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By Dr. Scott McLeod, CPSA Registrar & CEO
As physicians and physician assistants, we are fortunate to have a certain credibility and influence simply by being part of the medical profession in Canada. This is a privilege we have earned over many years, and one we must continue to earn. One we do not take lightly.
When you combine dedicated and compassionate physicians with the privilege of heightened credibility, patient advocacy is often the result. CPSA recognizes and supports that advocacy, either for our patients or the healthcare system in general, has always been an important component of the medical profession. In short, we advocate for others because we care. However, sometimes, despite our best intentions, we may tiptoe across the line of professionalism. I want to reiterate that physicians and physician assistants have the right to advocate and voice their opinion on matters important to them, but with that comes a responsibility to communicate respectfully and professionally, since inappropriate advocacy or miscommunication can put both the individual physician and the profession at risk.
Our work as physicians, whether in a clinical setting or advocacy role, must always adhere to the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism, which articulates the ethical and professional commitments and responsibilities of the medical profession:
“The Code provides standards of ethical practice to guide physicians in fulfilling their obligation to provide the highest standard of care and to foster patient and public trust in physicians and the profession.”
The Code also specifies that we have a responsibility to “engage in respectful communications in all media” and “avoid any influence that could undermine [our] professional integrity.” This is particularly relevant for social media, where words that may have previously floated away after a verbal exchange are now transcribed online for all to see. With this comes the need for even more awareness and consideration when speaking up about issues impacting us or our patients. Social media advocacy can be positive, we just have to make sure that when advocating, we do so in a professional manner and take into consideration the context and environment in which we are communicating. I encourage each of you to review CPSA’s Social Media Advice to the Profession document for additional guidance about online communication.
Speaking of online advocacy, I also want to say thank you for your thoughtful, professional and respectful comments on my last Medical Matters article about pan-Canadian licensure. CPSA had a chance to meet with other physician colleges from across the country at last month’s Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada annual meeting, during which pan-Canadian licensure was the topic of many robust discussions. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all.
Thank you, again, for your professionalism and dedication to your patients and health care in Alberta.
Take care and I hope you have a great summer.