, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 954-957
Date: 10 Jul 2008

The Intersection of Online Social Networking with Medical Professionalism

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Abstract

Aim

To measure the frequency and content of online social networking among medical students and residents.

Methods

Using the online network Facebook, we evaluated online profiles of all medical students (n = 501) and residents (n = 312) at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Objective measures included the existence of a profile, whether it was made private, and any personally identifiable information. Subjective outcomes included photographic content, affiliated social groups, and personal information not generally disclosed in a doctor–patient encounter.

Results

Social networking with Facebook is common among medical trainees, with 44.5% having an account. Medical students used it frequently (64.3%) and residents less frequently (12.8%, p < .0001). The majority of accounts (83.3%) listed at least 1 form of personally identifiable information, only a third (37.5%) were made private, and some accounts displayed potentially unprofessional material. There was a significant decline in utilization of Facebook as trainees approached medical or residency graduation (first year as referent, years 3 and 4, p < .05).

Discussion

While social networking in medical trainees is common in the current culture of emerging professionals, a majority of users allow anyone to view their profile. With a significant proportion having subjectively inappropriate content, ACGME competencies in professionalism must include instruction on the intersection of personal and professional identities.