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Surviving dental school: social media

23 January 2020

In today’s media-driven society, the boundaries between private and professional life are becoming increasingly blurred. In such a fast-moving environment, it’s all too easy to forget that the same standards of professionalism and confidentiality apply no matter what the medium of communication.

Definition of social media

Social media may be defined as any online interaction that involves a conversation, participation, sharing content or networking. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to, blogs, forums and social networking sites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp.

Social media guidance for dentists

In 2012, the Dental Council published it’s code of practice Professional Behaviour and Ethical Conduct (2012), which provides guidelines on the safe and professional use of social media.

The guidance states that:

  • • Your use of social media should be responsible and discreet.
  • • Indiscretion in the use of social media is not acceptable.

Case study

Mark, a fourth year dental student, saw a young female patient on the restorative department. Mark took a history from the patient, and realised that she was a first year geography student at the same university.

Mark saw her for a few more appointments to complete her treatment. They seemed to get on well, so Mark invited her to be a friend on Facebook.

After a while, the relationship soured, and the patient complained to the dental school about Mark’s conduct in contacting her and starting a relationship as a result of meeting her as a patient.

Learning points

  • • As a student, professional boundaries may seem blurred. Students may feel that, since they are not fully qualified dentists, the limits around personal relationships do not apply.
  • • However, the Dental Council is clear that dentists and dental students are expected to maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships they have with patients. 
  • • Think about how you might handle situations like the one above. If you have any concerns, discuss these with your tutors or clinical supervisor.

For more information or guidance around the use of social media or issues you might be facing, call our support and advice line on 01280 8668.

Please note: Dental Protection does not maintain this article and therefore the advice given may be incorrect or out of date, and may not constitute a definitive or complete statement of the legal, regulatory and/or clinical environment. MPS accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the advice given, in particular where the legal, regulatory and/or clinical environment has changed. Articles are not intended to constitute advice in any specific situation, and if you are a member you should contact Dental Protection for tailored advice. All implied warranties and conditions are excluded, to the maximum extent permitted by law.