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MSNBC.com: Facebook misconduct: Med students cross line

Posted Sep 23 2009 10:25pm

Article: MSNBC.com: Facebook misconduct: Med students cross line

Sometime last year there was an article about students posting inappropriate things on Facebook and having to deal with administrative consequences from their school or lose out on a job because some potential employer decided to check up on the job candidates online.

Well in this latest story, medical students across the country are getting reamed for being inappropriate on Facebook. What kinds of things? Offenses included “posting unprofessional content online, including photos of drug paraphernalia and violations of patient privacy.” Even posting YouTube videos of practical jokes with a cadaver.

While I agree that medical students should conduct themselves appropriately with the dignity expected of someone in the profession and that some of the offenses should never have taken place (like being disrespectful with a cadaver or violating patient privacy), I will point to one section of the article:

Medical students are no different from other young adults, said Anastasia Goodstein, a San Francisco-based marketing expert who tracks youth trends on her Ypulse Web site. The generation that first embraced social networking still considers Facebook merely a way to connect with friends.

“Now they’re waking up to the reality of older people and people with authority over them, like deans, seeing their Facebook pages,” Goodstein said.

And I don’t mean to point that part out to make an excuse for the behavior, but just to offer an opinion (that isn’t necessarily mine) from the other side.

However, I do strongly believe that all patient-identifyng information should never be posted online. And that was a line young and old never have a right to cross.

Oh, and one part of the article kind of pointed out something else. One medical student was in trouble for friend-requesting a patient on Facebook. I understand the ethical dilemma. We discussed this in class — that physicians and patients need to keep the relationship professional. But as Facebook has become more and more commonly used as a means to communicate (in addition to staying in touch with friends), I think this is a gray area.

Why can’t doctors add patients as a facebook friend? Is it because the patient will be exposed to the physician’s less guarded, non-professional moment? Or what if the physician had a dedicated professional account? Anyways, not everyone who is a “friend” on Facebook is really a friend (i.e. people who add/approve anyone regardless of whether or not they know them personally).

And now, I must go dig through both this blog’s archive and my twitter account and selectively purge entries…. lol Kidding. Kind of.

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