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Social media plays positive role for students

Dr Anne Marie Cunningham is a GP and Clinical Lecturer in Cardiff University, Wales, and has over 14,200 followers on Twitter.

She recently spoke at the Irish Network of Medical Educators conference in UL.

She said that she is interested in the use of new technologies to further medical education, “but not just for the sake of it”.

“There has been a little bit of a moral panic in medicine that ‘oh my goodness, everyone is going to go on Facebook and there are going to be photographs of people in compromising positions’,” she told MI.

“But actually, these students have grown up with this now. Their friends and family are on Facebook — their grandparents are on Facebook.”

She added that medical students are not given to status updates: “It’s the infrastructure it provides — it’s the chatting, being able to organise events, having closed groups where they can communicate and work with each other.”

Regarding the role that social media can play in the doctor-patient relationship, Dr Cunningham was positive about the potential.

“This has been constructed as an issue and a worry and a problem,” she said.

“But in the future, we might be seeing it as an opportunity and a potential, rather than something that is a negative. We are not quite at that stage yet. But there are some baby steps being taken.

“A lot of the guidance that came out said things about managing to keep separate your personal and professional identity — but that suggests that we really can do that.

“What young people are using a lot now are services that do allow them to do that, that allow them to create a context for what they are saying.

“That’s why we have the rise of the use of chatting services like Snapchat, private messaging in Instagram, and [private] groups within Facebook. That’s the area that is rising because we have made everybody very aware of the digital prints they leave behind.”

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