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TikTok Influencer Doctors and Nurses: Unethical or Informative?

  • Doctors and nurses post on TikTok as a creative outlet for their stressful jobs.
  • Experts say it humanizes the profession and builds a deeper bond between patients and doctors.
  • But getting too personal can be risky. Healthcare workers have been fired for downplaying their jobs and the needs of their patients.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

TikTok / @nurse.alexrn / @morgansandieg via Business Insider

TikToks shared by nurses @nurse.alexrn and @morgansandiego.

The doctor is in and they are posting about it on TikTok. While you might not expect your GP to work as a content creator, many of them already are and have the large number of followers to prove it. A community of medical professionals thrives on the social platform – scroll through the hashtags #DoctorTok or #NurseTok and you can follow an anesthetist’s “day in the life”, giggle at a funny visit to a pediatrician or have a dermatologist teach you something news about your skin.

Health professionals are increasingly turning to content creation as a creative outlet for an otherwise grueling job. As an added benefit, this new level of transparency makes them more recognizable to their patients. But can getting too personal jeopardize these client privileges—and our perception of doctors and nurses?

Alex Kim is a nurse who started sharing content on TikTok in January 2022 after seeing the platform’s educational capabilities: “People don’t really know what the hospital is like if they’ve never been there. I work behind the scenes, so I thought, ‘I can show that.'” He posted a few videos to start, and one of them, “Day in the life of a pediatric nurse,” ended up with over a million views.

@nurse.alexrn I am the master of swaddling #nursesoftiktok #nurse humor #nurselife #student in nursing #nursing school son original – tswiftmusic

The positive response encouraged him to continue. He shared additional glimpses of his work day, advice for aspiring nurses and, inspired by popular comedian Dr. Glaucomflecken, funny sketches from the patient’s perspective. “Making these videos has really helped over the years,” says Kim. “I feel like we all needed a little laughter to get through it.”

With over 148,000 followers, some days at work can feel a little more special than others. “I’ve met nursing students at the hospital who tell me that my videos helped them through final exams,” says Kim. He is himself motivated by other makers, so he really enjoys being able to give something back. “I never thought I’d be in a position where I could really help people in this way. It’s an honor.”

TikTok gives us the true-to-life med drama that only TV shows have saturated before

For Dr. Tiffany Moon, an anesthesiologist with 1.5 million followers who was a cast member of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Dallas,” creating content on TikTok is about stepping outside the office. “From the beginning, I didn’t want my content to focus on drugs,” she shared. “When I came home from the hospital, work was the last thing I wanted to talk about.” Joined in the early days of the pandemic, TikTok was an escape where she posted dances with her 15-year-old daughter or chatted about items in her closet that she loved.

However, viewers continued to ask questions about her work. “People said ‘What does an anesthesiologist do’ and ‘Can you talk more about work,’ so I let my audience tell me what they want,” Moon said. People were intrigued by her medical background and although she informed them about her personal life, they still wanted to learn more about her as a professional. She started recording content like reconstructions of patient scenarios and summaries of her day in her feed. “There’s a certain appeal to medical subjects, so I understand why they’re so fascinated by it.”

@tiffanymoonmd Can I get some love for my health workers! #Anesthesia #Health worker #DoctorLife Contains STAY ALIVE DJ Khalid – Rachel Santana

Moon and Kim’s videos give us a glimpse into what really goes on on the hospital floor – something we rarely get to see. And social media has bulldozed the fourth wall. When a person shows up in scrubs on the For You page, it’s like seeing your teacher at the supermarket: surprisingly fascinating.

What we are currently experiencing is the collapse between service and social. As medical professionals are greatly respected – and even put on a pedestal – they become less personal. “When physicians create content on social media, it can break down some of the hierarchical barriers we often see in medicine,” said Nanette Elster, an associate professor of bioethics at Loyola University Chicago medical school. This collapse makes the medical professionals and the work they do more accessible. “By leveling things out a bit, it may be easier for doctors and patients to have a freer discussion.”

For the medical creator, the content serves as an extension of himself, allowing the world to see him as a person outside of the operating room. “Social media can help people realize that the doctors who care for them are not just professionals, they are people,” said Kayhan Parsi, a fellow professor of bioethics and health policy at Loyola University Chicago.

Moon agreed, seeing this as a positive shift in dynamics: “Sharing on social media allows me to get closer to my patients. Instead of just being seen as someone in a lab coat, you are more recognizable as a whole.”

With its high stakes and real-life scenarios, the medical industry has always provided good stories. It’s why shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Chicago Med” have been hooking audiences for years. “Drugs touch everyone’s lives at some point, so there’s an intrinsic appeal to healthcare media,” Parsi said. “So much of healthcare is narrative and those stories are very powerful.” It makes sense that #NurseTok and #DoctorTok videos are equally compelling: TikTok has become a new medium of med-drama.

As medical professionals carry the burden of other people’s lives every day, TikTok becomes their outlet to let off steam. Sometimes it becomes a place for them to vent about the struggles and hardships of their industry.

This ranges from bullying among fellow nurses, to irritable patients, to feeling burnt out. These are the experiences that clinicians usually keep private, but letting the world know about them can be extremely liberating.

“There aren’t many formal outlets for handling the more difficult parts of the profession,” said Elster. “Social media can provide a quick release and a way to get support that might not exist in their own institutions or institutions.”

For some, these challenges are the most human part of the job. “Healthcare professionals have seen and experienced a lot,” says Morgan, who walks by @morgansandiego on TikTok. She first went viral after sharing how she passed the NCLEX, an exam all nursing school graduates must take to get their license, in just 75 questions, as few as possible. “For some of us, dark humor can be essential to get through the tough bits.” It also generates an incredible amount of views.

“The algorithm feeds on drama,” she continued, meaning leaning on stories that shine a light on the “dark side” can lead to more followers, more views, and more visibility for a content creator.

Being too transparent about the job and all its annoyances can have serious consequences

But dark humor isn’t always well received. Last month, labor and delivery workers at Emory Hospital in Georgia may have shared too much when they began publicly discussing “icks,” or things they find strange or distasteful in their patients. Their TikTok went viral, but viewers found it insensitive and unprofessional to shame someone’s personal preferences. After people raised concerns at the hospital, the nurses were fired from their positions.

A nurse in North Carolina faced the same fate last summer when she was suspended for making “comedy skits” on TikTok about overmedicating patients and unplugging ventilators to charge her phone.

The viral videos sparked a larger conversation about the ethics of medical content on social media. A major concern was whether these videos violated HIPAA, the medical privacy law that went into effect in 1996, which prohibits healthcare professionals from disclosing personal information without a patient’s consent. But experts say many of these viral TikToks don’t directly identify anyone. Medical professionals have been well informed about HIPAA from the start, Morgan said, and while there are no specific rules for social media, the Protected Health Information clause prevents any person’s information from being transmitted in any form or medium, including electronic.

“Creators share patient case studies all the time, but you will never hear details like what date the patient came in and where they were treated,” Morgan said. “You’d have a really hard time figuring out who that patient was.” The line between dark humor and potentially illegal content certainly exists, but it’s not as thin as one might think.

While the nurses who were fired did not do anything illegal, they certainly followed the line of what is moral or decent. A healthcare professional can share a story that makes them recognizable, but doing so on a public platform can have consequences. “Medical institutions want to maintain their reputation in the community,” Parsi said. “A hospital will worry whether an employee reinforces or undermines that.”

While the nurses who were fired did not do anything illegal, they certainly followed the line of what is moral or decent. A healthcare professional can share a story that makes them recognizable, but doing so on a public platform can have consequences. “Medical institutions want to maintain their reputation in the community,” Parsi said. “A hospital will worry whether an employee reinforces or undermines that.”

“Ultimately, it goes beyond HIPAA. It has to do with integrity and image,” Elster added.

There is a hunger for content from medical creators as it performs extremely well. However, a full-time career as a creator does not seem to be the end goal for these health professionals. Moon said she’s not interested in going full-time because the hobby would lose its charm.

“Once social media becomes your full-time job, it becomes a point of stress,” she said. “For me, that would take the fun out of it.”

Kim was a former film teacher, so social media helps fill a void, but it can never replace his true passion. “TikTok gave me back my creative outlet, but I never considered quitting my job for it. I love what I do – I will always be a nurse,” he said.

Care for patients remains a priority for these makers, but so does self-development. Sharing their lives with the public can be tricky. But to be seen as a versatile person outside of their job is a risk medical designers are willing to take.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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