Nearly two-thirds of U.S. medical schools that responded to a survey say they've had problems at some point with students posting unprofessional content online via blogs and social networking and media-sharing sites, according to an article published in the Sept. 23 Journal of the American Medical Association. The survey was answered by 60% of the nation's 130 medical schools. About half of them say they have had at least one incident in the past year, and three reported as many as 15 in the past year. It was rare, however, that the Internet indiscretions led a school to throw a student out—three times, according to the article. The lead author is Katherine Chretien, M.D., at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center. Most of the reported incidents involved students posting profanity, discriminatory language, sexually suggestive material or images of apparently intoxicated students. Breaches of patient confidentiality happened less often, and conflicts of interest were rare. The authors note that while some of the examples that schools provided were clear cut—such as violations of patient privacy and photos of students using illegal drugs—others were more ambiguous. “The line separating protected First Amendment rights and inappropriate postings may be unclear,” the authors write. Just 28 schools said that they had policies in place that cover students' online conduct in the age of Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube, and the ones that had experienced problems were more likely to have policies.
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