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…
Also, as a professional, nothing is off the record and everything should pass the sunshine rule – HOW WOULD IT LOOK ON THE FRONT PAGE OF TOMORROW’S NEWSPAPER?
Here’s a visual representation that’s shows the issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/07/facebook-privacy-changes_n_568345.html
great post! this is an important point not only for doctors but for many other professions as well. i can’t tell you how many times i was warned during law school that facebook and other sites of its ilk had ruined the reputation of many young attorneys before they even took the bar…employers look at these sites, and so do clients/patients, families, and others whom we absolutely do not want viewing us in a light that is anything other than professional. some of my attorney friends have maintained very toned down versions of their facebook profiles; some, like me, have opted to forgo social networking sites altogether. the links in your post are real eye-openers, thanks again for a great post. amazing how much of what you write is relevant for non-med students!
It is also important to be wary of which people you “friend” or are in your network as they can also have pictures of you that you might not want to be seen by a future employer. Likewise you should consider your topics that you engage in as it might deter an employer as well.