Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Examining Health Care Students' Attitudes toward E-Professionalism

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Examining Health Care Students' Attitudes toward E-Professionalism

Article excerpt


The concept of professionalism is highlighted in the codes of conduct and pledges of many health care disciplines. (1-5) Additionally, professionalism is a common theme in academic health care curricula; (6,7) however, health care professionals and educators still struggle to develop a common definition for professionalism. (8) The use of electronic media to quickly share information has further complicated the topic of professionalism by generating interest in a subtopic known as e-professionalism. E-professionalism has been defined as "the attitudes and behaviors reflecting traditional professionalism paradigms but manifested through digital media." (9)

Several recent studies examine the extent to which healthcare professional students are demonstrating e-professionalism and the degree to which colleges, residency directors, and state boards are monitoring this. In a study that surveyed deans and administrators in US medical schools, 60% of the respondents reported that their students had posted unprofessional material online. These materials included HIPAA violations, alcohol and drug use, and messages containing profanity. Some of these behaviors resulted in serious consequences for some students, including disciplinary action and even dismissal. (10) A review of surgical residents' publicly available Facebook profiles revealed that 14.1% of profiles contained potentially unprofessional material and 12.2% of profiles contained clearly unprofessional content, with binge drinking, sexually suggestive material, and potential HIPAA violations being the most common types of unprofessional content. (11) A survey of pharmacy residency directors revealed that about 20% of respondents indicated they had reviewed residency candidates' social media information, and more than 50% of these reviews resulted in detecting e-professionalism concerns. (12)

A national survey of State Medical Boards reported that the most common online violations by medical professionals as reported by patients and their families were sexual misconduct with patients, inappropriate use of the Internet for prescribing without seeing the patient in the clinic, and false representation of credentials. Some of the penalties for these violations were severe and included restriction, suspension, and revocation of licenses by 56% of the state boards. (13)

There are fewer studies that have examined healthcare professional students' attitudes towards e-professionalism. A qualitative study to evaluate medical student's perspectives on unprofessional online behavior concluded that students uniformly agreed that HIPAA violations and illegal activity were inappropriate. However, there were differing opinions regarding the inappropriateness of posting sexually suggestive material, content depicting the use of alcohol, or content containing disparaging remarks about faculty or other students. (14) A survey of doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students in their final year of study revealed that 78% thought that student pharmacists should be held accountable for illegal acts discovered by social media. In addition, 74% of respondents felt it was important to edit their social media sites before applying to a job. However, only about 50% of respondents felt it was appropriate for potential employers or residency directors to make hiring decisions based on the information they found in social media profiles. (15)

A survey of faculty and second- and fourth-year PharmD students revealed that second-year pharmacy students and faculty members were more aligned in what they considered unprofessional online behavior. Fourth-year students were more complacent in what they perceived as unprofessional online behavior. Students were also more likely to make unprofessional comments when they thought the social media site was private. (16) What remains unclear from the literature is whether health care professions students across the disciplines have the same perceptions of what constitutes professional behavior in online domains. …

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