Social media use by medical students is a dangerous proposition for five reasons:
1) The information that medical students steward is particularly sensitive, has massive consequences for the vulnerable populations from which it's drawn, and the privacy of which is protected by federal law.
2) Sharing this information with one’s colleagues and superiors, in write-ups, presentations, and casual discussion, is expected as part of a med student's medical education. Doing so appropriately within the traditional contexts is hard enough without trying to determine what's tweetable.
3) Medical students have a lot to lose, both in terms of resources invested and future career ramifications, if they are found in violation of patient privacy, if they insult their school, or if they say something boneheaded. Crucially, students are often naive to their own personal stakes.
4) As digital natives (having matured entirely in the connected, internet age), today’s medical students have deeply ingrained information sharing habits that may be incommensurate with their new responsibilities.
5) There is a growing body of MD’s, healthcare workers, and commentators who encourage medical students to engage with social media as a central feature of medical education and future practice without adequately preparing these students to be responsible (and often without consensus even amongst themselves).
Three concerns come to mind:
1) How do we protect patients?
2) How do we protect institutions?
3) How do we protect students themselves?
Until we can robustly offer these three protections, I do not think it is right to encourage medical students to join the social media space.
Am I being overly cautionary?
Am I missing any areas of protection?
Your thoughts are SO, so welcome!