Perception of social media behaviour among medical students, residents and medical specialists

S.A. Pronk*, S.L. Gorter, S.J. van Luijk, P.C. Barnhoorn, B. Binkhorst, W.N.K.A. van Mook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction Behaviour is visible in real-life events, but also on social media. While some national medical organizations have published social media guidelines, the number of studies on professional social media use in medical education is limited. This study aims to explore social media use among medical students, residents and medical specialists. Methods An anonymous, online survey was sent to 3844 medical students at two Dutch medical schools, 828 residents and 426 medical specialists. Quantitative, descriptive data analysis regarding demographic data, yes/no questions and Likert scale questions were performed using SPSS. Qualitative data analysis was performed iteratively, independently by two researchers applying the principles of constant comparison, open and axial coding until consensus was reached. Results Overall response rate was 24.8%. Facebook was most popular among medical students and residents; LinkedIn was most popular among medical specialists. Personal pictures and/or information about themselves on social media that were perceived as unprofessional were reported by 31.3% of students, 19.7% of residents and 4.1% of medical specialists. Information and pictures related to alcohol abuse, partying, clinical work or of a sexually suggestive character were considered inappropriate. Addressing colleagues about their unprofessional posts was perceived to be mainly dependent on the nature and hierarchy of the interprofessional relation. Discussion There is a widespread perception that the presence of unprofessional information on social media among the participants and their colleagues is a common occurrence. Medical educators should create awareness of the risks of unprofessional (online) behaviour among healthcare professionals, as well as the necessity and ways of addressing colleagues in case of such lapses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-221
Number of pages7
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Social media
  • Online professionalism
  • Medical students
  • Residents
  • Medical specialists


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