You don’t have to go far to find providers posting videos of themselves on social media. The hashtag #Nursetok has over 2 billion views on TikTok alone. The clips can be just as informative as they are entertaining. Professionals use these mediums to highlight all kinds of issues from unsafe staffing levels, common medical conditions, and even end-of-life care.
Several social media influencers in the medical field are speaking out about what drove them to the platform and why they feel the need to continue to post.
Julie McFadden shares content on TikTok under the username @HospiceNurseJulie. She is a hospice nurse and educator who spends her time teaching her followers about the end-of-life experience.
“Even though death is a natural part of life, there is a lack of understanding about the realities of death,” she said. “Friends I have helped always said, ‘I didn’t know this would happen or that this is normal at the end of life. People need to know this stuff.’ I had insights that could help people.”
She said she first learned about the app from her teenage nieces. “I had never thought about using social media as a vehicle to discuss hospice, but I decided to upload a video to see if there was interest. Four days later, I was amazed at the response; from there, the audience has continued to grow.”
Joe Whittington, an ER doctor in California, shares basic medical advice on his account @DrJoe_MD. His first experience with the app was making a funny video, but he quickly realized he could use it to educate his audience. You’ll find him pushing back against harmful medical myths and giving tips on how to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
“There is also information that I know as a doctor that I thought was common knowledge, but I’ve learned through my interactions on TikTok that isn’t the case,” said Whittington. “So I can be a resource for a lay person where they can gain a better understanding and ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking a doctor in person.”
Mary Claire Haver (@drmaryclaire), an OB/GYN, uses the app to talk about issues related to menopause.
“There is a systematic problem in how we provide basic care to women, how we teach and train our providers to care for patients, particularly in menopause, and how society views and treats menopausal women,” Haver commented. “In addition, there is a knowledge gap among women about menopause, which could substantially negatively influence their quality of life.”
She eventually got so frustrated that she decided to voice her anger in a TikTok. “My daughters suggested I get on TikTok. So, I started playing around a little bit, sharing my message, and before I knew it, I developed quite a following,” says Haver. “Not bad for a 54-year-old menopausal woman!”
Haver also wants to show women that it’s okay to talk about menopause. “Many women shy away from talking about their menopausal symptoms in real life with friends, family, and most critically, their doctors,” she added.
She does her best to combat the spread of misinformation aimed at women going through hormonal changes. “I think women get caught up in the diet mindset and the trappings of quick-fix marketing,” Haver explained.
“There is no potion, pill or powder to ‘balance’ hormones and many phrases that have been created and passed off as medical terms are merely terms used to explain problems away such as ‘adrenal fatigue.’ Sometimes, people overcomplicate things as well. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to be complicated.”
Death can be just as hard of a topic to broach, and McFadden wants to dispel some of the fear around the subject, so more people know what to expect from the experience.
“There is so much misinformation such as physically dying is painful (it’s not; disease is painful), morphine causes death or hospice speeds up dying on purpose, all of which is untrue,” McFadden says. “Learning more about the dying process decreases the fear. My hope is to help people live and die better.”
Whittington said he gets questions from his followers about his own personal feelings on the job. He regularly discusses the emotional side of things, including things he wouldn’t be able to say when face-to-face with a patient.
“We are human. Bad news does affect us, but we have to stay emotionally distant. We can’t break down because we have 20 other patients who need us. So, we are trying to strike a balance. I hope to break this misconception that doctors don’t care, because we do.”
Using social media has only benefited these professionals, but they say it’s important to make sure you are using the app in a safe and ethical manner.
“It’s not possible to provide medical advice or diagnoses. It would be unethical and grounds for malpractice,” Whittington explained. “What I can offer is general information such as how to avoid a trip to the ER, common things that happen at an ER visit and good questions to ask the medical provider when you are in an emergency.”