50 shades of grey: professionalism and social media #physiotalk 17 October 2016

“It’s not that we can’t disagree, but do we have to kill each other doing it?” Emma Stokes

greyOn Monday 17th October at 8pm UK time physiotalk’s Naomi and Janet be tweetchating with @ekstokes on digital professionalism, focusing particularly on critical debate and discussion in public online spaces.

Using social media as a healthcare professional has come a long way over the past 5 years. Gone are the days of ‘don’t do it’, and we’re now in a more permissive phase, with thriving online communities and guidance on how to do it professionally and do it well.

As increasing numbers of physiotherapists, students, healthcare professionals and members of the public join our online communities and conversations we need to take shared responsibility in shaping our digital maturity as a profession, and think about the online values and culture we want as a community.

Physiotalk has always taken the position that professional debate in a public space can be healthy – it allows us to discuss a range of areas of practice and service delivery with other professionals as well as patient representatives, ultimately helping us to go back to work and improve what we do.  But, what are the unwritten boundaries? At what point do online discussions share too much criticism? Can airing our professional dirty laundry so openly, and without some of the constraint of face-to-face discussions, harm our reputation and business, or that of others?

Social media guidance gives us some clear do’s and don’ts, but there are also some grey areas according to context, employer, and also personal preferences, expectations and values.  Professional debate, critical evaluation, conflicts of interest, swearing – these are areas where there can more nuance which requires us to think about our aims and values when using social media, as well as successful approaches to influencing behaviour change.

What grey areas do we need to explore more as a profession? Where do we need more guidance? What does professionalism on and offline look like? How do we engage in professional discussion online whilst being the best version of ourselves for patient as well as students?

Pre-chat reading

Questions to think about before the tweetchat:

  1. What does professionalism look and feel like in the face-to-face world? Does this differ online? How do our personal values influence our online behaviour?
  2. How do our online conversations and discussions influence how we are perceived the public and potential patients?
  3. In many countries and clinical areas other professions try to diminish what we do – does professional discourse on twitter help or hinder this? Do we need to be careful about how much we diminish our own profession in a public space?
  4. At what point does some online behaviour becomes a cause for regulatory concern?
  5. How do we build of culture of discussion and inclusivity, and engage in professional debate without mudslinging?
  6. How can we take individual and shared responsibility for shaping our digital maturity and leadership as a profession?

Tweetchat support


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