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Children's National Physician Writes "Twelve Tips for Using Social Media as a Medical Educator"

WASHINGTON, DC--Terry Kind, MD, MPH, Director, Pediatric Medical Student Education at Children’s National Health System, believes that many academic physicians are missing out on social media in part because of privacy concerns. She says many academic teachers are newcomers to social media, and can learn from as well as teach their medical students.

“Though there are risks, many opportunities abound for individuals participating in social media,” Dr. Kind says. “Social media adds a new dimension to current teaching strategies.”  

Dr. Kind wrote a piece entitled, Social Media as a Medical Educator, published in the April issue of Medical Teacher, offering best practice tips for health professionals educators, trainees, and students to build a framework for navigating the digital world in a way that maintains and promotes professionalism. Dr. Kind is also Associate Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and manages the Pediatric Careers blog at Children’s.

“These practical tips help the newcomer to social media get started by identifying goals, establishing comfort and connecting,” Dr. Kind writes. “When used well, social media can be a form of engagement enhancing the lives of and learning by health professionals and trainees and ultimately for public good.”

Although using social media can enhance teaching and learning, “ultimately for the public good,” Dr. Kind writes that “lapses in professionalism can have devastating consequences,” both for individuals and for the public trust in our profession.

One of the most important areas of concern in social media for physician educators and trainees involves privacy questions, Dr. Kind says.  “Healthcare professionals are careful to protect a patient’s privacy in the elevator when there is even one other person present, but need to remain cognizant that on social media that hypothetically one other person listening could translate to millions of others listening, reposting and disseminating information that should have been kept private,” Dr. Kind writes.

Dr. Kind outlines a potentially blundering scenario in which a physician educator decides to use social media, uses a pseudonym, but jumps into it without doing all the necessary research to support his own goals. Lapses can be made by accepting some friend requests from some students and not others; wrongly posting something about patients, or even mistakenly sharing a “rant” to many in social media that was ostensibly meant to be private, Kind says. In the article she pairs this with a second, better scenario where a medical educator uses social media to foster learning and professional growth.

Although there are privacy concerns and “cautionary tales,” Dr. Kind says, “indeed there are many ways healthcare professionals can use it and use it well.”

Among her tips for those in healthcare to use social media, Dr. Kind says that as physicians and trainees think about their goals they should ‘engage, learn, reflect and think” and “avoid anonymity on social media,” Dr. Kind adds.  All patient information must be private, Dr. Kind stresses.

“In setting up your account and profile, use appropriate privacy settings,” she wrote. “Consider who else you might be representing explicitly or inadvertently, i. e., your personal identity, your profession and your employer or all of these.”

Ultimately, “it helps to know who you are offline and who you will be online, reconciling the two and making sure to portray a digital identity with which you feel comfortable,” Dr. Kind says.

Contact: Emily Hartman or Joe Cantlupe at 202-476-4500.

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