How I use social media for medical education (and why you should, too!)

Social media is a great tool for medical educators, but, like anything else worth doing, it takes some effort to get started. Social media allows you to teach, learn, collaborate, research, socialize, produce scholarship, and advance your career.  Here’s how I’ve used social media over the past two years, and why you may want to dive in as well.

Create a project to improve medical education: I organized #RheumIOW (Rheumatology Image Of the Week), a project where fellows from across the country generated questions based on an online Rheumatology Image Bank.  Questions were distributed on social media, including on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Users were able to take advantage of the “testing effect” by seeing the question, thinking of the answer, and then clicking the link for the solution.

Teach: Social media opens the doors of your classroom and provides you with access to millions of learners worldwide.  It’s a great opportunity to get your messages across.

To write and develop ideas through writing.  I was taught in high school that you should think about what you want to write, create an outline, and then write down your thoughts.  However, for me, the process is completely backwards.  I begin to write, and through my writing I discover what I think. Having a blog is a great motivator to write!

Participate in online journal clubs#RheumJC: Leading and participating in an online journal club has been a great experience.  You get to discuss an article with your peers, as well as with the journal authors,  providers in other specialties…and even patients!

Keep up to date with the medical education literature. You can follow journals (such as Academic Medicine, Medical Teacher, Journal of Graduate Medical Education), medical education groups (Academy of Medical Educators, Association of American Medical Colleges) and other medical educators who curate the web and select the best material to share (@FutureDocs, @HollyGoodMD).

To crowdsource ideas: Twitter is a fantastic way to get wonderful ideas about any project you’re working on (such as this one!)

Conduct research. I have polled users about everything from money, to controversial diseases, the benefits of using social media professionally, etc. I have then taken some of these ideas as preparatory work for more controlled research.

Receive feedback: There’s nothing quite like the almost-instant feedback you get from Twitter users about any idea you share. This is what I received a few seconds after posting that I was doing a 30 minute workshop on social media:

To learn.  Studies have shown that passive learning, such as reading or listening to a lecture, is not as effective as active learning is in promoting retention and understanding of the material.  Participating in social media by creating new content (as in a blog post, a Tweet, or an online comment) is at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy and will help you in your own education.Bloom's taxonomy

To disseminate my work: I have shared tweets about projects that I’m involved in, publications I’ve authored, guest blog posts I’ve written.

To meet others with similar interests: By RTing, replying, liking, and asking questions to others, you can develop relationships online (and they may eventually become real!). Here’s a group of rheumatology patients, nurses, doctors, advocates who tweet…together at our Annual Meeting.

Participate in online chats.  There are a lot of brilliant people on social media, although it may be challenging to find them. One common ground for like-minded individuals are recurring Twitter chats about various subjects. For medical educators, you may be interested in the #MedEd Twitter chat which is held on Thursday nights at 9pm Eastern.

To participate in conferences: Most conferences offer an overwhelming amount of information. After a lecture, identifying the most important point, and writing it down in your own words (in less than 140 characters) is surprisingly efficient form of learning. Similarly, I can comment on a lecture and read about what other attendees found important.

To learn about what others are doing: You can learn a lot about a person by the 140 characters they use. Often they tell you their interests, their research, their projects…it’s a fantastic opportunity for collaboration!


To share: When I read an interesting article, I often share it on Twitter. It’s an easy way of spreading knowledge that I think would interest and benefit others.

How have you leveraged social media for medical education?  Leave your comments below!

6 thoughts on “How I use social media for medical education (and why you should, too!)”

  1. Very nice blog post that gives me a lot more ideas as always! Looking forward your round table session at the ACR FIT session.

  2. It is all true. I just think in Hippocrates and in the time I have to discuss in ED a diagnosis a lot with a non-physician mother about her son because ‘she has been studying on twitter about his illnesses’, and other worse like the injury someone cause to another because ‘he learns on social media a lot of medicine terms and felt disrespected from a colleage’. I mean, they are out of context, or are we? I can’t learn about other professions nor medicine either. Why we boast of making gradually public our knowledge? Medical knowledge is not for all people.

    1. Yes, I think social media can be a double-edged sword. Certainly if it improves the understanding of a disease by patients, this is a great thing! However, if they get misinformation, or read articles that aren’t accurate or does not apply to them, it can take a lot of effort to undue this damage. I think doctors can play a role in this by providing accurate content online and serving as a curator of online content. We can be part of the solution!

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