Unprofessional Online Content By Medical Students

medical education

60% of Medical Schools in the US participated in an anonymous electronic survey to assess online posting of unprofessional content by medical students.
Of these schools 60% (47/78) reported incidents of students posting unprofessional online content.

  • Sexual-Relational Content. Provocative photographs of students, requesting inappropriate friendships with patients on Facebook
  • Negative comments on specific medical schools using profanity or other disparaging language in reference to specific faculty, courses or rotations
  • Intoxication or substance abuse, e.g. videos depicting intoxication
  • Patient privacy at risk, e.g. blog posts with enough detail that could possibly identify patients.

Only 38% of the respondents reported that they had institutional policies that broadly covers student posted online content. However, most of these policies does not mention online content explicitly.

Certain examples such as comments on certain programs or institutions is hard to call unprofessional because they could fall under the freedom of speech. Also students public behaviors that could be seen as unprofessional during their free time has been present even before the Internet. The Internet can enhance the distribution of these “unprofessional outings” of medical students which gives them an extra responsibility.

An Institutional Policy and educating them about these dangers is vital, what do you think?

Chretien, K., Greysen, S., Chretien, J., & Kind, T. (2009). Online Posting of Unprofessional Content by Medical Students JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 302 (12), 1309-1315 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2009.1387