Developing a curriculum to promote professionalism for medical students using social media: Pilot of a workshop and blog-based intervention

Tabor E. Flickinger, Thomas O'Hagan, Margaret S. Chisolm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: As the use of social media (SM) tools becomes increasingly widespread, medical trainees need guidance on applying principles of professionalism to their online behavior. Objective: To develop a curriculum to improve knowledge and skills regarding professionalism of SM use by medical students. Methods: This project was conducted in 3 phases: (1) a needs assessment was performed via a survey of medical students regarding SM use, rationale for and frequency of use, and concerns; (2) a workshop-format curriculum was designed and piloted for preclinical students to gain foundational knowledge of online professionalism; and (3) a complementary longitudinal SM-based curriculum was designed and piloted for clinical students to promote both medical humanism and professionalism. Results: A total of 72 medical students completed the survey (response rate 30%). Among the survey respondents, 71/72 (99%) reported visiting social networking sites, with 55/72 (76%) reporting daily visits. Privacy of personal information (62/72, 86%) and mixing of personal/professional identities (49/72, 68%) were the students' most commonly endorsed concerns regarding SM use. The workshop-format curriculum was evaluated qualitatively via participant feedback. Of the 120 students who participated in the workshop, 91 completed the post workshop evaluation (response rate 76%), with 56 positive comments and 54 suggestions for improvement. The workshop was experienced by students as enjoyable, thought provoking, informative, and relevant. Suggestions for improvement included adjustments to timing, format, and content of the workshop. The SM-based curriculum was evaluated by a small-scale pilot of 11 students, randomized to the intervention group (participation in faculty-moderated blog) or the control group. Outcomes were assessed quantitatively and qualitatively via personal growth scales, participant feedback, and analysis of blog themes. There was a trend toward improvement in total personal growth scores among those students in the blog group from 3.65 (0.47) to 4.11 (0.31) (mean [SD]) with no change observed for the students in the control group (3.89 [0.11] before and after evaluation). Themes relevant to humanism and professionalism were observed in the blog discussion. Conclusions: Most medical students surveyed reported using SM and identified privacy and personal-professional boundaries as areas of concern. The workshop format and SM-based curricula were well-received by students whose formative feedback will inform the refinement and further development of efforts to promote professionalism among medical students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere17
JournalJMIR Medical Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Medical education
  • Medical students
  • Professionalism
  • Social media
  • Social networking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Medicine


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