African Journal of Health Professions Education

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Occupational therapy students’ use of social media for professional practice

D Naidoo, P Govender, M Stead, U Mohangi, F Zulu, M Mbele


Background. The use of social media for professional practice is an emerging trend for healthcare professionals; however, limited literature exists on the phenomenon. Social media usage is prevalent among students, as it is incorporated into many health professions education curricula. This poses potential ethical dilemmas.

Objective. To examine the nature of social media usage and knowledge of ethical considerations by occupational therapy (OT) students for professional purposes.

Methods. A quantitative, cross-sectional survey was administered to the entire cohort of OT students (N=128) enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa in 2016. Data were analysed descriptively using Microsoft Excel 2013 (Microsoft, USA).

Results. The most commonly used device to access social media was mobile phones, with WhatsApp and YouTube frequently used for both general and professional purposes. Uses included accessing social media for developing professional skills and knowledge, and in fulfilling academic requirements. Ethical dilemmas were evident among students, who indicated that social media ethical considerations should be incorporated into the curriculum.

Conclusion. The study highlighted that most students use some form of social media as part of their professional practice, which has the potential to be used effectively to enhance learning opportunities. Future studies of a qualitative nature could shed light on students’ perceptions of social media and practical implications for practice.
AJOL African Journals Online