Five Reasons Doctors Should Be Using Social Media For Good
We all know the pitfalls of social media: the dissemination of fake news, distraction from your to-do list, the army of trolls ready to bring people down for their own amusement. But social media can be a really valuable tool in so many ways, when used wisely, particularly for physicians and other healthcare professionals.
There are several great reasons for physicians to use social media platforms.
1. A Voice
Social media is a really simple way to get our voices heard and to advocate for change.
As physicians, a lot of decisions that are being made in our workplaces, and in the healthcare industry at large, are being made by people who aren’t practicing medicine and may not even have a medical background. It’s really important for physicians and other healthcare professionals to have their voices heard, and using social media is one immediate and far-reaching way of achieving this. We can use it to inform large numbers of the general population, as well as people within the political and health arenas, thereby raising awareness about issues that directly affect patients as well as healthcare professionals. Used in this way, social media has the potential to improve patient care, in potentially powerful ways.
2. Protect your reputation
Another important reason to have a social media presence as a healthcare professional is to protect your reputation. Patients commonly research their physicians and surgeons online, so it makes sense for us to take control of the way we’re portrayed in that environment.
3. Combat Misinformation
Social media can help us in the healthcare profession by providing us with a forum in which to combat the wave of misinformation that – ironically – it also helps to spread.
One of the most popular topics that the general public searches online is healthcare. Got aches and pains? Google it. Feeling a bit low in energy? Google it. Stomach cramps? Google it. And, of course, Covid!
Given the regularity with which people use the internet to research their ailments, the use of an online forum can be an amazingly effective way to educate patients and ensure that they are given the correct information and advice.
4. Prevent Burnout and Define Your Future
As physicians, we are taught from the beginning to do one thing and do it for 60, 70, even 80 hours every week – see patients, or perform procedures, for example. However, physicians in increasing numbers are realizing that this is not sustainable and are pushing against and redefining the traditional boundaries of their profession. We no longer have to choose between the paths of ‘all’ or ‘nothing.’
Doing only one thing full-time could be a path to burnout and overwhelm, but with the right tools and trusted thinking partners to stay clear on your intentions throughout that career, we can create and even accelerate lives that work beautifully for us. Social media is a valuable tool to help us discover what those lives could look like. Opening our minds up to and exploring the possibilities can lead us on a path to discovering opportunities we may not have thought of on our own, and can be an effective barrier against physician burnout.
In the modern healthcare profession, there are people who work part-time as doctors and part-time as physician financial advisers. There are those who split their time between healthcare and coaching. There are doctors who have decided that working permanently as a locum tenens gives them the variety and freedom they desire. A lot of these people say they would probably not have found their way to these lifestyles if it were not for social media opening up the world of possibilities to them and enabling them to connect with other people who are already ‘living the dream.’
There are private Facebook groups where we can meet other physicians who have similar interests and who are doing things both within and outside of medicine that we may never have thought of. There are podcasts such as our own – DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast – that highlight the experiences of physicians who have found ways to blend their lives as medical professionals with their other interests and passions.
Diversification of our careers has a two-fold benefit. In addition to helping to prevent burnout, it also provides us with more control over our long-term financial situation. In the last couple of years, so many people have had to face professional instability, and those working in healthcare have not been immune to this. We’ve realized that our jobs are not as secure as they once perhaps were, and so it’s important for us to find income avenues outside of clinical work in order to take more control of our financial stability, for the sake of our families and our futures.
5. A place to be vulnerable
We’re all familiar with the idea of the stereotypical physician: strong, impervious to vulnerability, able to solve everything. But it’s important for us to remember that we are human beings first and foremost. We have failings and vulnerabilities, just like everyone else, and it’s essential that we have somewhere we can express that side of ourselves.
When we talk to other physicians in an environment where we feel safe to open up, we find that we share a lot of the same pain points. Having a sense of community and the knowledge that we are not alone, which is something that we’ve created at DocWorking THRIVE, is really important for our sense of wellbeing.