Social media and clinical practice

Guidelines for students' conduct on their own social media in connection with clerkships and clinical practice at Health

When you are in a clerkship/clinical practice, you represent Aarhus University (AU).  We expect you to act professionally while you are undertaking the clerkship/clinical practice – and this also applies to your own social media.

Social media means websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Messenger etc., where it sometimes appears to be difficult to distinguish between public and private, and where students sometimes find themselves in a grey area.

Be professional

When you are in a clerkship/clinical practice, citizens see you as a professional just like everyone else who works there. AU and the organisation where you have your clerkship or clinical practice expect you to behave professionally and communicate respectfully in connection with your work – both towards fellow students, colleagues, patients and the workplace, and also to behave online as you would offline.

Please be aware that postings on social media can be shared, interpreted and forwarded in contexts that you may not have intended.

You have a duty of confidentiality

Communication about patients may only take place in relation to the clerkship/clinical practice or in classrooms where unauthorised persons are not allowed. Never on social media.

Please be aware that you also breach confidentiality even if you do not mention the name of the patient, because information about time and place may on its own be sufficient for the person to be identified. At the same time, you risk starting rumours about the wrong person, because those who read social media may connect the information with someone they know.

Do not disclose personally-attributable data on social media

You must not disclose personally-attributable data on social media – neither in the form of images or written information. Personally-attributable data covers all types of information which makes it possible to identify a person such as e.g. a civil registration number, health data or photos of a recognisable person.

As a healthcare professional, you are obligated to protect patients’ personally-attributable data. By law, you may pass on photos of patients, if they have given their consent. The consent must be in writing because you must have documentation, and it can be withdrawn at any time.

In order to avoid situations where patients withdraw their consent at a later stage and in which your place of study is forced to track down (former) students, Health has decided that you as a student may not post any kind of personally-attributable data on social media. Regardless of the form it takes, patient data may only be available at the clerkship/clinical practice or at the educational institution. For this reason, both examples are considered unlawful behaviour at Health.

AU has temporary guidelines that allow students to record video with their own telephone and use this for educational purposes, if it is part of the teaching or instruction. The recordings must not be stored on your own telephone and must not be communicated on social media.

Do not have patient contact on social media

Health recommends that you refrain from becoming friends with patients/next of kin on social media if you do not have any other relation to them. Contact with patients ought to take place in a professional context, and this does not include social media. In general, it is a good idea to have private profiles on social media rather than public profiles.

As a student, you do not have authorisation and are not allowed to advise or supervise patients outside of the clerkship/clinical practice. This means that you should not reply to personal approaches from patients. Other communication channels are available to patients so they can contact the healthcare system, also outside opening hours.

By being a friend of patients and their next of kin on social media, you can put yourself in a vulnerable or difficult situation and risk being exposed.

Agreements on times for consultations with patients may be made by telephone. A telephone used for conversations is not a form of social media.