Where personal and professional lives intersect online

Residency Program Insider, February 16, 2009

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Medical students and residents share too much information on social networking Web sites, according to a study, The Intersection of Online Social Networking with Medical Professionalism, published in the July 2008 edition of The Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville logged onto the social networking site Facebook and evaluated the online profiles of all the institution’s 501 medical students and 312 residents.

After reviewing the profiles, researchers concluded the following:

  • 44.5% trainees had a Facebook account
  • 83.3% of accounts listed at least one form of personally identifiable information
  • 37.5% of profiles were made private so that the public could not view them

    Study authors also randomly selected 10 profiles to evaluate more closely for information patients or colleagues may find offensive, according to a University of Florida press release. Researchers said many of these profiles contained content that may be contradictory to the ACGME’s professionalism competency, including photos, affiliated social groups, and personal information not typically shared in a doctor–patient relationship.

    As a result of this study, researchers call on medical educators to include guidelines on how to use these sites properly and instruction on the intersection of personal and professional identities while teaching the professionalism competency.

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