EARLIER THIS SUMMER, a Houston nurse posted critical comments on Facebook about a young patient with measles. Besides raising privacy questions, the comments also questioned the value of vaccinations. Shortly after the post went public, the nurse was fired.
The story is an example of just how fraught social media can be for clinicians. You might think something you’re posting will be viewed by only friends and family, but posts can quickly take on a life of their own with people you never thought would see them.
For physicians looking for a job, that includes recruiters and employers who are trying to figure out if you’re a good fit for the job they have open. That’s because recruiters and employers are combing through the social media accounts of doctors they’re considering, looking for any information—good or bad—that will help them make a decision.
“I’ve seen a lot of residents talk about their patients and what happened during the day. Employers don’t want to see that.”
~ Heidi Henry, FASPR
Indigo Health Partners
While horror stories like the one above tend to grab the most attention, social media doesn’t have to be all bad for physicians. According to recruiters, social media can also help doctors find jobs that are a good match as long as they make the most of their social media accounts.
We asked three recruiters how they use social media when they hire physicians. Here’s a look at what they scrutinize—and advice to help you use social media to make yourself a better candidate.
Steer clear of patient information
Heidi Henry, FASPR, senior physician recruiter with Indigo Health Partners, a private hospitalist group based in Traverse City, Mich., looks for background information on physicians once they have cleared the screening phone call. “We typically do a phone interview,” she says, “and if we approve that person, I’ll look him or her up online. I don’t look up everyone I’m screening on the phone.”
So what kinds of information does Ms. Henry see posted by young physicians? “I’ve seen a lot of residents talk about their patients and what happened during the day,” she says. “Employers don’t want to see that. Even if it’s not a HIPAA violation, you shouldn’t be posting about any type of patient interaction. We are looking for the most professional physicians who put themselves in a positive light.”
Ms. Henry points out that if she’s able to see these conversations, it’s because the privacy settings for the account have been disabled, so anyone can see them. “Employers are paying attention, and so are patients,” she explains. “Patients don’t want to read about themselves or their grandmother.”
So what should you be talking about on social media instead? “We want to see physicians enjoying their lives and being well-rounded. Physicians have stressful jobs, so we want to make sure they have good balance in their lives.”
Ms. Henry offers another piece of advice related to your electronic persona: Be sure to use an appropriate e-mail address. E-mail addresses that try to be funny or are suggestive come off as juvenile and unprofessional.
“Go back and make sure that you’re aware of all the information in your accounts.”
~ Lauren Glaccum
The Medicus Firm
“You want to make the best impression possible while you’re looking for a job,” she says. “You don’t want to use the same e-mail address you had when you were 18.”
The bigger picture
Lauren Glaccum, a regional vice president of recruiting for The Medicus Firm, a national staffing firm, typically looks for information on physician candidates on LinkedIn, Doximity and Facebook. Ms. Glaccum likes to check out physicians’ social media accounts to get the bigger picture about the doctors she’s working with.
“Everyone on a screening call wants to sound their best, so it’s always good to double check and make sure everything you hear adds up,” she says. “It’s also nice to get a visual of what candidates look like, because we often don’t meet them in person.”
Ms. Glaccum typically starts with LinkedIn. “A lot of residents and fellows have a LinkedIn account, but they often don’t have a lot of information there,” she says. She’ll sometimes also check out Twitter and Instagram, but physicians usually use privacy settings on those services.
“You can potentially see interests, their hometown, maybe even links to family members, which can provide information,” she says, “You can learn a little more about their personal lives and who they are outside of their professional life.”
In one search, for example, Ms. Glaccum learned that a physician she was trying to place was married to a fellow at a large health system in the area. “The physician said she needed to be in the area, but not why,” she says. “I was able to talk to the hospital and say, ‘She already has ties to the area, and because her husband is doing a fellowship with a nearby facility, you could end up potentially hiring two physicians when he’s done his training.’ So we involved the husband in the recruitment process.”
Finding the right match
In another instance, social media helped shed some light on why a particular position was probably not a good match for a physician. Ms. Glaccum was trying to place a physician in a Northeastern hospital when she noticed on his social media accounts that he was extremely conservative.
“Details can help physicians be more than just words on a page.”
~ George Akra
“I don’t ever get into politics,” she says, “but I pointed out that the community was in an extremely liberal state. We ultimately agreed that it wasn’t going to be the best fit, so the information I found on social media was helpful.”
What can young physicians do to make social media work for them? Ms. Glaccum urges residents to do more to take advantage of LinkedIn and make themselves stand out to potential employers.
“It’s good to discuss any accolades and areas of interest, she says. “Those might be in family medicine, but candidates might have an interest in pediatric patients or women’s health. Getting that information out there is a way to help differentiate yourself.” If a client hospital has a large pediatric population or a women’s health program, “those details might give us something to talk about.”
Ms. Glaccum has one other piece of advice aimed particularly at millennials. “They’ve probably had social media around since sometime in the early 2000s, so who knows what’s actually in their social media accounts,” she says. “It might be a good exercise to go back and make sure that you’re aware of all the information in your accounts. Who we were back years ago may be very different than who we are today.”
Make social media work for you
George Akra, a director of recruiting for Merritt Hawkins, a national staffing firm in Irving, Texas, has seen his share of problems on physicians’ social media accounts, but he’s also had good experiences.
Because Mr. Akra focuses on staffing for the upper Midwest, he often looks for physicians who like outdoor activities like snowmobiling and water activities. “I’ll use social media to see if the physicians I’m working with like the activities you find in that part of the country,” he says.
Sometimes social media provides even more information. Mr. Akra was working to place a urologist with a health system that puts a high value on mission work. The CEO of the hospital happened to see a blog written by the urologist’s wife talking about the mission trips they had worked on as a couple. The wife had explained that they were interested in going overseas to care for underserved populations.
“This was a big deal for the physician and his family, which was something I didn’t know about,” says Mr. Akra. “It really helped the health system find a lot more to this physician than what he had put on paper. They started connecting over that, and the health system told him it would provide him extra paid time off to work on these missions.” That in turn “helped seal the deal.”
It’s an example of how physicians can make the most of their social media accounts. “These types of details can help physicians be more than just words on a page,” Mr. Akra says. “If you go to a LinkedIn page, you might see a photo and a little more about their background.”
Perhaps it was fitting that Mr. Akra eventually learned online that the physician was accepting the job. Before the urologist officially accepted, his wife announced on her blog that he would be signing an employment contract. Given the amount of information gleaned from blogs and social media, Mr. Akra says, the announcement made sense.
“Both sides realized they had something in common,” he says. “It’s an example of an organization finding a good match that might not have otherwise come up.”
Edward Doyle is Editor and Publisher of Today’s Resident.
“Google never forgets”
WHILE PHYSICIANS need to be careful about what they post on social media, they also need to be aware that there’s an even bigger source of information that recruiters are using: Google. Every recruiter we spoke to conducts Google searches on doctors they’re considering for jobs. And what some of them are finding on Google can be surprising.
Heidi Henry, FASPR, senior physician recruiter with Indigo Health Partners, a private hospitalist group based in Traverse City, Mich., says that Google searches are a valuable tool for her. “When you do a Google search on someone, you’re looking for background information” she says, “We might see issues with licensure or suspensions.”
Recruiters doing a Google search are also likely to uncover personal information. “Due to the nature of negative information I once discovered online about a physician, we were unable to offer him a position,” she points out.
And sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words. Ms. Henry says that a simple Google search will often produce photos from social media accounts. While most of the photos she sees are appropriate, physicians need to realize that just about any photo you’ve ever posted may turn up in Google searches. “Google never forgets.”
“Occasionally you’ll see bathing-suit and vacation photos as the profile picture or Facebook cover photo,” she says. “It’s a good reason to use professional photo pictures on social media accounts. If you’re ever used those types of images as a profile picture, they will always be searchable, whether it’s your current profile picture or not.”
Her advice? Be proactive and see for yourself what recruiters and employers will find. “Google yourself,” Ms. Henry says, “then click on the images and see what’s out there.”
There’s very little place to hide online, she adds. “Everything you share publicly can be visible, so be sure to utilize your privacy settings.”