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How to create a positive social media presence as a locum tenens doctor: the do’s and don’ts

It can sometimes seem like the whole world is on social media. Your uncle, your sister, your mom, your dad, they’re all plugged in, maybe even your kids, too. It’s great to stay connected this way. You can keep in touch with friends and family if you live far away from them – or if you’re on locum tenens assignment overseas.

Though it is important to be careful about what you put online, this is solid advice not just for physicians but also for everyone. Employers across industries can – and do – look up potential employee’s social media profiles and then scan for inappropriate content. A general rule to follow is that if you have to ask yourself, is this offensive? Then that’s a good reason right there to not post the content.

We just recently wrote an article about how to start a blog where some simple online etiquette like this is discussed. If you’d like to learn how to create your own blog so you can have a place to store everything about your locum tenens adventures (your writings, your photos, your videos, etc.) then it’s a recommended read. And while it does address a few simple guidelines concerning online etiquette we cover more of the nitty gritty here in this article.

So what’s the best way to go about creating a positive social media presence as a locum tenens doctor? You’ve come to the right place. Here are seven social media do’s and don’ts.

Do’s:

Do engage patients – But make sure you do it professionally. That means in a secure, online environment where you can discuss medical treatment if need be and still maintain the physician-patient relationship. Stay away from Facebook, Twitter and all personal social networking sites in regards to giving direct medical advice.

Do create a professional presence – Many doctors utilize LinkedIn and the more physician-centric Doximity to not only develop a positive and professional online presence but also to connect with peers and colleagues. Plus these sites offer a wealth of information – more specifically, the HIPAA-secure Doximity – through member-curated medical news and case collaboration.

Do take ownership – Now there’s a difference between ownership and control. You can’t control what is said about you but you can take ownership and correct any mistakes or outdated information on listings or profiles. Just Google your name and any variations of your name then navigate to the appropriate site, some let you claim your listing. From there you can make an effort to contact the site in order to correct any errors.

Don’ts:

Don’t fear social media – It’s important to not overthink or overanalyze. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be careful in your online usage. Instead it’s to say that too much analysis on what you’re posting may cause unwarranted anxiety. Trust in your knowledge, skillset and ability to discern between appropriate and inappropriate content. On to our next point…

Don’t post inappropriate content – This can be anything from an offensive photo to a discriminatory comment. Or it can even be a picture depicting intoxication. Overall, you’ll want to maintain a positive, professional online presence as a healthcare provider.

Don’t post anything that violates the privacy of patients – This is a given, right? As a physician you already understand that patient confidentiality is paramount. It’s easy to go about your business discussing a patient’s case in your blog and forget to omit identifying details. Simply put, be mindful of this at all times.

Don’t friend or follow a patient – Friend-ing a patient on Facebook – even if you do have an established rapport – can lead to negative consequences. It’s best to maintain professional conduct both within the medical facility as well as outside of it. If you do insist on connecting with patients in this way perhaps consider creating a professional page then direct them to that.

The Federation of State Medical Boards released some social networking guidelines and recommendations that address these very topics and more. KevinMD.com also posted a more colloquial piece a while back that details 10 simple rules for doctors on social media. It would be wise to continue enlightening yourself on this topic until you feel more comfortable creating your own social media presence as a locum tenens doctor. And of course it goes without saying that you can always play it safe and simply write only about your adventures abroad and just leave the medical talk at work.

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