Scalpel's Edge

A surgeon's notes

There’s something about Med-blogging

When medical staff blog, it incites controversy. Patients, doctors, nurses, EMT all regularly share their experiences. Some blogs are like mini scientific journals. Some blogs are about simply living life. Some blogs are snippets of clinical contact. Some blogs are clearly letting off steam. Some blogs share, or celebrate. Some blogs are a discourse on a crazy experience in a broken health system.

It seems that the world thinks that we can no longer trust common sense. Increasingly, confidentiality is regulated. Patient contact is regulated. And, as a doctor, I am apparently no longer expected to take responsibility for my own actions or my own opinions. Furthermore, issues with hospitals, universities and medical indemnity are no longer the limit. Blogging carries a personal risk and a risk to innocent bystanders. And this is all in an educated society, where people should know how to behave.

I am a relative newcomer to this topic, as I have been blogging for only 12 months or so, and most of that has been more technology- than patient-focussed. I expect that someone in my real world will eventually start to notice that I blog. This is technology-terrified-Australia, so that will probably lead to problems.

Is it getting too hard? Shouldn’t we all just quit? It would be easier on our careers and would take the great big target off our elitist backs.

But blogging makes us better. Patients read about doctors who doubt. Doctors read about patients who are angry. Doctors read about EMTs who are scared, or nurses who are frustrated. We get to know people we would never otherwise talk to. And as a patient, I don’t want my doctor/nurse/tech to lose their pressure valve.

In my medical school, we were told our career risk of litigation was about 20%. And if we weren’t sued, then we weren’t doing enough medicine. Medical blogging is risky because it is important. I choose to continue, to take responsibility for what I say and write. I expect it will be years before I face any consequences, but my blogging colleagues are facing them now.

Medbloggers, I wish you well. May sanity prevail.

8 responses to “There’s something about Med-blogging”

  1. rlbates says:

    “I choose to continue, to take responsibility for what I say and write.” I do too. I have been so enriched by my contact with the rest of you.

  2. Vijay says:

    “I expect that someone in my real world will eventually start to notice that I blog. This is technology-terrified-Australia, so that will probably lead to problems.”
    Just this awareness ought to make you a prudent blogger. I know of two Aussie bloggers (Barbados Butterfly & Dr.Dork) who got into trouble at their work because of blogging.
    I blog in technology-ignorant-India, so I have quite a few years before I face any trouble, if ever. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be an irresponsible / imprudent blogger.
    I agree with Ramona that I’ve been enriched by my contact with bloggers too.

  3. enrico says:

    I like the quote that if you aren’t sued over time you aren’t doing enough medicine. Medicine should push boundaries not with patients first, but with ideas, innovations, etc. first. Blogging is only part of that package and a necessary one. Sure there’ll always be someone who will see the wrong side of a doctor blowing off steam, but what little faith in people I have left leads me to believe that it’s the minority.

  4. Cris says:

    @rlbates: That’s the rub. Since being involved in the med-blogging community, I have met a lot of good friends. Instead of feeling a square peg at my dept where there are lot of young science students, I now have a wider community to participate in.

  5. Cris says:

    @Vijay: I understand what you are saying. I have never hoped to be anonymous in my blogging, and always try to keep that in the top of my mind. The problem in Aus sometimes is that people assume that the internet is bad, and therefore blogging is probably austomatically suspect.

    I have not hidden my blogging, and I am happy I have written appropriately. Hopefully, my blogs will be able to convince people of the legitimacy of my actions, when the time comes.

    Mind you, DH has a different approach. His suggestion: “I am a female surgeon, PhD, who blogs. Deal with it.”

  6. Cris says:

    @enrico: It is important to have faith in people. It is also important to remember that we are smart people, who mostly understand the implications of our actions, and “blowing off steam” doesn’t mean getting drunk and b*tching about our patients. But I always loved that quote – medicine should be risky. Medicine should get close to people’s boundaries, because it is extremely personal. If you can fix or treat patients and not stir emotions in them, then you probably aren’t doing it right.

  7. bongi says:

    nice post. wish i had more to offer.

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