Students Post Unprofessional Content -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Students Post Unprofessional Content


Medical students should be
prepared to use the internet
professionally; © SXC

Internet applications built around user-generated content, termed Web 2.0, include social networking sites as Facebook or Twitter, media-sharing sites as YouTube, blogs, wikis, and podcasts. A risk of these sites is the posting of unprofessional content online that can reflect poorly on individuals, affiliated institutions, and the medical profession, according to background information in the article. “Medical schools are tasked with establishing the foundation of professional behavior in a generation of students who use Web 2.0 and expect digital connectedness,” the authors write.

The researchers examined reported incidents of medical students posting unprofessional content online at U.S. medical schools. An anonymous survey was sent to deans of student affairs, their representatives, or counterparts from each institution. Data were collected in 2009, with 60 percent of U.S. medical schools responding (78 of 130).

The researchers found that of the schools that responded, 60 percent (47 of 78) reported ever having incidents involving students posting unprofessional content. “In the past year, 13 percent of these had no incidents, 78 percent had fewer than five incidents, seven percent (3 of 47) had five to 15 incidents, and two percent (1 of 47) had some incidents but did not know how many. Incidents involving violation of patient confidentiality in the past year were reported by 13 percent. Student use of profanity, frankly discriminatory language, depiction of intoxication, and sexually suggestive material were more commonly reported. Issues of conflict of interest were rare,” the authors write.

“Policies that cover student-posted online content were reported by 38 percent (28 of 73) of deans. Of schools without such policies, eleven percent were actively developing new policies to cover online content. Deans reporting incidents were significantly more likely to report having such a policy”, the authors write.

According to the researchers, “the formal professionalism curriculum should include a digital media component. Discussions among students, residents, and faculty should occur to help define medical professionalism in the era of Web 2.0.”; Source: American Medical Association (AMA)