This article highlights fundamentals that are important for the transfusion medicine educator to understand about social media. Several examples of personal practical application are shared. Finally, the potential future state of social media will be discussed. In the spirit of a growth mindset, please suspend any previous judgements about social media and allow yourself to consider the possibility of using social media with your transfusion education.
1. Why is social media important for transfusion medicine educators to consider?
Professional social media is a powerful tool for amplifying the educational efforts that you are already doing. Connections with the global transfusion medicine community are not characterized by photos of what I ate for lunch, but by meaningful conversations where perspectives and resources are shared [
]. Social media makes lifelong learning practices practical [
- Lilley C.M.
- et al.
The implementation and effectiveness of PathElective.com.
Acad Pathol. 2021; 8 (23742895211006829)
] and was highlighted in a recent update in transfusion medicine education [
- Gardner J.M.
- McKee P.H.
Social media use for pathologists of all ages.
Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2019; 143: 282-286
- Peedin A.R.
Update in transfusion medicine education.
Clin Lab Med. 2021; 41: 697-711
Social media is not a replacement for clinical teaching. It is a tool for delivering, augmenting, and amplifying your clinical teaching [
]. Posted content may prompt students to actively engage with the material. Social media naturally puts the educator in that ideal, ‘guide on the side’ role. Students may respond with a diagram of how they are understanding the concepts. When students respond on social media their learning is visible. Visibility can be perceived as vulnerability, so it is important that the transfusion medicine educator reply form a place of generosity. On social media, educators can share a student’s insights with the larger community. This is a generous way to both reinforce the student as well as facilitate their professional development [
- Bahner D.P.
- et al.
How we use social media to supplement a novel curriculum in medical education.
Med Teach. 2012; 34: 439-444
- Hennessy C.M.
- et al.
Social media and anatomy education: using twitter to enhance the student learning experience in anatomy.
Anat Sci Educ. 2016; 9: 505-515
The asynchronous capability of social media empowers learners to spend the amount of time they feel that they need on a given task [
]. As transfusion medicine educators often teach learners from diverse professional backgrounds, some may require more time with a given topic.
- Henry D.S.
- et al.
Using a Facebook group to facilitate faculty-student interactions during preclinical medical education: a retrospective survey analysis.
BMC Med Educ. 2020; 20: 87
Many are aware of social media, yet considerably fewer are professionally involved with social media. Given the busyness that is modern life, the benefits may be difficult to appreciate, and so social media becomes de-prioritized. However, in our digital world, social media are tools that enable us to engage with our professional community [
- Brunetta D.M.
- et al.
The use of social media as a tool for patient blood management and transfusion medicine education.
Vox Sang. 2022; 117: 520-525
- Giroux C.M.
- Moreau K.A.
Leveraging social media for medical education: Learning from patients in online spaces.
Med Teach. 2020; 42: 970-972
2. What is important for the transfusion medicine educator to understand about social media?
When beginning in social media, it is helpful to develop awareness of this new environment in a stepwise fashion [
]. The first step is safety [
- Chretien K.C.
- Kind T.
Climbing social media in medicine's hierarchy of needs.
Acad Med. 2014; 89: 1318-1320
- Gardner J.M.
- Allen T.C.
Keep calm and Tweet on: legal and ethical considerations for pathologists using social media.
Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2019; 143: 75-80
11]. One should cultivate an understanding about how patient privacy could become compromised on social media as well as what professionalism looks like in this space. This is also the point to seek any social media guidelines or policies that exist at your institution. Lurking, after you have a social media profile and before you start posting content, is a great way to develop that sense for safety. One way to go about lurking would be search for what AABB and other transfusion medicine colleagues are sharing and how they are sharing it. Search the hashtag, ‘blooducation’ and watch how colleagues are posting content over a period.
- D'Souza F.
- et al.
Social media: medical education's double-edged sword.
Future Health J. 2021; 8: e307-e310
Professionalism can be a challenging topic even in normal clinical learning environments and can quickly become infinitely more complicated on social media [
]. One may find it helpful to imagine being in the elevator with the chief medical officer and what they would think of the content that you are thinking about posting. Any sense of potential disapproval should cause one to delete the content without posting. It is imperative to always maintain this level of professionalism, as this is never a private space. There are ways to increase one’s privacy settings; however, this is detrimental for two reasons. First, private accounts are not able to take advantage of many social media benefits. Second, in practice, this is an illusion of privacy. People can always take screen shots and post your information in a public space.
- Pronk S.A.
- et al.
Perception of social media behaviour among medical students, residents and medical specialists.
Perspect Med Educ. 2021; 10: 215-221
After basic safety and professionalism, the next stage for social media success is to reflect on how you want to interact with this learning environment. What will your digital identity be [
]? The authors strongly suggest that you show up in social media just as you show up to work—as your whole professional and personal self. There is a temptation to separate who you are in real life and create a persona for social media. However, this approach has been described as leading to frustration, as it takes more effort to get in character. Just be on social media in a similar way to how you show up at work now. Interact with learners and colleagues just as you would during a lunch conversation.
- Ruan B.
- et al.
Defining the digital self: a qualitative study to explore the digital component of professional identity in the health professions.
J Med Internet Res. 2020; 22e21416
With an appreciation for how to maintain safety on social media, one may begin to engage others by sharing interesting content. For example, you might share a recent article. Sharing a link to the article would be a great authentic start (see Fig. 1). When sharing an article with a colleague, you may mention an insight that you had and ask for their thoughts. When sharing an article with a learner, you may want to ask a few questions designed to help them appreciate the paper at a deeper level. More on this in the next section. As you begin to develop familiarity with the back and forth social of social media, begin to reflect on how you could use this tool to enhance your transfusion medicine education.
There are several social media platforms and this article is focused on the fundamental skills that are common among current social media platforms [
]. First, when sharing an article or resource, include a public link so that the global community may access it. Second, remember to be social and explicitly invite other transfusion medicine educators to add their perspectives. The way to effectively be social is to use hashtags and tag key organizations and/or people who may be most interested in your post. Hashtags are the primary way to amplify your message. For example, adding #blooducation to your post will enable everyone in the world who searches this hashtag to view your post. This means that even when just starting you can leverage the amplification of social media by including a relevant hashtag. Another way to amplify your message is to strategically tag other users on the platform (see Fig. 2). For example, if sharing transfusion medicine education, you may want to tag AABB and colleagues/learners that you want to see your post. The real-world equivalent of the social media tag is a tap on the shoulder. It draws the attention of that organization and/or person to what you are posting.
- Yilmaz Y.
- et al.
Identifying social media competencies for health professionals: an international modified delphi study to determine consensus for curricular design.
Ann Emerg Med. 2022; 79: 560-567
Constructivism is one theory of learning that has been suggested as a lens for maximizing the value of social media in education [
]. In constructivism, social interactions with more knowledgeable peers facilitate the learner’s construction of their own knowledge. To highlight, this theory of learning views learning as an active process by the student. In this theory of learning, the role of the educator is as a ‘guide on the side,’ rather than a ‘sage on the stage.’ Transfusion medicine educators may consider this theoretical grounding when using social media to facilitate learning in their students. For example, educators may select teaching cases that highlight critical decision making and create a series of posts that step the student through these key decision points. With each post ending on a ‘cliff-hanger,’ the educator may ask the student to commit to a decision before proceeding. In this way the educator can take a metacognitive approach to un-pack their thought process so that students can construct their knowledge similarly. Furthermore, because social media platforms are open, colleagues with different experiences can add to the discussion. Often these differences in approach are due to differences in the local clinical environment. For example, a transfusion medicine service with a hospital-based blood donor program and on-site HLA laboratory may support platelet refractory patients differently that a service that does not have these resources on-site. Explicitly discussing this contrast helps the learner appreciate why the difference in practice and how that impacts the clinical workflow.
- Flynn L.
- Jalali A.
- Moreau K.A.
Learning theory and its application to the use of social media in medical education.
Postgrad Med J. 2015; 91: 556-560
A common misunderstanding is that only superficial learning is possible within the confines of social media. On the contrary, the limitations of posted content on social media platforms forces an education best practice. Chunking and sequencing is a strategy for reducing the cognitive load of a complex teaching case by helping the learner to focus on one key aspect at a time. Furthermore, with a complex case strung over a series of posts, the learner can target their responses to the specific chunks of material.
3. How should transfusion medicine educators use social media?
Several good practices for effectively using social media for education have been identified [
]. First, it is imperative that professional social media users continuously create a welcoming environment. There will be critical discussions; however, with professional use of social media there should not be disparaging arguments. Always post on social media in a way that maintains respect, leans positive, and that your chief medical officer would support. At times this means that colleagues need to be reminded that they may be having a lapse in their professionalism. This is important for maintaining the sense of community on the social media platform. Sometimes disrespect may come from outside the professional community. The downside of an open social media platform is that there will be ‘trolls.’ When someone outside the professional community attacks one of a social media post, the best path is usually to ignore and perhaps block that user.
- Lu D.
- et al.
Good practices in harnessing social media for scholarly discourse, knowledge translation, and education.
Perspect Med Educ. 2021; 10: 23-32
Another best practice is to be deliberate with the content of your social media posts. When using social media for education, effective questioning takes center stage [
]. When creating a series of social media posts, it can be helpful to reflect on what questions will help learners understand your key points. Remembering constructivist learning theory, social media is being used to guide students to construct the knowledge in their minds. On this point, if the knowledge is straight-forward, then asking a closed-ended question is best. If a key point may have several different answers, then asking an open-ended question is best. Another aspect of optimal questioning is to ask questions that target different levels of thinking (e.g., revised Bloom’s taxonomy level). For example, a question at the remembering level is: what is the minimum number of platelets in an apheresis platelet unit? A question at the understanding level is: when should we evaluate a patient for platelet refractoriness? A question at the applying level is: how do we evaluate a patient for platelet refractoriness? A question at the analyzing level is: how would you recognize if a patient was refractory to platelet transfusion due to a human platelet antigen-antibody? A question at the evaluating level is: why is testing for human platelet antigen-antibodies is not a part of our usual initial evaluation of a refractory patient? A question at the synthesizing level is: how would you manage a patient with splenic sequestration who is now scheduled for an emergency procedure? It can be tempting to follow this sequence of increasingly higher-order questions; however, the level of question depends on the key point for learning. In other words, junior learners shouldn’t be limited to remembering and understanding questions; senior learners shouldn’t be limited to evaluating and synthesizing questions. The level of question depends on the learning point.
- Pylman S.
- Ward A.
12 tips for effective questioning in medical education.
Med Teach. 2020; 42: 1330-1336
A key benefit of social media platforms is open access. When an outside learner engages with your content, be responsive. You are their educator. Thank them for adding to the conversation and respond to them as you would an in-person learner. When an outside colleague engages with your content, also be responsive. Thank them for contributing and consider using the opportunity to ask them follow-up questions that further enriches the conversation. For example, you may ask the colleague to elaborate on why their practice is setup a particular way. Being gracious during these interactions, over time, will establish your global reputation as a trusted educator. One practice that is unique to social media platforms is sharing the post of someone else. During learning discussions, it is considered good form to share and call attention to posts that you feel add to the conversation.
In addition to the common asynchronous social media conversations, all platforms have synchronous ways of using the platform (e.g., tweetchats and ‘going live’ on Instagram). When planning to facilitate these synchronous sessions, consider physician’s learning styles [
]. With this deliberate approach, the conversation begins with a reflective question about why or how the topic is important for them. Next, pose a question that prompts attendees to consider the topic with a higher-order question such as analyzing or evaluating. Then ask an application question. Often these prompt exploration discussion about the environment that either promote or hinder the aspect being discussed. And then plan to close the synchronous session by asking where attendees anticipate this moving in the future. There are two common pitfalls when planning these types of sessions. The first is asking close-ended questions. These tend to shut-down, rather than open-up the conversation. The second is asking too many questions. Approximately 4 questions per synchronous hour seems to work well. Having many questions without time to discuss answers, also tends to shut-down conversation. Attendees quickly learn that another question is coming soon and let the dominant voices speak. This mindful approach to using social media is a setup for education success.
- Armstrong E.
- Parsa-Parsi R.
How can physicians' learning styles drive educational planning?.
Acad Med. 2005; 80: 680-684
4. What is the future of social media in education?
Social media is here to stay [
- Hillman T.
- Sherbino J.
Social media in medical education: a new pedagogical paradigm?.
Postgrad Med J. 2015; 91: 544-545
20]. The platforms will continue to evolve over time; however, the skills of engaging and educating on social media will persist [
- Mazer B.L.
- et al.
Social media in pathology: continuing a tradition of dialogue and education.
Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2018; 142: 889-890
]. In many ways the fundamentals of education translate easily to the social media environment. This article has shared several tips for how to approach education within this new environment. Each time that you make the choice to share your transfusion medicine perspectives and education on social media you are cultivating your international reputation. As you share, you will also receive. You will receive insights on how colleagues in different situations navigate similar issues. This is a powerful way to make your lifelong commitment to learning and be a role model for transfusion medicine learners.
- Saenger A.K.
- et al.
The power of social media in medicine and medical education: opportunities, risks, and rewards.
Clin Chem. 2018; 64: 1284-1290
Junior members of the transfusion medicine community may question the value of what they have to share. Several residents and fellows have shared their transfusion medicine learning journey on social media. At times they were the teacher and other times they were the learner in the same series of posts. It all depended on who was being social with the posted content. As learners cultivate their reputation for sharing information, more individuals from the community invest in the learner’s education and seek their opinions.
In conclusion, this article has made the point that social media is worth transfusion medicine educator’s consideration. Several aspects of how education on social media may augment current teaching strategies have been shared [
]. As one gets started, the authors recommend identifying a social media mentor. This person could be someone that you know at your institution who is active on social media professionally or reach out to one of the authors of this paper. It takes a community. Transfusion medicine education benefits from a diversity of perspectives and experiences.
- Oltulu P.
- Mannan A.A.
- Gardner J.M.
Effective use of Twitter and Facebook in pathology practice.
Hum Pathol. 2018; 73: 128-143
- The implementation and effectiveness of PathElective.com.Acad Pathol. 2021; 8 (23742895211006829)
- Social media use for pathologists of all ages.Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2019; 143: 282-286
- Update in transfusion medicine education.Clin Lab Med. 2021; 41: 697-711
- How we use social media to supplement a novel curriculum in medical education.Med Teach. 2012; 34: 439-444
- Social media and anatomy education: using twitter to enhance the student learning experience in anatomy.Anat Sci Educ. 2016; 9: 505-515
- Using a Facebook group to facilitate faculty-student interactions during preclinical medical education: a retrospective survey analysis.BMC Med Educ. 2020; 20: 87
- The use of social media as a tool for patient blood management and transfusion medicine education.Vox Sang. 2022; 117: 520-525
- Leveraging social media for medical education: Learning from patients in online spaces.Med Teach. 2020; 42: 970-972
- Climbing social media in medicine's hierarchy of needs.Acad Med. 2014; 89: 1318-1320
- Keep calm and Tweet on: legal and ethical considerations for pathologists using social media.Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2019; 143: 75-80
- Social media: medical education's double-edged sword.Future Health J. 2021; 8: e307-e310
- Perception of social media behaviour among medical students, residents and medical specialists.Perspect Med Educ. 2021; 10: 215-221
- Defining the digital self: a qualitative study to explore the digital component of professional identity in the health professions.J Med Internet Res. 2020; 22e21416
- Identifying social media competencies for health professionals: an international modified delphi study to determine consensus for curricular design.Ann Emerg Med. 2022; 79: 560-567
- Learning theory and its application to the use of social media in medical education.Postgrad Med J. 2015; 91: 556-560
- Good practices in harnessing social media for scholarly discourse, knowledge translation, and education.Perspect Med Educ. 2021; 10: 23-32
- 12 tips for effective questioning in medical education.Med Teach. 2020; 42: 1330-1336
- How can physicians' learning styles drive educational planning?.Acad Med. 2005; 80: 680-684
- Social media in medical education: a new pedagogical paradigm?.Postgrad Med J. 2015; 91: 544-545
- Social media in pathology: continuing a tradition of dialogue and education.Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2018; 142: 889-890
- The power of social media in medicine and medical education: opportunities, risks, and rewards.Clin Chem. 2018; 64: 1284-1290
- Effective use of Twitter and Facebook in pathology practice.Hum Pathol. 2018; 73: 128-143
Published online: December 13, 2022
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