The Use of Social Media by Health Care Professionals
The modern world expands virtual interaction space and creates new opportunities for representatives of different professions to benefit from social media. In this context, health care workers use social media on different levels. In her article “Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices,” Ventola (2014) analyzes studies that were conducted by other scientists in order to present a paradigm that reflects modern tendencies towards using social medial within the health care system. It is argued that social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others are valuable tools that help nurses and physicians to improve professional networking. Additionally, social media are used for education, patient care, health promotion, and implementation of public health programs. It should be noted that the author also discusses negative implications of social media which are connected with the credibility of provided information.
Health care professionals use social media to participate in ongoing discussions and be members of online communities that offer support related to various patients’ problems. It is important to communicate with colleagues and be able to share an opinion while discussing, for example, a clinical topic. Social media provide opportunities for these interactions and enable nurses to talk about such subjects as career strategies, politics, ethics, new achievements in the field, and others. Moreover, social media “provide a supportive environment” for health care practitioners and students (Ventola, 2014, p. 495). Ventola also discusses practical advantages of using social media. For example, social media allow connecting health care workers in third world countries with specialists in “more medically advanced locations” and stream surgical procedures in real time (Ventola, 2014, p. 494). This communication channel helps to share skills and knowledge worldwide while spending few resources.
Social media are also useful in professional education. It is stated that a “high usage rate of social media by 18- to 29-year-olds” has led to the fact that clinical curricula are adapted to the changing culture of students (Ventola, 2014, p. 493). Today, social media have a huge impact on “the educational experience for nurses,” and approximately 53% of nursing establishments introduced online social media platforms (Ventola, 2014, p. 493). Such a step helps nursing students to prepare for emergencies and improve their decision-making skills while, for instance, watching videos of clinical situations and making comments in order to receive feedback from instructors (Ventola, 2014). Social media and networking are useful in terms of assisting health care practitioners and connecting them to the community. It should be noted that this community also includes patients who are interested in medicine or need a medical opinion. A survey conducted to estimate the need for social media revealed that about 56% of patients wanted to have an opportunity to connect with physicians online and use social media for diagnostic test results, prescription notifications, scheduling appointments, etc (Ventola, 2014). Therefore, social media play a great role in facilitating the interaction between nurses and patients.
Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages. The major issue is related to a lack of quality and reliability of provided information. Social media websites often neglect to mention authors or even include references when medical information is spread. Moreover, information may be incomplete and lead to false assumptions. This aspect brings some limitations to the use of social media.
In conclusion, social media are popular tools among nurses. Health care providers use social media to interact with each other, share knowledge, and improve their skills. Currently, social media are a valuable source of support for nurses and even patients. However, there are some limitations related to misinformation. It is necessary to evaluate received messages and use not only social media but also other sources that expand a knowledge base.
Ventola, C. L. (2014). Social media and health care professionals: Benefits, risks, and best practices. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(7), 491–520.