How can we effectively integrate technologies into education? This is something I increasingly find myself thinking about as a health professions education researcher. As much as I love exploring social media from an academic perspective, my inner nurse is far more practical. Why does social media in education even matter?

Well, as Dr. Ali Jalali (University of Ottawa professor, and Twitter-er extraordinaire) aptly points out, most of our students have digital lives.1

Furthermore, a recent study found that 92% of paediatric residents surveyed had a social networking account (e.g. Facebook).2 57% of these students reported that they used these sites daily or often. This has implications for medical professionalism, as such frequent access to social media means students have a lot of opportunities to screw up. Big time. And as the boundary between personal and professional continues to thin, it becomes increasingly important to teach health professions students about eProfessionalism.

Social media platforms can also be used as tools within medical education. For example, social media has been used to facilitate reflective writing in emergency medicine residency.3 Twitter specifically has been used in surgical clerkship,4 as well as in internal medicine residency.5 Survey Monkey and Google Docs have been used to make lectures more interactive for first year medical students,6 and some students are turning to YouTube as a learning aid to study anatomy.7

Social media is also being used for educational purposes outside of formalized curriculum, such as building communities of practice. I recently came across a TedX Talk on YouTube by Dr. Bertalan Meskó (Semmelweis University, Hungary).8 In his presentation – What if Dr. House Used Twitter? – he describes how he began using Twitter to crowd source advice on difficult clinical queries. In essence, he has created his own virtual community of practice through Twitter.

The more reading I do on using social media within education, the more endless the possibilities seem to be. What is important for educators is knowing what social media tools exist, and deciding which tools will best match the learning objectives and your own abilities.9 As Dr.Meskó points out, there is a need to develop these digital literacy skills within medical education so trainees, physicians, and educators can effectively utilize these technologies in their daily practice.8



  1. Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Social media for physicians: what’s the value and how to get started. YouTube. 2013. Accessed November 30, 2016.
  2. Kesselheim JC, Schwartz A, Belmonte F, et al. A national survey of pediatric residents’ professionalism and social networking: implications for curriculum development. Acad Pediatr. 2016;16:110-114.
  3. Bernard AW, Kman, NE, Bernard RH, et al. Use of a secure social media platform to facilitate reflection in a residency program. J Grad Med Educ. 2014;6(2): 326-329.
  4. Reames BN, Sheetz KH, Englesbe MJ, et al. Evaluating the use of twitter to enhance the educational experience of a medical school surgery clerkship. J Surg Educ. 2016;73(1):73-78.
  5. Galiasatos P, Porto-Carreiro F, Hayashi J, et al. The use of social media to supplement resident medical education – the SMART-ME initiative. Med Educ Online. 2016;21:1-5.
  6. George DR, Dreibelbis TD, Aumiller B. How we used two social media tools to enhance aspects of active learning during lectures. Med Teach. 2013;35:985-988.
  7. Barry DS, Marzouk F, Kyrylo CO, et al. Anatomy education for the YouTube generation. Anat Sci Educ. 2016;9:90-96.
  8. Masko B. TedX Talk: What if Dr. House used Twitter? YouTube. 2013. Accessed November 30, 2016.
  9. Rasmussen Neal D. Introduction. In: Rasmussen Neal D, ed. Social media for academics: a practical guide. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing; 2012:xxiii-xxviii.