MMedSc, Intro to UOSM 2008, and online identities

Being a medical student can often be physically and emotionally challenging. The STACKS of lectures and medical knowledge to keep on top of are only secondary to clinical skills (taking bloods, suturing, giving the correct oxygen therapy) and communication skills (building a good rapport with patients and families, making them as comfortable as possible, ensuring they are completely involved in their treatment). Just as important, dealing with your personal stresses and emotions (exams, tests, and encountering patients who don’t recover from illnesses and realising the psychological and social impact of disease on their lives).

I was lucky enough to get into med school straight after sixth form, but I often look around at my peers – who have done gap years or various other degrees before – and think: “Am I really old enough to be a doctor in 16 months? Am I mature enough? Do I have enough life experience?”

The Masters of Medical Science course is my chance to experience something a little more than just medicine. It’s my chance to undertake an extensive research project which is ideal for me as I’d like to be involved in as much research as possible in the future. For me, this course means that I will learn more, do more and experience more before becoming a trainee doctor.

So for semester 2 I’ve decided to take Living and working on the web – UOSM2008. This module explores what it means to be “networked individuals” which is essentially what it means to be active online (e.g. having a facebook account or even just an email address) and having your own personal learning network (the use of devices and technology to gain knowledge and enhance your learning capabilities).

I’ve never been much of a blogger and I never really post things on facebook. I often feel like I have lots to say but I never get around to saying it because I either don’t have the time to do so or I’m just a little too nervous about what other people think of me. The beauty of having a wordpress is that you can remain pretty anonymous if you want to!

This module has given me the opportunity and motivation to start up my blog, and now that I’m settled in to uni life I feel a lot more confident to do so. I feel like it will help me create my online social and professional identity to a good standard, and learn how best to use the internet to complement my learning and identity. Although there isn’t a big emphasis on having a substantial online impact as a med student – compared to say someone starting up their own business – I feel that being able to have this opportunity will help me in various ways: finding new research, networking with important individuals in the medical and scientific fields, and imparting my advice and experience to others who want it.

At the moment the way I gather information is mainly through my peers and online medical journals, namely Sciencedirect, Medline/Ovid. I’m hoping this module can show me new ways of information gathering, growing new networks and managing my online profile. I’m a bit unsure of where to start because I’m so used to having a big group of friends on my course to ask questions. I’m excited because the participants of this module are from different courses altogether, so hopefully I can learn more from them.

Last night I completed the UOSM 2008 self test if anyone wants to have a look. At the end of this module I will complete the second part of this test.

I also searched on google: “medical students and online identity”, which came up with an interesting BMJ article about the use of online networking in healthcare profession students (linked here). They found that social networking is common among these students (>90% had Facebook accounts), and that there are significant challenges in using this technology as often sharing personal accounts “may be in conflict with requirements of confidentiality and professionalism”.

Our personal and professional development is an integral aspect of our training, and this article highlighted how common it was for students to blur the line between personal and professional boundaries. For example, students posting unprofessional and inappropriate photos of drinking and antisocial behaviour, complaining about faculties and medical placements, and even sharing negative comments about work and patients. The writers of the article suggested that perhaps students in healthcare professions may need help through policies for successful integration into new technologies such as Facebook. [White et al, BMJ 2013]

I agree with this suggestion, but I also feel that it would be difficult to employ. How would it fit into the course? I think that if people were more aware about how their online accounts were being perceived then they might take more care to keep their professional experiences and other information private. What do other people think?



  1. Hi Shriya
    It’s great to have a medical student perspective from you and Richard – for the first time on this module. You face some different challenges and opportunities with regard to online activities. Clearly breaking confidentiality is a not an option, but on the positive side there are some very effective online communities that have developed around particular medical issues, bringing together stakeholders that would have historically been very separate. I’m thinking, for example, of cancer support groups that incude medics, patients, carers, charities, researchers…
    And this slightly left-field one: https://www.facebook.com/getsniffed/info/?tab=page_info
    I look forward to some interesting debates 🙂

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