Medicine in the Time of Social Media:

I didn’t become a Doctor to do a bad job.

I didn’t go through over a decade of medical training to let someone, or let you, down. I didn’t choose to give up sleep and relationships and elements of a “normal” life in order to dedicate them to helping to restore and preserve these things for other people.

I hate to break it to you, but Doctors are Human, just like you. We break. We don’t know all of the answers. We make mistakes. But, trust me, not one of us decided to do this because we want to do a bad job.

I remember when my Dad passed away in 2010, I googled his name. I was curious as to what came up and immediately was directed to a couple of websites with “ratings” on how he was as a provider – 3 out of 5 stars. But, wait, really? So many people came to the funeral, so many spoke so highly. Yet, of course, as is the normal course for most reviews, people only tend to comment when they have negative experiences, not good ones.

Less than 6 months out of Residency and I found myself in a situation where a disgruntled parent had posted their “awful” experience with me on a small, private facebook group. I remember with vigor the conversation I had had with them on their concerns over their child. I spent more than 30 minutes with reassurance, with guidance and validation for their feelings, and, in my head, I thought I had done a good job. All I wanted afterall, was to take care of the kid and also the family. I’m not perfect, but I really had just wanted to help.

The outcome? People called the next day to transfer – I’d never even met them. It didn’t matter that dozens of others had requested to see me again or remarked in person that they enjoyed their visit – they didn’t post it on social media, and even if they had, one rotten apple unfortunately ruins the bucket.

Of course, with the advent of Social Media, my life and that of all of my peers has changed. Not just in the routine distancing from connections and focus on facades of life that attach themselves to many others, but in the way we work and interact in that work. Saving the conversation on Google searches being “superior” to my medical training for another time, Medicine has become a market of satisfaction and attunes itself to consumer culture and doing what is wanted over what is sometimes needed. Individual personality clashes of course can play into things, word choice and connotation can instantly alter a conversation or a point of view (the word “fat” or “chubby” is apparently more offensive than “slightly overweight”) and unlike the practitioners that came years before me, these things are now disseminated via social media and can quickly push people away.

However, I am the same doctor regardless of what someone writes on the interwebs. You won’t love every person you ever come across and while I am designed to be a people pleaser, the harsh reality is that that won’t always happen. But now, I am starkly aware of how fast a comment on the internet can tarnish a reputation. So, my advice to you as a practitioner, be careful – you’re responsible for every word you say and every word you don’t. And my hope for you as a patient, take anything you hear about the good or bad of a provider with a grain of salt.

I think you should be happy with who takes care of you, I know I want that for myself, my family and friends. I think you should certainly look for second opinions if your heart tells you to worry. But realize that medicine is not all black and white, and looking too far down the rabbit hole of social media interpretations can be disheartening and nonconstructive.

I didn’t become a Doctor to do a bad job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s