What is Professional?

Would you see a doctor who denigrates patients online?  I wouldn’t.

A few medblogs are all abuzz – again – about what constitutes professionalism in social media.  The latest was prompted by a specific posting on twitter.  It amazes me that people can look at identical information and come up with very different interpretations as to whether or not it’s appropriate.

(Warning:  adult content):

  • Tweet1:  On call.  Resident told me there’s a 36 hour priapism that will likely need to go to OR
  • Tweet2:  I’m dreading having to go talk to him.  Poor thing must be freaking mortified.
  • First Commenter:  sorry had to say it… ru sure the patient wasn’t staring at you for 36 hours
  • Tweet3-responding to 1st comment: I’m not that mean- would’ve fished or cut bait by now
  • Second Commenter: Holy. Cow. I don’t even have a penis and that makes me hurt.
  • Tweet4-responding to 2nd comment: I know like right?
  • Third Commenter?:  (gone from feed, can’t find this tweet but it looks like there was one)
  • Tweet5-responding to 3rd comment: Apparently he has no risk factors (sickle cell, cocaine, etc) except for having a penis :(

What a thing for people to be up in arms about.  The “unprofessional” accusation seems to come from the response to the juvenile first comment.  It was probably not the most well-thought-out reply someone ever made, but it doesn’t say anything bad about the patient.  It’s not lacking in compassion.  There’s no foul language.  It doesn’t violate anybody’s right to privacy.

I appreciate doctors who are willing to put themselves on record and educate patients about the world of medicine.  I don’t necessarily care whether they use their real name, a pseudonym, or are anonymous.  It’s much more important that the person convey caring and respect toward patients.

A good example is Dr. Grumpy, the Mongolian yak herder.  Anonymity isn’t a problem.  He’s able to share some of the insane situations that occur in his practice – and there are some doozies – without sounding like he hates all his patients.  People do some crazy things sometimes, but he comes across as caring about his patients despite the shenanigans they occasionally pull.  If I needed a neurologist yak herder (thankfully, I don’t), he’s someone I’d want to consult.  A few other anonymous bloggers who conduct themselves professionally are Whitecoat & A Country Doctor.  It’s really not the name that’s on the blog; it’s the attitude behind the content.

What are some of the things that make a doctor sound professional online?

  • Being respectful of others (nurses and other doctors, as well as patients)
  • Sharing patient stories to make a point (not as gossip)
  • Keeping language clean (which I consider part of being respectful, but have discovered that many people need this spelled out)
  • Recognizing that while blogs/tweets can be entertaining, there’s always a little bit of education taking place
  • Refraining from spewing anger/derision about patients

Comments welcome.  What criteria do you consider important to presenting a professional online image?

 Also see Blogging Guidelines for Physicians

________________
*Since doctors often claim to change identifying information, it’s entirely possible that this series of tweets was about a completely different situation (maybe even a her instead of a him).  I take everything with a grain of salt and look more at the big picture than the little details when I’m reading things online.

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One thought on “What is Professional?

  1. I like Doctor D over at AskAnMD.blogspot.com. And I love Dr Grumpy too.

    I shudder at the thought of being treated by one of the bloggers/twitterers who ridicule their patients cruelly. I don’t think it’s bad to have a sense of humor and write funny anecdotes. But especially among ER workers, there seems to be a dearth of compassion and way too much suspicion and cynicism. Not everyone who shows up in the ER is a drug addict looking for a fix. :(

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