“Being the Best We Can Be”: Medical Students’ Reflections on Physician Responsibility in the Social Media Era

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Abstract

Purpose

To examine attitudes, self-reported behaviors, and intended actions related to medical students’ use of online social media after an educational intervention.

Method

In 2011, 180 first-year medical students at the Keck School of Medicine participated in a required two-hour session on the relevance of online social media use to professionalism. Students submitted postsession written reflections about their online presence and professional roles. The authors qualitatively analyzed and coded these reflections for emerging themes. They also examined postsession evaluations and conducted a four-month follow-up survey to identify changes in students’ online social networking behaviors.

Results

All 180 students submitted written reflections and postsession evaluations. The authors identified 10 theme categories within three domains (immediate action, intended future action, value change) from the reflections. The most common themes were “role awareness” (144/539), “did nothing” (94/539), and “intention to edit” (84/539). On a scale of 1 to 5, students rated the overall session quality at 3.92 (standard deviation 0.28). Sixty-four percent (115/180) of the students responded to the follow-up survey. Of those, 40% (46/115) reported editing or changing their Web presence after the session, and 24% (28/115) anticipated spending less time on online social networking.

Conclusions

Attending a required session in a professionalism course led to thoughtful reflection, increased professional role awareness, and intention to edit and monitor future online presence among first-year medical students. After four months, students reported continued monitoring and editing of their online presence. Future studies should examine whether reinforcement throughout training is needed to maintain vigilance.

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