Lessons Learned by a Pharmacy Student on Instagram


Pharmacy students should consider the main benefits and risks when applying to an Instagram account for professional pharmacy purposes.

In 2019, an article in the Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy titled “To Twitter or not to Tweet?” An introduction to social media for pharmacists, ”encouraged pharmacists to engage professionally on social media, although many pharmacists historically avoid it for such purposes.1 With the article published 1 year after creating my OVERxDOSE pharmacy podcast (pronounced “overdose”), I had just created a corresponding Instagram account (@overxdose), so I was interested in the article’s post.2

Even today, many pharmacy students continue to primarily use LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube for their professional development and networking.3 However, there are still some key benefits and risks for pharmacy students to consider when approaching an Instagram account for professional pharmacy purposes.

Main advantages of an Instagram account

Social networking of pharmacists

One of the main benefits that an Instagram account can offer a pharmacist is increased networking capacity. Using my own account, I was able to communicate with pharmacists across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic without ever meeting them physically while attending a conference or professional event.

When I first ventured out to Instagram, I started out following popular drugstore accounts, such as @ rx.radio and @corconsultrx. By directing them to messages and asking for podcasting tips, I built strong mentoring relationships, and their professional advice has helped me continue to be successful on social media.

Plus, by creating my own pharmacy content and frequently interacting with other pharmacy accounts, the algorithm started to do the networking for me. Today, Instagram continues to suggest new pharmacy accounts for me to follow as I create Instagram accounts, expanding my professional network effortlessly.

Classroom learning supplement

In a 2015 meta-analysis, Facebook was the only social media used as an educational tool in pharmacy.4 However, other health professions commonly use Instagram as a resource to enhance student learning, quiz-type practice questions. being the type of content by subscribers.5.6

I noticed a similar trend when I created multiple choice style questions based on patient assessment content on my account (Figure 1). Creating questions improved my understanding of the material while also giving classmates self-assessment material that better prepared us for the exam.

Stay up to date on new technologies

With online news consumption in the United States at an all time high, more and more people are preferring news platforms on their mobile devices to desktop computers. While browsing the news on their phones, mobile users are also likely to turn to social media, as mobile users spend around 89% of their device’s time on social media; This makes social media the fastest way to reach a targeted audience.7-9

By following Instagram, I discovered emerging technologies and innovations that are revolutionizing the practice of pharmacy. For example, using my Instagram account, I learned about the advancements in telehealth and the digitalization of drug therapy management, the development of an automatic pill dispenser, and other technological solutions aimed at improving adherence. treatment, as well as the latest medication information.

A creative outlet and a professional identity

Social media also offers professionals an outlet for creative expression and identity development.ten Since pharmacy students are expected to develop their professional identity as they progress in their studies and in their careers, Instagram has been my creative medium as it combines my interests in storytelling and humor with my love of pharmacy.

With Instagram, I can not only connect with others who have the same passions, but also provide an example of professional development on social media for future pharmacists who are still working to find their own voice.

Main risks for an Instagram Account

Content may be considered unprofessional

Unprofessional posting has had professional consequences ranging from warning to expulsion and even dismissal.11 Studies have shown that medical students post more unprofessional content and observe unprofessional content from their peers more frequently than faculty.12.13

My first posts on my account were pharmacy memes that some of my peers considered unprofessional. However, being open to constructive criticism from my peers and my dean, I learned from my mistakes, and adapted what I posted to better reflect the professional image and message I wanted to convey. A big risk of social media is advertising, but it is also its strength.

However, pharmacy students need to be aware of these risks while balancing the ability to be a voice for the profession and present themselves as they want their employers and patients to see them. The answer, in my opinion, is not to stay silent on social media, but rather to be determined.

Distracted learning

Pharmacy students’ academic performance was found to correlate with time management, and pharmacy students reported that their phones could be a distraction that could negatively impact their academic performance.12.13

Often times, a short study break to create social media content or browse my feed could turn into hours of not studying, which made me feel less prepared for exams. Pharmacy students will need to find a balance, which is true for all creative outlets.

Negative impacts on mental health

Following strangers on social media can lead to social comparisons which can also negatively impact well-being.14 Specifically, research has shown that increased Instagram use may be partially associated with greater depressive symptoms. As I followed successful pharmacists, I experienced my own mental well-being by seeing their tremendous accomplishments and comparing them to my own.

However, the results of another study showed that following fewer strangers on Instagram was associated with weaker depressive symptoms. As I got to know pharmacists better, they no longer felt like strangers and I felt my mental health improved as a result.

Instagram pearls for pharmacy students

1. Follow other accounts for ideas

Pharmacy students who want to create an Instagram account don’t have to reinvent the wheel. For example, viewing other Instagram accounts featured on popular drugstore posting accounts such as @pharmacistsofig, @talktoyourpharmacien, @pharmacisthub, @pharmacistsincharge is a great place to start. Some accounts and their specific pharmaceutical content are presented in Table 1.

2. Pause before posting

Pharmacy students should check their school’s social media and professionalism policies and determine how their content can be viewed by an employer before posting it. If there is even a slight chance that it violates a policy or could be considered unprofessional, it is best not to post the content. On social media, nothing is truly anonymous, forcing people to remain responsible for their posts.

3. Use models

Using free software like Canva, pharmacy students can create or choose pre-designed templates and schedule their posts. Consistent use of the same template and the same post schedule saves time and creates a more cohesive and professional Instagram account.

As new social media platforms are created and more research is conducted on the topic, I hope pharmacy schools, current pharmacists, and pharmacy students see Instagram as a valuable tool that showcases the potential for expanding opportunities within the pharmacy profession.

The references

  1. Kukreja P, Sheehan AH, Riggins J. Use of social media by pharmacy preceptors. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011; 75 (9). doi: 10.5688 / ajpe759176
  2. Dixon DL, Reed BN. To tweet or not to tweet? A social media primer for pharmacists. JACCP J Am Coll Clin Pharm. 2019; 2 (5): 554-562. doi: 10.1002 / jac5.1120
  3. Jeminiwa R, Shamsuddin F, Clauson KA, et al. Personal and professional use of social media by pharmacy students. Curr Pharm Teaching Learning. 2021; 13 (6): 599-607. doi: 10.1016 / j.cptl.2021.01.043
  4. Benetoli A, Chen TF, Aslani P. The use of social media in pharmacy practice and education. Res Soc Adm Pharm. 2015; 11 (1): 1-46. doi: 10.1016 / j.sapharm.2014.04.002
  5. Nguyen VH, Lyden ER, Yoachim SD. Using Instagram as a tool to improve anatomy learning at two American dental schools. J Dent Educ. 2021; 85 (9): 1525-1535. doi: 10.1002 / jdd.12631
  6. Carman KL, Minns A, Garber S, et al. ObGyn Delivered: Social Media Serving the Learning Needs of Medical Students. Med Sci Educ. 2021; 31 (2): 827-836. doi: 10.1007 / s40670-021-01226-w
  7. Gottfried J, Shearer E. The use of online news by Americans is similar to the use of television news. Pew Research Center. September 7, 2017. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://internet.psych.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/532-Master/532-UnitPages/Unit-05/Gottfried_PewResearch_2017.pdf
  8. Walker M. Americans prefer mobile devices to desktops and laptops for obtaining information. Pew Research Center. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/11/19/americans-favor-mobile-devices-over-desktops-and-laptops-for-getting-news/
  9. Keib K, Wojdynski BW, Espina C, et al. Living at Mobile Speed: How Users Rate Social Media News Posts on Smartphones. Common Res. Posted online May 28, 2021: 00936502211018542. doi: 10.1177 / 00936502211018542
  10. Gündüz U. The effect of social media on identity building | Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. Published online August 2, 2020. Accessed September 29, 2021. https://www.richtmann.org/journal/index.php/mjss/article/view/10062
  11. Cain J, Fink JL. Legal and ethical issues regarding social media and pharmacy education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010; 74 (10): 184.
  12. Sansgiry SS, Bhosle M, Sail K. Factors that affect the academic performance of pharmacy students. Am J Pharm Educ. 2006; 70 (5): 104.
  13. Aust LA, Bockman SA, Hermansen-Kobulnicky CJ. One click: pilot study on the perceived academic impact of screen time among pharmacy students. Curr Pharm Teaching Learning. 2019; 11 (6): 565-570. doi: 10.1016 / j.cptl.2019.02.019
  14. Lup K, Trub L, Rosenthal L. Instagram #Instasad ?: Exploring associations between Instagram use, depressive symptoms, negative social comparison, and strangers being followed. Cyberpsychology Behav Soc Netw. 2015; 18 (5): 247-252. doi: 10.1089 / cyber.2014.0560


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