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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Professional procrastination: using social media for recruitment to psychiatry

Samantha Batt-Rawden, Final Year Medical Student, University of Bristol

Social networking

Joining in the conversation - social media and mental health servicesI am staring at the essay before me. It doesn’t very much look like an essay. In fact, it’s just the title, but that in itself was an arduous 10 minutes of mental exertion and I decide I’ve earned the right to a well-deserved break.


And I’m back where I was 10 minutes ago; on Facebook.


I am just one of 901 million active users of Facebook1 and have recently been adding to the 200 million tweets that are posted on Twitter each day.2 Whilst the use of social media by students can only be described as prolific, medical professionals are not immune from these statistics. According to a recent survey, social networking sites have been adopted into the lives of 79.4% of doctors - well above the national average.3


Medicine 2.0

The rapid incorporation of internet tools for education, research and collaboration within the field of medicine has been dubbed Medicine 2.0, a nascent yet thriving machine within which social media is a just a small cog.4

Whilst many readers will be well acquainted with the personal benefits of social networking, the broader implications for healthcare may be less readily apparent - psychologists have been crafting virtual reality worlds for psychotherapy patients5 and social media has been successfully applied in cultivating empathy, humanism and professionalism in medical students.6.

Engagement with such tools may present a unique opportunity for recruitment. In these times, where psychiatry is looking for novel and innovative methods to recruit students, could social networking provide the answer? Recently, a small scale survey was carried out to investigate this possible strategy. media has been successfully applied in cultivating empathy, humanism and professionalism in medical students


What did we learn?

A total of 57 responses were received. All respondents used Facebook. 56% used Twitter, 18.2% used Google +, 13.6% used MySpace, Pinterest and Live Journal were both used by 6.8%, LinkedIn was used by 4.5%.

73% listened to podcasts, but of those only 16.2% listened on a regular basis (at least once weekly). Many reported difficulties in finding listenable, psychiatry-themed podcasts.


Respondents checked Facebook more than they checked their email, with most receiving ‘push’ updates in real-time via smartphone applications.


83% were members of their university psychiatry Facebook groups with 76.2% signed up to their mailing lists. Respondents felt that they were most likely to hear of psychiatry opportunites through Facebook and felt the current RCPsych groups weren’t relevant to students. An emerging theme during subsequent interviews was that students often missed College opportunities and external psychiatry events. This was attributed to the fact that university groups are often updated by a single committee member and that not all information is easily accessible and/or advertised to every university society.


And what of Twitter? Only 7.3% followed @RCPsych or @future_psych as many reported that tweets weren’t always directly relevant to students.


What did students want?

Respondents agreed that social media use in psychiatry made the specialty ‘technologically advanced’ (65%), ‘modern’ (82%), and ‘interested in students who are interested in them’ (88%). Furthermore, 41% endorsed that recruitment efforts of the College have made them more likely to consider psychiatry as a career.


Whilst 63% responded that current use of social media in psychiatry has made them feel more involved in the specialty as a student, many felt that there would be additional benefit from a national Facebook group (72%), student dedicated podcasts (66%) and an RCPsych Student Associate Twitter (25%). Figure 1 illustrates what students wanted from a psychiatry social media tool.



What did students want from a psychiatry social media tool



The RCPsych Student Associate Twitter is well established (@future_psych) and currently has 125 followers.


Although not officially affiliated with the College at this time, the National Student Psychiatry Network Facebook group has also been independently developed. With over 120 members, it is hoped that the group will continue to expand and become a national bulletin board for committee members from several university psychiatry societies to advertise their events and summer schools. It may also serve as a networking hub for students to connect with psychiatrists who are offering opportunites for SSCs, research, electives and mentorship.


Many studies have reported the tangible benefits of adoption of social media by students and doctors alike. Yet for many this is a cause for concern; much of this anxiety has centred on issues of confidentiality, professionalism, and doctor-patient boundaries. These are real, but manageable challenges and whilst the full potential of social media in healthcare has yet to be established, this article highlights its potential use for recruitment to psychiatry.


Please see the General Medical Council’s guidelines for medical students on social networking.





1.Facebook Newsroom Fact sheet. Accessed 14 May, 2012

2.Twittereng. 200 million tweets per day. Twitter Blog. Accessed 14 May, 2012

3.Bosslet G, et al. The patient-doctor relationship and online social networks: results of a national survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2011, 26(10):1168-1174

4.Eysenbach G. Medicine 2.0: social networking, collaboration, participation, apomediation, and openness. J Med Internet Res. 2008;10(3):22

5. Giuseppe R. Virtual reality and psychotherapy: a Review. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2005; 8(3): 220-230

6. Rosenthal S, et al. Humanism at heart: Preserving empathy in third-year medical students. Acad Med. 2001;86(3):350-358




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