Professionalism and e-professionalism

Professionalism is the competence or skill expected from a professional. Medical professionalism or professionalism in the healthcare sector is defined as "a belief system about how best to organise and deliver health care, which calls on group members to jointly declare what the public and individual patients can expect regarding shared competency standards and ethical values and to implement trustworthy means to ensure that all medical professionals live up to these promises" (Wynia et al., 2014).

However, with the emergence of the internet and social media, a new form of professionalism, called "e-professionalism," has developed (Cain, 2008). E-Professionalism is defined as "the attitudes and behaviours reflecting traditional professionalism paradigms but manifested through digital media" (Cain & Romanelli, 2009).

E-professionalism includes an online persona; therefore, e-professionalism is an essential and increasingly important element of professional identity formation in medical education. Moreover, e-professionalism encompasses behaviours involving social media and, therefore, is necessary to develop professional values, actions, and aspirations in medical education (Kaczmarczyk et al., 2013). There are generational differences in the use, perception, and acceptance of social media and digital information sharing. Younger generations born in a time when access to the internet is widely open have been utilising social media for personal purposes before establishing a professional life. Therefore, they may not see social media as a possible problem related to their professional identity. Research shows that a lack of recognition of the role of social media in one's professional identity leads to violations of online professionalism (Greysen et al., 2012). These actions had noticed a surge in the latest pandemic of COVID-19 when surveys reported medical professionals sharing fake news or misinforming their followers through social media posts (Law et al., 2021).

There are three main classifications of organisation's concerns related to social media in health care  (Cain, 2011):

  • Reputation: An organisation's reputation depends on the attitudes, behaviour, and work ethic of its members, who may include students as well. Patients and other clients may judge an organisation's quality based on conventional and digital interactions with representatives (of any kind) of the organisation.
  • Privacy: Privacy concerns arise because social media do not meet the technical criteria for secure communication of patient information.
  • Productivity: In health care settings, social media distractions can result in lost productivity and medical errors (Cain, 2011).

Sharing information behaviours on social media can result in violations of medical professionalism. These professionalism violations involve "lapses in integrity or honesty, morality and ethics, self-regulation, responsibility to society, and responsibility to the profession" (Steinert et al., 2005).

The large number of people mixing their personal and professional lives due to social media forced healthcare institutions to formulate and implement policies on social media (Kaczmarczyk et al., 2013). The American Medical Association developed a comprehensive policy on e-professionalism (AMA, n.d.). Many companies publish "personal" guidelines for their employees and procedures for the public's use of their social media sites (Cain & Romanelli, 2009). At the Mayo Clinic, policies stating that "employees should not engage in use during work hours, the work e-mail address should not be provided for social media credentials, and posted opinions or comments should not be attributed in any way to the institutions" are in place (Mayo Clinic, n.d.). Moreover, universities such as Vanderbilt University have an extensive Social Media Handbook that covers unlawful use, specifically outlining rules related to online harassment and copyright infringement. The handbook describes institutional rules and appropriate student conduct. It also includes a how-to guide for departments and individuals for establishing online networking pages (Vanderbilt University, 2010).

Last modified: Monday, 7 November 2022, 4:43 AM