Med schools, residencies peek at candidates' social media life

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Secret stalking has turned into a more common practice in selecting physician applicants these days--and some admissions staff have no qualms about it.

According to a new study in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, one in 10 (9 percent) medical school and residency program directors or coordinators admit to searching social media sites to evaluate candidates. And one in five (19 percent) of them said they used the Internet, in general, to research their applicants.

The study also revealed that one in 15 medical schools and residency programs maintain a profile on a social networking site, while half of the respondents have a social profile themselves on Facebook (97 percent), LinkedIn (22 percent) or Twitter (13 percent), according to a research announcement.

More than half of survey respondents (58 percent) disagreed that snooping on their applicants--or online research, depending on how you look at it--was an invasion of privacy. Fifty-three percent said they used an applicant's online professionalism in the selection process. Nevertheless, only a small portion (3 to 4 percent) rejected a candidate based on the unprofessional behavior in wall posts, comments or photos, for example.

According to Henry Sondheimer, senior director of medical education projects at the Association of American Medical Colleges, there are no current recommendations for medical schools on using such online information in admissions decisions, Kaiser Health News reported.

"I think there's a need for some guidelines to help standardize how this information [is used]," lead study author Carl Schulman told KHN. "Until that happens, there will be biases that exist in the selection process."

For more information:
- here's the research announcement
- see the study abstract
- read the Kaiser Health News article

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