Digital professionalism on social media: A narrative review of the medical, nursing, and allied health education literature

Siobhan O'Connor, Mengying Zhang, Michelle Honey, Jung Jae Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Medical, nursing, and allied health students, and professionals are using online environments such as social media to communicate and share information. However, some have difficulty differentiating between their professional and personal roles and can behave inappropriately online. Better education and training may help prevent these issues from arising.

Objective: Identify and synthesise literature on educating healthcare students and practitioners about digital professionalism on social media.

Method: Four databases i.e., CINAHL, ERIC, MEDLINE and PubMed were searched using relevant terms. Five hundred and twenty-two articles were found and screened. Data extraction and critical appraisal were conducted. Analysis followed Braun and Clarke’s six phases of thematic analysis.

Results: Eleven studies were included in the review. Digital professionalism was taught across medicine, nursing, and allied health education using a number of pedagogical approaches including traditional face-to-face teaching, as well as fully online, and blended methods. Its impact on learning centred on acquiring knowledge about communicating appropriately on social media which appeared to change how some students and practitioners behaved online, while improving confidence and information literacy. Developing and delivering education on digital professionalism tended to be affected by the amount of time faculty and trainers had to create curricula, organise and deliver teaching, and support students and clinicians. The design of the online platform seemed to be important as some had more functionality than others, allowing for greater interaction, which appeared to keep learners engaged.

Discussion and conclusion: This review provides the first synthesis of literature on educating the medical, nursing, and allied health professions on digital professionalism on social media. The results identify potential issues, knowledge gaps, and highlight implications for future educational interventions. Recommendations include setting clear boundaries and pedagogical instructions, understanding and applying privacy settings online, and utilising co-creation approaches with students and practitioners to improve the quality of health education.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104514
JournalInternational journal of medical informatics
Issue number104514
Early online date15 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Allied health
  • Digital professionalism
  • Education
  • Medical
  • Midwifery
  • Nursing
  • Occupational therapy
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Social media


Dive into the research topics of 'Digital professionalism on social media: A narrative review of the medical, nursing, and allied health education literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this