I appear to have updated more than usual in the past few weeks. You may blame the uni holidays, and also the fact that I really ought to be doing some preparatory reading for my next placement and thus of course absolutely anything else in the world seems more interesting and appealing than what I should be doing.
It will come as little surprise to most of you to learn that I am
a huge fan of Twitter. I joined initially because I thought it might be fun to
follow some of my favourite "celebrities" on there (Stephen Fry mentioned it a
lot in his podcasts). Having joined, I discovered some of my friends had
accounts and thought it was worth following them. As a lot of my friends are
medics (quelle surprise...) I soon found myself connecting with medical students
and doctors around the UK and indeed the world. Now, this is great. I get to
chat to people who are experts in their field. I can compare notes with students
at other unis. If I have a question, I can "Tweet" it and most of the time I
have a reliable answer in minutes. All of this is fantastic, not to mention that
I have made some lovely friends who I probably wouldn't have met any other way.
Recently, however, I have started to have a few concerns about how I use
As a soon-to-be (I hope!) doctor, I have followed with interest
recent discussions on various media regarding professional conduct and social
networking. My profile is semi-anonymous, in that if you access it you can
probably work out who I am, but I don't think you could find it by searching for
me directly. I tend to lead a fairly dull and mundane life. The most
"unprofessional" behaviour I engage in is the occassional vodka (ok, a few
vodkas) once in a blue moon. I don't do anything illegal and I don't think I
ever do anything which would make people worry about my suitability as a doctor.
At least I hope not. Thus, I am rather unlikely to "reveal" anything on Twitter
which isn't common knowledge. On occassion I have been slightly concerned that a
jokey comment could be taken out of context and imply something quite different
from what I intended, but for those situations there is of course the "delete"
button. If I feel that something I've said has caused offence or annoyance I am
generally more than happy to apologise and remove the tweet in question. I also
have the utmost respect for my collegues, so if it is suggested that I've said
something unwise then I'll listen, take down what I've written and try not to
say similar in future. My concerns regarding Twitter, then, are not really
related to professionalism.
I have recently found myself in something of
an interesting situation. Given the vast numbers of people using social media
and the ease with which one can find and follow those with similar interests, I
have been followed by (and follow) several doctors who work in places I have
been on placements or may work in future. As I stated above, I'm not really
concerned by this as I don't say anything online that I wouldn't say in person.
However, it got me thinking. I have expressed an interest, via Twitter, in
several areas of medicine. One of the perks of social media for me is that if I
say I'm interested in, say, Urology, a trainee or consultant in that area is
fairly likely to contact me and offer advice and encouragement. Where I begin to
feel somewhat awkward (that isn't the right word but it's the best I can think
of for now) is when people offer to meet up for chats etc. Now, I've met plenty
of people from Twitter, some of whom are pretty senior, but it's always been
purely social. I'm starting to wonder whether meeting people for what is
essentially professional networking is ethical. Should I be interacting with
people who might be assessing me in an OSCE in a few months? On the face of it,
I don't see a problem. I'm not silly enough to expect special consideration just
because someone's read my tweets - if I screw up, I expect to fail. I very much
doubt that any of the examiners are unprofessional enough to be swayed by
something so trivial. In fact, if they are I should probably feel more guilty
about doing extra work, audits etc for various people as they definitely know me
fairly well. So what's the problem? Well, I wonder whether I'm gaining an unfair
advantage by using Twitter. I'm not sure whether contacting these people and
taking them up on their kind offers of tea and mentoring is being assertive and
seizing an opportunity or if I'm doing something somehow dishonest. I feel in
some ways like I'm "cheating" a bit - after all, not everyone has access to
Twitter. Is it fair that I potenitally benefit in my career because I use a
medium not available to everyone?
I would be interested to know what
other people think. I'm pretty sure that I'm massively overthinking what is
actually not a problem at all ("how unusual" I hear you cry!) but none the less
it's been on my mind somewhat so I thought it worthy of a blog post.
the New Year is treating you all well xxx