Medical students use social media extensively, but medical schools may need to offer more guidance in potential pitfalls, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
"We assessed how medical students engage with social media platforms like Facebook and found that they have a pretty sophisticated understanding of its risks and benefits," said Daniel R. George, assistant professor of humanities. He and Dr. Michael J. Green, professor of humanities, conducted two studies that report findings from a survey of 2,109 medical students nationwide.
In the first study, researchers asked students how they and their peers would and should respond to eight hypothetical scenarios involving Facebook. The scenarios focused on ethical issues including privacy, the patient-doctor relationship and relationships with peers.
In one scenario, a student revealed on Facebook that she was caring for a local weatherman. The majority of students, 55 percent, said they should address a peer who violates patient privacy on Facebook. Almost half of the students also indicated that this is what they would actually do. However, 31 percent thought their peers would not do anything to address the situation.
Another hypothetical scenario involved a patient asking a student for medical advice over Facebook. Most students, 61 percent, said that they should explain to the patient that this form of communication is not acceptable. However, 30 percent believed their peers would send a short message with the advice asked.
The researchers reported their findings in AJOB Empirical Bioethics.
Overall, the students seemed to be mindful of the potential dangers of social media use and had a good understanding of how it could be used or misused in a professional context. However, when faced with an ethical dilemma, there was a disconnect between what the students said they would do versus what they thought they should do. Though 39 percent of students said
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