The use of social media among physicians has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the role it can play in networking, mentorship, and support among ophthalmologists remains a mystery.
Bonnie He, MD, a resident in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, led a team of researchers from several North American universities in the a study1 with the aim of elucidating how ophthalmologists use social media to address personal and professional development challenges.
According to a press release, the study was a cross-sectional survey study conducted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 40-item questionnaire investigating the use of social media was developed and distributed to active users of social media in ophthalmology, including trainees and practitioners, from November 2020 to December 2020 via social media channels. Quantitative responses were analyzed using descriptive and basic statistics, while thematic analysis was conducted to examine qualitative responses.
The survey included 149 respondents (67% women), of which 56% were participants between the ages of 25 and 35. Women were more likely to report experiencing discrimination at work (p
Use of social media
According to the study, the overwhelming majority of respondents (94%) said they have a professional social media account, with the three most popular platforms being Instagram (25.2%), LinkedIn (22.6%) and Facebook. (19.6%). The majority (64%) of participants said they spend at least an hour a day on social media, with almost a fifth (19%) spending more than 2 hours a day.
The five most common reasons respondents reported using social media were: to keep in touch with family, to promote their practice and/or professional services, to educate patients and/or the public about ophthalmology, to share interesting clinical and/or surgical cases with colleagues in their field and to find opportunities for mentorship and/or networking.
“Although there have been studies highlighting the value of mentorship in ophthalmology residency programs,2-4 social media offers untapped potential for longitudinal guidance and support in dimensions that go beyond the spheres of clinical training, including practice management, financial planning, and work-life balance,” writes the researchers. “Our study revealed significant differences in the personal and professional challenges faced by different demographic groups, and remarkable ways in which social media can be leveraged to alleviate these challenges. We also noted some positive and negative themes about the impact social media in ophthalmology.
The study also found that women were increasingly more likely to report workplace discrimination and work-life balance issues compared to men. However, the factors that explain exactly why women experience workplace discrimination and work-life issues more often than their male counterparts depend on several issues, and a number of studies have detailed these issues in relation to male physicians, female physicians were more likely to experience burnout, especially those who face gender discrimination, gender bias, and barriers to career advancement in the workplace.5-7 Additionally, while the percentage of female physicians has slowly increased over the past few decades around the world, the representation of women in surgical fields has not kept pace.8
Social media is an invaluable tool to enhance the professional and personal growth of ophthalmologists, especially for women, trainees and young surgeons through education and community building. Future directions include exploring how social media can be used to improve mentorship, outreach, and education in ophthalmology.
“Our study explored the various reasons for social media use among ophthalmologists, specifically focusing on its role in overcoming personal and professional challenges during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers concluded. “For many ophthalmologists, especially women, trainees, and those early in their careers, social media is an invaluable tool for education and community building.”
1 Bonnie He, MD, Stuti M. Tanya, Fiona Costello, Femida Kherani, Neda Shamie, Dagny Zhu; Navigate personal and professional development through social media in ophthalmology. Clinical ophthalmology. Published July 7, 2022. doi.rg/10.2147/OPTH.s368674
2 Nassrallah G, Arora S, Kulkarni S, Hutnik CML. Perspective on a formal residency mentorship program in ophthalmology. Can J Ophthalmol. 2017;52(4):321–322. doi:10.1016/j.jcjo.2017.03.005
3 Olivier MMG, Forster S, Carter KD, Cruz OA, Lee PP. Lighting a Path: The Minority Ophthalmology Mentorship Program. Ophthalmology. 2020;127(7):848–851. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2020.02.021
4 Tsai JC, Lee PP, Chasteen S, Taylor RJ, Brennan MW, Schmidt GE. Resident ophthalmology mentorship program: the Tennessee experience. Arch Ophthalmol. 2006;124(2):264–267. doi:10.1001/archopht.124.2.264
5 Patel RS, Bachu R, Adikey A, Malik M, Shah M. Factors associated with physician burnout and its consequences: a review. Behav Sci. 2018;8(11):98. doi:10.3390/bs8110098
6 McMurray JE, Linzer M, Konrad TR, Douglas J, Shugerman R, Nelson K. The working life of female physicians results from the Physician Working Life Study. The SGIM Job Satisfaction Study Group. J Gen Med Intern. 2000;15(6):372–380. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2000.im9908009.x
7 Chesak SS, Cutshall S, Anderson A, Pulos B, Moeschler S, Bhagra A. Burnout among female physicians: a call to action. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2020;22(7):45–46. doi:10.1007/s11886-020-01300-6
8 de Costa J, Chen-Xu J, Bentounsi Z, Vervoort D. Women in surgery: challenges and opportunities. IJS Global Health. 2018;1:1.