Top tips for pharmacists using social media


Advice for pharmacists and pharmacy students delving into the brave new world of social media

As healthcare professionals, it’s important to be self aware and cautious when communicating online.

A recent study led by the University of Sydney found most pharmacists mixed professional and personal information and activities on social networking sites, while about one third adopted a strategy where professional activities were clearly separated from personal ones.

Most participants expressed concern over how pharmacists present themselves and behave on social media sites, when they reported (un)professional behaviours of peers they had observed.

Examples of perceived unprofessional behaviours included revealing details of personal life and activities; and open complaints about the pharmacy sector, co-workers, physicians, and patients.

Just this week, Belize pharmacist Raynard Humphreys lost his job after taking to Facebook to say the Orlando shootings that killed 50 people were “justified”.

“I know people will hate me for this but I believe the killing of fifty last night in Florida is justified,” he wrote on his personal Facebook page.

His place of employment, Buttonwood Bay Medical Center, has since released the pharmacist from his job.

In March this year, an Edinburgh pharmacist who abused a patient in a Facebook rant – calling her a “f***tard” and “total retard” – was given a warning by the UK’s General Pharmaceutical Council.

The woman had complained after attempting to buy pain medication at the pharmacy for her father, who had cancer and who has since died. The pain relief medicine was out of stock.

If you don’t know whether it’s a good idea to post that picture or comment, here are some tips adapted from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to help you make that call:

1. Think before posting

Activity on social media can be very public depending on your privacy settings and the name you use. Lecturers, employers, business associates and even your patients may be able to see what you post.

Make sure you are fully aware of any policies specific to your university or terms of employment that govern how and when you can use social media.

2. Be wary with patient consulting

Be careful when engaging with people over the use of medicines and drugs. Even if you are conversing with fellow professionals be aware that patients could read your posts. Don’t provide specific medicines advice to patients via social media.

3. Keep it legal

Ensure you have a good understanding of the legislation covering libel, copyright and data protection. It is legally dangerous to publish anything unfairly critical of any individual or organisation, or publish information about an individual or organisation not in the public domain without their consent.

4. Learn how to influence

Social media is a great platform to ensure the opinions of pharmacists from all sectors of the profession are heard. When used effectively it can also be a vehicle for extending networks and influencing national debate at the highest levels.

Try to contribute positively to debates about the profession. Ensure your posts are informative, factually accurate and fair – you never know who may be reading them.

5. Utilise opportunities for further education

Use social media to enter into discussions with fellow pharmacists and keep up to date with the latest pharmacy and drug education.

6. If in doubt…

If you have any reservations about making a social media comment or post, don’t do it. If you see a post you feel needs a response but you are not sure how to reply, seek advice from another professional whose opinion you trust.

Trust your instincts and ‘if in doubt’ about something leave it out. Avoid getting involved in negative exchanges. Always remember you are a clinician and a professional.

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