As more doctors find their way into the world of social media, the issue of professional conduct will start to get more attention.
Here’s how I (try to) keep myself on the straight and narrow:
1. I understand that I have boundaries. I see my professional and personal spaces as very close. So I recognize that I have to be really careful with what I say and do. This is the first step towards responsible, professional online behavior.
2. I remember that everyone’s watching. Before I hit the publish button here on 33 charts I look at my post from the perspective of my academic division chief, chairman of pediatrics, colleagues worldwide, future employer, wife, etc. I wonder what people would think and who might be offended. I do push the limits on occasion but try to do it in a way that a thinking person would respect. I think twice and publish once (usually).
3. What would mama think. Parents trust me with their children. This is a profound responsibility. More than any other judge of my thinking, I’m most concerned with how I might potentially break the trust of a parent.
4. I model myself after other social docs I respect. I consider how I might be perceived by my peers. The drive to earn and keep the respect of others helps keep me on the straight and narrow.
5. I don’t drink and Tweet. I never publish (microblog or macroblog) unless I can think straight. And this applies when I’m upset or worked up. I try to let more hard-edged commentary cure overnight.
6. I define my professionalism. While I need to formally create a page on 33 charts defining my personal policy of conduct, I’ve made it clear here and in a variety of public forums that I work to avoid dialog about patient care. I frequently remind readers that I avoid political (very hard sometimes) and religious dialog that might offend the views of others. I always try to be nice.
7. I keep a dialog with my employer. I make it a habit to discuss professional conduct with my division chief at Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor risk management attorneys, Texas Children’s Hospital marketing execs as well as the Texas Children’s Hospital Compliance Officer. I invite them to read and audit what I do so that they’re comfortable with what goes on here. This shows that I take this responsibility of public dialog seriously.
8. I listen to the response of my dialog. While I’ve removed only a couple of posts since I began blogging in 2006, I have deleted tweets and reworked sentences after the fact. The responsibility for my messaging continues after I have hit the publish button. My community has been good about helping me understand if something is insensitive or poorly stated.
I’m learning this as I go. How do you police yourself in the public social spaces to stay safe as a physician or professional? What else can I do?