To Medical Students: Join the Twitterverse

September 7, 2020

For medical students interested in radiology residency programs, opening a Twitter account can provide critical resources and guidance.

Encouraging medical students to spend time on social media might seem somewhat antithetical to the academic mission of imparting as much medical-related knowledge as possible. But, when it comes to setting radiology-minded students up for the greatest amount of success, one group of experts offered this advice: Start tweeting.

According to a multi-institutional group, Twitter offers medical students the most advantages of any social media outlet when it comes to preparing for their future careers. The team, led by Neal Shah, BA, from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, published their findings in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“Twitter provides value to medical students in many ways,” they wrote. “Twitter is likely the most helpful for students seeking to match into specific specialties.”

Overall, they said, the social media platform offers medical students multiple benefits. First, it can be a primary source of medical education and information related to residency programs, training, and The Match. This can be particularly valuable in the current climate where the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to all in-person visits and interviews. In addition, it can also provide opportunities for students looking to get involved in radiology advocacy, organizational leadership, networking, academic collaborations, mentoring, as well as cultivate their own brands.

Twitter as Teacher

As a tool to augment or supplement radiology education, Twitter has much to offer, the team said. Not only can students access radiology education materials for free, but experts from almost all sub-specialties share content.

Related Content: Radiology is Primed for Social Media

The dissemination of the information is also efficient. With the controlled length of tweets, they said, the platform ensures that shared material is presented in high-yield, bite-size ways. And, students have the opportunity to interact and engage via Tweetorials, Tweetchats, and Twitterlists – curated lists that can stream content.

“This is an effective way for students to collect and share the accounts of program directors, residents, educators, training programs, and radiology organizations,” the team wrote. “The platform is also an effective tool for students to get information about other important educational content, such as webinars or national radiology conferences.”

Students can also use Twitter as a way to get involved in service organizations, such as the American College of Radiology’s Resident and Fellow Section or the Society of Interventional Radiology’s Medical Student Council.

Twitter Happy Hour

Alongside these educational opportunities, Twitter also presents chances for medical students to network in a semi-anonymous – and, therefore, much less stressful – way. Via this platform, the team said, students can potentially find mentors in the specialty or pursue chances to participate in research collaborations, taking advantage of the cognitive diversity present online.

Students can also use these networking opportunities to help plan the next stage of their education and career.

“Today’s medical students should be engaged on Twitter because many program directors, residents, and educators themselves are also active on this platform,” they said. “Students can understand the issues program directors care enough about to tweet about, the achievements they choose to highlight, and the innovations they are developing at their programs, all helping them determine if they would be a good ‘fit’ at their programs.”

Twitter for Public Relations

But, students are not limited to accessing others’ knowledge and information on social media. Twitter provides them with a venue to showcase and grow their own expertise, as well.

“Twitter enables participants to achieve an impressive level of subject expertise without the need for tenure at an academic radiology institution,” the team said. “If users carefully define a narrow area of interest and focus on education and generation of quality content within that brand, they can, over time, become recognized as leaders in their subjects.”

Engaging the social media platform this way can open several doors. Students who share their own knowledge and experience are frequently asked to co-moderate TweetChats or speak at conferences. These students can also earn positions on national committees where they can further share their perspectives with the broader radiology community.

Above all else, the team offered several pieces of advice to medical students looking to launch or expand their presence on Twitter:

  • Be thoughtful when navigating conversations, particularly ones that can be controversial.
  • Maintain the same level of professionalism exercised during in-person meetings.
  • Protect the barrier between professional and personal use of social media.
  • Review all institutional policies about approved uses of social media before opening an account.

And, always, they emphasized, medical students must remember that their Twitter accounts are not only a reflection of themselves as individuals.

“It is important to remember that [social media] content is public and permanent,” they said, “and by participating, students represent not only themselves, but also their institutions.”