags” in applicants. This is even more true once you finish residency and are looking for a job. So, periodically, do a search on yourself. You’ll need to make sure there is no misinformation out there and do whatever it takes to get it corrected.
4. Never post unprofessional photos or comments. You are not in college anymore. Think about what you have on Facebook now (and what you will put on in the future). Is there anything you wouldn’t want the Dean of Students or your Program Director to see? Do you really want people to see the disparaging comment you made about a professor or attending? Take it off. It’s not professional.
5. Never put ANY patient information on Facebook. Part of being a professional is knowing the rules. Patient confidentiality is protected by law… and by the ethics of medicine. Never, never, never (in case it wasn’t clear – that means NEVER) put ANY information about a patient on Facebook or any social media…