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Precarious Healthcare Professionalism in the Age of Social Media

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Precarity within the Digital Age

Abstract

Historically, healthcare professions have occupied a unique position in society, bound by the terms of the ‘social contract’. However, the ubiquity of social media, the blurring of the offline/online distinction and the ready online availability of personal information challenges the practice of professionalism. A growing body of research reveals that the online activities of current student health professionals, such as their social media posts, has been found to be unprofessional by breaching patient confidentiality or posting inappropriate content. These studies mainly conceptualise these lapses in professionalism as evidence of latent deficiencies in the current generation of healthcare students that can be rectified through the regulatory actions of their professional bodies. This book chapter uses precarity to present an alternative viewpoint on the impact that social media is having on the practice of healthcare professionalism. It posits that the theory of precarity can offer further explanation for why and how social media disrupts healthcare professionalism in the 21st century.

Research focus: Sociology of Health, including Oral Health, Gender and Professionalism.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The uses and gratification approach is one of the main theories of media. It conjectures that media consumption is an active and significant process, with the subjective needs and desires of consumer being reflected in their choice of and frequency of use of media products.

  2. 2.

    Many contemporary social theorists, including Giddens (1991) and Beck (1994), contend that modernity entered a distinctive phase in the late 20th/early 21st century with contemporary society being faced with a variety of institutional uncertainties, ecological disasters and uneven economic change. These changes are the consequences of the pursuit of a process of industrialisation, and their realisation has culminated in the creation of a new consciousness based on a notion of risk. As a result, a growing sense of unease and uncertainty has become attached to political and social arrangements, culminating in a collective sense of personal unease and vulnerability. It is this notion of uncertainty (social, political, ecological and psychological) that underpins the motif of risk for contemporary society.

  3. 3.

    One of the characteristics of Post-Ford economies is the feminisation of labour. This term has two general meanings: first, it refers to the increased representation of women in service sector; second, it indicates the increase of part-time or flexible work contract and low pay offered in post-Fordist economies (see McDowell and Court 1994).

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Neville, P. (2017). Precarious Healthcare Professionalism in the Age of Social Media. In: Heidkamp, B., Kergel, D. (eds) Precarity within the Digital Age. Prekarisierung und soziale Entkopplung – transdisziplinäre Studien. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-17678-5_12

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