A call to clinicians: Contrary to what you’ve been taught, use social media

From the beginning of medical school, one of the first things “instructional videos” that we had to watch during orientation was about “social media” and what “not to do.” There began this stigma, and it was frowned upon to use social media if you were a clinician.

There are the obvious things that physicians should not do, such as post private information about patients, show a patient’s face without their permission, or exploit medically sensitive information. But no one tells you what you can do and possibly what you actually should do.

There is a new wave that has now taken over that we as a health care community and a community as a whole should support, especially if it is meant to help others. Most recently I have approached social media differently and gone out to explore what is available as a tool to help others. What I’m finding has been mind-blowing, and I am very excited to see where it continues to progress in the future.

People are sharing their journeys, inspiring others, raising awareness. There is a whole community of individuals working as a team to help others. It is incredibly inspiring. Before recently I had thought of social media as being full of people only posting pictures of fun trips or nights out, throwing out their opinions out into the open for people to see. We now have social impact movements, live videos with question and answers for students, people showing their tough times and how they are overcoming them.

For example, I watched a live video the other day on Instagram of a medical student asking a senior doctor for advice and sharing it with his followers. I was able to watch another physician answer questions about his journey on Facebook live. The health care community is sharing favorite healthy recipes on Pinterest and Instagram. The health care community is sharing their workouts on Snapchat as another platform, to mention only a few of them. People are reaching out to others for encouragement, collaborations, and progress. Using it to spread the message. With the busy days of many health care professionals, it is difficult for them to find the time to engage with social media and with others. There are many health care providers that are making an impact and finding the time to do it.

What we need to start teaching in medical school and in other schools in not only what not to do on social media, but how to use social media in a positive light. This is something that is happening and only continuing to grow. It is time to get on board but shine the light in a positive manner. Teach students from early what to do instead of only what not to do. You never know they may be able to influence people in a way like never before.

Joshua Mansour is a hematology-oncology physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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