Pharmacists need to be more reticent about what they post online, says an anonymous pharmacist blogger


Pharmacists have come a very long way from being PR shy and hiding in the back of the dispensary. However, more recently I have been disappointed by the actions of the minority on social media. I would even argue that some have gone so far as to put the profession into disrepute, undoing some of the positive PR work that has been achieved.

When you use a public forum such as social media, your words spread fast. Your criticism burns on the retinas of those you put down, long after the individual you have directed your venom at has closed their social media app. It can also be read by those outside the profession. Would your words reflect badly on the employer named in your social media bio? Will you still have a job after sending that nasty tweet?

I’ve also seen the effect of narcissism. Does the world need to keep seeing the work you did two years ago, or do you constantly share it for instant gratification? Are you addicted to the likes? What is the purpose of the message you are spreading? Is it really for the good of the profession?

I’ve also seen the impact of those seeking to drag up old arguments and what has become increasingly common is trial by social media. Individuals, sometimes anonymous, quickly pile on to have their say without knowledge of the true version of events, rehashing the same words constantly so that you almost see pitchforks being waved in the distance.

Social media has also made me question the quality of some pharmacists. Simple clinical questions are fired into the ether without a thought as to the quality of information coming back. If a patient ended up in one of these pharmacy private messaging groups, would they be shocked by the lack of knowledge?

I’ve seen queries that could simply be answered by opening the British National Formulary (BNF). I question how individuals seek to validate the information they receive from strangers with regard to clinical and real-life scenarios that impact patient care. A pharmacist on WhatsApp saying your actions were OK isn’t really going to cut it with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), is it? Would you tell a patient that the reason for your advice was based on asking a stranger from the internet?

Sadly, I have also seen poor judgment with confidential information shared and hastily deleted in the public domain – most commonly prescription barcodes. Now, this goes on in other professions. But pharmacy is our profession, our responsibility. With greater use of tech comes more responsibility.

So how can we make social media a more positive space? Well, I was heartened by one individual who sought to spread the #pharmpositive message by encouraging others to post positive messages about pharmacy.

I strongly believe that more awareness about where your message might spread and how it may be perceived by others is vital. That’s not to shy away from being robust with questioning others or putting on a front and pretending to be all sweetness and light. However, politeness online is key. Words are powerful and with great power comes great responsibility.


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