Five Topics I Avoid as a Social Physician

socialized_medicineBy Bryan Vartabedian, MD

Transparency is king.  The more you share the better you look.  But you need rules.

Here are a few things you won’t find in my Twitter stream:

Beer. I once spoke at a meeting out of town and caught up with some friends at the end of the day to visit and have a beer. I shared some details of my meetup and the particulars of the IPA I was enjoying.  The following week in clinic a parent made a tongue-in-cheek comment on what I had shared.  The comment reminded me that everyone’s watching and 140 characters doesn’t offer enough space to explain the why, or the time zone, of what I’m doing.  So I now typically keep activities like beer consumption out of reproducible public view.

My kids. I try to leave my children out of my social footprint as much as possible.  This is at the request of my wife who’s a stickler about privacy.  I do mention the occasional date night with my daughter but, by and large, you won’t hear much. Kids are great jumping-off points for personal digression.  Additionally, for pediatricians who write about parenting, they can serve as validating examples of how tricky being a mom or dad can be.

My patients. With the exception of broad examples or aggressively de-identified stories, I keep patients out of my social dialog. Their circumstances are their property and to use that without their expressed permission is a violation of their trust – even if HIPAA compliant.

Work grievances. Sure, I’ve got problems in my clinic just like every other doctor in the free world. And I love to vent on occasion, but I try to keep it offline. My community has nothing to gain from it.

Bad language.  While we could debate what constitutes “bad language,” always consider that everyone’s listening.  A tweet from Mike Cadogan, emergency physician in Perth, Australia and author at Life in the Fast Lane, shared that the physician makes it a rule to avoid “sex, swearing, and relationship issues”.  Solid advice from down under.

Of course, your mileage may vary. What do you avoid in your social world?

VartabedianBryan Vartabedian, MD, writes monthly for Wing of Zock about the intersection of health care, medical education, and social media. He is a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and blogs at 33 charts.

This entry was posted in Commentary, Socialized Medicine. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Five Topics I Avoid as a Social Physician

  1. Thanks for the tips! I recently started engaging in social media and I appreciate your advice. I decided to continue using my maiden name online so my kids don’t suffer from any anti-vaccine backlash.

  2. @cmaer says:

    Hi Bryan,
    This post indirectly raises the issue of whether physicians should have one or two Twitter accounts. I know some physicians in Canada have opted for two accounts – one professional and one for private/person life and interests. But, to me, being a “social physician” means having one account that merges all aspects of a physician’s life that they choose to share

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Posts of 2013 | Wing Of Zock

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