Social Media and the Code of Ethics and Professionalism

January 31, 2022

Social media can be a valuable tool to connect, educate, and advocate. The same characteristics that make social platforms appealing – a broad reach, real-time connectivity, and engaging with like-minded peers – also pose risks. Whether you are engaging in social media for personal or professional use, it is essential to take precautions to uphold your professional obligations.

CPSM expects that registrants comply with all professional responsibilities, including those set out in legislation, the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism, and CPSM Standards of Practice, policies, and bylaws when engaging in the use of social media platforms and technologies.

The Code of Ethics and Professionalism provides your professional responsibilities:

31.   Treat your colleagues with dignity and as persons worthy of respect. Colleagues include all learners, health care partners, and members of the health care team.

32.   Engage in respectful communications in all media.

33.   Take responsibility for promoting civility, and confronting incivility, within and beyond the profession. Avoid impugning the reputation of colleagues for personal motives; however, report to the appropriate authority any unprofessional conduct by colleagues.

34.   Assume responsibility for your personal actions and behaviours and espouse behaviours that contribute to a positive training and practice culture.

41.   Provide opinions consistent with the current and widely accepted views of the profession when interpreting scientific knowledge to the public; clearly indicate when you present an opinion that is contrary to the accepted views of the profession.

Other considerations are:

  • If engaging in online debate, focus on the issues and avoid disparaging personal comments.
  •  Be mindful that statements posted online may result in complaints of unprofessional conduct or legal action claiming defamation.
  • Assume all content you post on social media is public and widely accessible, regardless of privacy settings. Even if a post is deleted, it can resurface through screenshots taken by another user.
  • Do not post identifiable patient information or patient images to social media. Patients may be identifiable through details such as location, a general description of a condition, or other details that may appear to be vague.
  •  Refrain from providing advice that may be interpreted as clinical advice through social media.

CPSM recognizes social media provides opportunities for registrants, but those opportunities must be balanced with caution to prevent unintended consequences.

Resources:

CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism

College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia

Social Media Professional Guideline

 

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta

Advice to the Profession: Social Media

 

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan

Guideline – Physician Use of Social Media

 

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

 

Social Media: Appropriate Use by Physicians