Social Media
& Ed Tech

Social Media in the age of COVID-19: A Guide For Faculty Survival

By Sharon Bal (@SharonBal8) & Teresa Chan (@TChanMD)
Originally Published, March 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the public health interventions around social distancing, and in some cases 14-day quarantine, has necessarily led to time and anxiety: two great reasons for increased social media engagement.

If you’re killing time and feeling out of the loop - maybe getting more engaged in social media can help you fill that time. Here we offer a few recent blog posts or scholarly articles you might find helpful in these unprecedented times:

  1. Acknowledging that Social Media is unavoidable in times of Crisis

New York Times Article (Paywall warning!): At the Front Lines of Coronavirus, Turning to Social Media

Although you may not be participating in such groups, it is prudent to know that this is how a lot of physicians are getting their information - Facebook, Twitter… and that this may also be true for your learners! Knowing and debriefing with your learners about the evolving landscape of information is of crucial importance in situations like this most recent pandemic. It may also be useful to use these messages as a springboard to think about how we critically appraise and think through the information that comes out of these resources. Although some are scholarly and quite advanced, some may be propagating fake news. As an educator, consider how you might discuss with your trainees these issues. For more reading on this topic, you might consider reading this module that has some key insights on how to incorporate social media into teaching & learning scenarios.


  1. Social Media in a Crisis

Check out this post: How to Use Social Media in Healthcare

Healthcare providers have a special role in society and this is especially true in a crisis situation such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Crisis management and, equally, its communication is critical. Healthcare professionals have a platform in social media to step up to the plate and communicate to their patients and the wider community accurate, evidence-based information. Many healthcare groups are using closed social media methods to connect during this time - to stay on top of minute-to-minute updates, but also to engage in support of one another. Private Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack, and Thread groups are popping up all over to connect clinicians around the world. Having a clear line of communication is the best way to combat confusion, mistrust, and fear. Consider how social media might help with this.


  1. Keeping up to Date in a Crisis

Check out this paper: Five Strategies for Effectively Using Online Resources in Emergency Medicine

Social media can be a powerful tool for helping to propel one’s own learning. This article is written by and for emerg docs, but contains pearls and tips for individuals of any specialty or profession.

Every day ingenious docs from around the world are thinking of new innovations, new evidence, and new protocols. Infographics are being shared to summarize complicated new algorithms or provide guidance. And luckily there is an entire movement known as the Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM or #FOAMed) movement out there with dedicated bloggers, podcasters, and infographers out there trying to make it easier to bring leading edge knowledge into practice.

Pro Tip: Want a starter pack of who to follow on Twitter? Check out @FOAMstarter - an account that curates a shortlist of who to follow in the Twitterverse. These are a bit emergency medicine and critical care focused, but for the current situation on COVID-19 they are a pretty good place to start. Also consider following your public health groups (@WHO, Ontario's provincial leadership).

Dr. Sharon Bal (@sharonbal8) is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. She is a prominent educator at McMaster's Waterloo Regional Campus and the lead of our Social Media team in the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Program for Faculty Development (@MacPFD). She is also a Mom, family physician, educator, student.

Dr. Teresa Chan (@TChanMD) is an associate professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine at McMaster University. She is the assistant dean for McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Program for Faculty Development (@MacPFD). She is a world renowned expert on social media in healthcare education, and conducts research and scholarship within this area.