Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence




Objective The objective of this study is to explore the experiences and perspectives of general practitioners’ and medical students’ use of, and behaviour on, social media and to understand how they negotiate threats to professional and personal life on social media. Design A two-phase qualitative design was used, consisting of semistructured interviews and follow-up vignettes, where participants were asked to respond to vignettes that involved varying degrees of unprofessional behaviour. Data were analysed using template analysis. Setting and participants Participants were general practitioner tutors and third year medical students who had just completed placement on the University of Limerick longitudinal integrated clerkship. Five students and three general practitioners affiliated with the medical school were invited to participate in one-to-one interviews. Results Three overarching themes, each containing subthemes were reported. ‘Staying in contact and up to date’ outlines how social media platforms provide useful resources and illustrates the potential risks of social media. ‘Online persona’ considers how social media has contributed to changing the nature of interpersonal relationships. ‘Towards standards and safety’ raises the matter of how to protect patients, doctors and the medical profession. Conclusion Guidance is required for students and medical practitioners on how to establish reasonable boundaries between their personal and professional presence on social media and in their private life so that poorly judged use of social media does not negatively affect career prospects and professional efficacy.