Final Year Medical Student, University of Bristol
I am staring at the essay before me. It doesn’t very much
look like an essay. In fact, it’s just the title, but that in
itself was an arduous 10 minutes of mental exertion and I decide
I’ve earned the right to a well-deserved break.
And I’m back where I was 10 minutes ago; on
I am just one of 901 million active users of
Facebook1 and have recently been adding to the 200
million tweets that are posted on Twitter each day.2
Whilst the use of social media by students can only be described as
prolific, medical professionals are not immune from these
statistics. According to a recent survey, social networking sites
have been adopted into the lives of 79.4% of doctors - well above
the national average.3
The rapid incorporation of internet tools for
education, research and collaboration within the field of medicine
has been dubbed Medicine 2.0, a nascent yet thriving machine within
which social media is a just a small cog.4
Whilst many readers will be well acquainted
with the personal benefits of social networking, the broader
implications for healthcare may be less readily apparent -
psychologists have been crafting virtual reality worlds for
psychotherapy patients5 and social media has been
successfully applied in cultivating empathy, humanism and
professionalism in medical students.6.
Engagement with such tools may present a
unique opportunity for recruitment. In these times, where
psychiatry is looking for novel and innovative methods to recruit
students, could social networking provide the answer? Recently, a
small scale survey was carried out to investigate this possible
...social media has been successfully applied in cultivating
empathy, humanism and professionalism in medical students
What did we
A total of 57 responses were received. All
respondents used Facebook. 56% used Twitter, 18.2% used Google +,
13.6% used MySpace, Pinterest and Live Journal were both used by
6.8%, LinkedIn was used by 4.5%.
73% listened to podcasts, but of those only
16.2% listened on a regular basis (at least once weekly). Many
reported difficulties in finding listenable, psychiatry-themed
Respondents checked Facebook more than they
checked their email, with most receiving ‘push’ updates in
real-time via smartphone applications.
83% were members of their university
psychiatry Facebook groups with 76.2% signed up to their mailing
lists. Respondents felt that they were most likely to hear of
psychiatry opportunites through Facebook and felt the current
RCPsych groups weren’t relevant to students. An emerging theme
during subsequent interviews was that students often missed College
opportunities and external psychiatry events. This was attributed
to the fact that university groups are often updated by a single
committee member and that not all information is easily accessible
and/or advertised to every university society.
And what of Twitter? Only 7.3% followed
@RCPsych or @future_psych as many reported that tweets weren’t
always directly relevant to students.
What did students
Respondents agreed that social media use in
psychiatry made the specialty ‘technologically advanced’ (65%),
‘modern’ (82%), and ‘interested in students who are interested in
them’ (88%). Furthermore, 41% endorsed that recruitment efforts of
the College have made them more likely to consider psychiatry as a
Whilst 63% responded that current use of
social media in psychiatry has made them feel more involved in the
specialty as a student, many felt that there would be additional
benefit from a national Facebook group (72%), student dedicated
podcasts (66%) and an RCPsych Student Associate Twitter (25%).
Figure 1 illustrates what students wanted from a psychiatry social
The RCPsych Student Associate Twitter is well
established (@future_psych) and currently has 125 followers.
Although not officially affiliated with the
College at this time, the National Student Psychiatry Network
Facebook group has also been independently developed. With over 120
members, it is hoped that the group will continue to expand and
become a national bulletin board for committee members from several
university psychiatry societies to advertise their events and
summer schools. It may also serve as a networking hub for students
to connect with psychiatrists who are offering opportunites for
SSCs, research, electives and mentorship.
Many studies have reported the tangible
benefits of adoption of social media by students and doctors alike.
Yet for many this is a cause for concern; much of this anxiety has
centred on issues of confidentiality, professionalism, and
doctor-patient boundaries. These are real, but manageable
challenges and whilst the full potential of social media in
healthcare has yet to be established, this article highlights its
potential use for recruitment to psychiatry.
Please see the General
Medical Council’s guidelines for medical students on social
Fact sheet. Accessed 14 May, 2012
2.Twittereng. 200 million tweets per day.
Twitter Blog. Accessed 14 May, 2012
3.Bosslet G, et al. The patient-doctor
relationship and online social networks: results of a national
survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2011, 26(10):1168-1174
4.Eysenbach G. Medicine 2.0: social
networking, collaboration, participation, apomediation, and
openness. J Med Internet Res. 2008;10(3):22
5. Giuseppe R. Virtual reality and
psychotherapy: a Review. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2005; 8(3):
6. Rosenthal S, et al. Humanism at heart:
Preserving empathy in third-year medical students. Acad Med.