“Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” ~ Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
I wanted to start off by thanking a fellow Canadian colleague, Dr. Derek Puddester, for the recent shout out on his blog Resilient MD about my physician wellness anthology project. I really appreciate this connection with Dr. Puddester, who is involved in both physician health and medical education, and to see another Canadian physician with an active online presence. When I first set out to start my blog/website, I was unaware of one of the primary benefits that would result from it - building a sense of community. Reaching out and connecting with people from other parts of the country, and the world, has proven to be both educational and inspirational.
Why aren’t more physicians online?
When I first began searching the internet for blogs by other physicians, I was surprised by how few I found. I was even more surprised by how few Canadian MDs there were, not only blogging, but even using social media. A blog, which is essentially an active website, is more time consuming, however, other more manageable platforms exist such as both Twitter and Facebook. After 19 months, I certainly understand the commitment behind maintaining a blog, but I also appreciate its importance to our medical community. Admittedly, I was surprised that some of the more popular blogs were anonymous, either by an MD or spouse. For me, transparency is a priority. I have never been much of a rule breaker, so when I realized anonymity was a choice, I chose against it.
As a physician, when entering into and maintaining an online presence, especially social media, you should pay attention to certain details. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Policy for Social media and Canadian physicians provides some useful guidelines. For the most part, common sense prevails. In the end, the most important consideration is maintaining patient confidentiality. Otherwise, I can only see the positives to physicians both blogging and engaging in social media:
- Building a sense of community - as mentioned above, this is beneficial both personally and professionally. It can help combat the sense of isolation that some physicians may feel, especially in smaller communities, and prove to be a preventive measure for physician burnout.
- Expanding the humanities in medicine - stories, anecdotes, and reflections are universally appreciated by both health care providers and their patients. An online presence can reach a wide range of people.
- Engaging with patients and the community - at a local level, a website, blog and social media can provide important information regarding clinic policies, updates, and additional services such as vaccinations.
- Keeping up to date with relevant information - see what both your patients and colleagues are reading and learning about.
- Expanding your views on alternative practices - engaging with other areas of medicine online allows you to consider other “best” practices.
- Getting creative - writing blog posts is a creative endeavour, however, many other ways exist to use social media creatively, such as Pinterest.
The bottom line - the internet and social media are not going away, so get involved now! Here is a snapshot of my physician blogroll (I follow many others on Twitter):
33 Charts - Dr. Bryan Vartabedian @33charts
Evans Health Lab - Dr. Mike Evans @docmikeevans
Resilient MD - Dr. Derek Puddester @drpuddester
Seattle Mama Doc - Wendy Sue Swanson @SeattleMamaDoc
Wise Quacks - Dr. Dave Hepburn and Dr. Robert Sealey @Wisequacks
If you know of either a great physician blog or Twitter account, please pass it along! I would love to hear about it!