The Ithaca College MS-PAS Program supports the American Medical Association’s (AMA) opinion titled “Professionalism in the Use of Social Media”. The opinion has been quoted below with modifications to align with physician assistant education and practice. The Code of Medical Ethics opinion is available at: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ethics/professionalism-use-social-media. 

The Internet has created the ability for physician assistant (PA) learners and PAs to easily communicate and share information with millions of people. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support a PAs personal expression, enable individual PAs to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, and provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communications. Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient- provider relationship. PAs should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a) Physician Assistants should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b) When using social media for educational purposes or to exchange information professionally with other PA’s, follow ethics guidance regarding confidentiality, privacy and informed consent.

(c) When using the internet for social networking, PA's should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, PA’s should routinely monitor their own internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(d) If they interact with patients on the internet, PA’s must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-provider relationship in accordance with professional ethics guidance just as they would in any other context.

(e) To maintain appropriate professional boundaries PA’s should consider separating personal and professional content online.

(f) When providers see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional, they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he/she/they can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the PA should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

(g) PA’s must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students) and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.

Program-Specific Social Media Expectations

Ithaca College PA learners and faculty should understand and adhere to the following guidelines and professional considerations when engaging in social media networking:

  • Ithaca College MS-PAS Faculty and Staff members are not permitted to extend or accept “friend requests” to/from learners.
  • Classroom and clinical site training commitments should be respected. Learners should not engage in social networking during in-class and on-site clinical time. 
  • The integrity of the coursework of the Ithaca College MS-PAS Program, learner, and classroom should be protected. Learners should not share questions or answers to assignments, exams, or quizzes via social media. 
  • Patient privacy must be protected. Learners should not share any identifiable patient or clinical information via social media. HIPAA laws apply to all social networking sites. 
  • Learners should ensure accuracy regarding statements made about the Ithaca College MS-PAS Program and its community members. Learners should not provide false, intentionally inaccurate, or inflammatory comments. 
  • All laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material must be followed. 
  • Learners should recognize that one’s professional reputation can be affected through social networking and therefore be judicious when posting content.