Examining Medical Students’ Social Media Beliefs and Behaviors and Their Relationship to Professional Identity
Few studies have assessed professional identity among medical learners and links between identity and unprofessional behaviors. This study applied identity fusion theory and professional identity formation to examine the relationship between medical students’ social media beliefs and behaviors and professional identity measured by a physician professional identity fusion pictorial item. The hypothesis was students who were more strongly fused with physicians as a group would report (a) stronger beliefs that students should be held accountable for their social media behavior and (b) more concerns about their own social networking behavior. Participants included 3473 first-, second-, third-, and fourth-year medical students at eight schools in Texas. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and regression analyses were conducted to explore if professional identity formation, measured by the physician professional identify (PPI) item, was related to social media beliefs about accountability and concerns about social media behavior. The degree of physician professional identity fusion was unrelated to concerns about social media behavior (p = 0.102). Analyses revealed students’ degree of physician professional identity fusion was positively associated with beliefs about accountability for social media behaviors (b = 0.085, p = 0.004). This suggests as students’ physician identity emerges, they are more likely to expect themselves and peers to represent the larger community of physicians professionally, at least in the realm of social media. While this study focused on beliefs and behaviors related to social media, the results are encouraging for professional identity formation in general.
KeywordsProfessional identity Professionalism Social media Medical education Quantitative research
At the time of the study, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) Consortium of Medical Education Research in Texas (Co-MERiT) Project Team Members included the following: James M. Wagner, MD, CHAIR, and Angela Mihalic, MD, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; Stephen B. Greenberg, MD, FORMER CHAIR, Cayla Teal, PhD, Mary L. Brandt, MD, Baylor College of Medicine; Ruth L. Bush, MD, MPH, Lori Graham, PhD, and Courtney West, PhD, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine; Simon C. Williams, PhD, Robert Casanova, MD, and Vaughan Lee, PhD, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at Lubbock, School of Medicine; Kathryn Horn, MD, Tania Arana, PhD, David Osborne, PhD, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine; Frank Papa, DO, PhD, and Roy Martin, DMin, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine; Gary Rosenfeld, PhD, Peggy Hsieh, PhD, Allison R. Ownby, PhD, and Jeffrey P. Spike, PhD, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School; Florence Eddins-Folensbee, MD, Dana M. McDowelle, PhD, and Debra Lee Stark, DrPH, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Era Buck, PhD, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. We also wish to thank William B. Swann, Jr. at The University of Texas at Austin for consultation on the project and Yuanyuan Zhou at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine for her contributions to data analysis and interpretation. The authors and the Consortium of Medical Education Research in Texas (Co-MERiT) team members would like to thank the Texas Medical Association (TMA) for their support for the Co-MERiT meetings.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Ethical approval was granted by each institution’s Institutional Review Board. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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