Research news: November 2009
Many US medical schools need to tighten up their policies on internet use, say researchers, after a survey found evidence of unprofessional content posted by medical students online. Forty seven of the 78 medical schools who responded reported incidents ranging from profanities about the course and its staff to frank breaches of patient confidentiality on social networking sites and blogs. Other examples included sexually suggestive material, photographs of students drunk or using illegal substances, and requests for inappropriate friendships with patients on Facebook.
Most of the guilty students were given an informal warning but three medical schools reported dismissing students after they had posted unprofessional material online.
The authors also asked deans or their representatives whether current professionalism policies covered online content. Only a third of respondents (28/73, 38%,) said their policies broadly covered online postings and even fewer policies (5/28) specifically mentioned the internet, social networking sites,