People across the internet are really scared with current times, but many people are confused whether or not to trust nurses on the popular app TikTok.
Coronavirus-related TikTok videos show the range right now, but they could be potentially harmful for false information that has been spreading on the app. In January, news outlets around the world published stories about the viral TikTok star “Nurse Holly” after she incorrectly claimed in one of her videos that abstinence was the best method to not contract sexually transmitted diseases.
People stormed social media to criticize the nurse for sharing incorrect health information on TikTok, the popular video-sharing platform where more than half of users are between the ages of 16 and 24. Following the backlash, Nurse Holly deleted the video and shut down her TikTok account. But the damage was already done.
Articles like “TikTok’s Medical Professionals Maybe Aren’t All That Professional” and “If You’re a Nurse, Please Stop Embarrassing Your Entire Profession on TikTok” flooded the internet. At first glance, it seemed like medical professionals on TikTok were damaging the relationship between healthcare providers and patients.
Still, despite the bad rap some of the TikTok stars have given the profession, healthcare professionals argue that doctors and nurses should be on the platform to help combat misinformation, to spread educational material about taboo topics, and to show young people that they are relatable and trustworthy.
A quick scroll through hashtags like #nurselife and #nurse on TikTok will inevitably pull up some questionable videos. There’s a video of a nurse pretending to curse and fight a patient. In the comment section, people claiming to work in the healthcare field have left comments like, “I work at a psychiatric hospital and this is me daily!” There are also videos of health professionals mocking patients on suicide watch, judging people’s sex lives, and making fun of patients’ drug use.
Some people don’t want to get medical help if they think their nurse or doctor will hop on social media after the appointment and make a TikTok video mocking them. Plus, the TikToks can leave people wondering things like: Will my doctor believe me? Will my nurse judge me for my sexual choices?
Some people tweeted things like “when the nurse leaves to get the doctor she’s actually making a tik tok about how you’re a sinner” and even this one with “screaming in the background of a nurse‘s TikTok as the hospital bed folds in on me like a clam.” It seems like patients weren’t the only people bothered by some of the viral TikTok videos. Shortly after backlash over several viral nurses and doctors in January, TikTok updated its community guidelines.
TikTok wrote that it does not permit misinformation and that it would remove “misinformation that could cause harm to an individual’s health or wider public safety.”
However, it’s not TikTok’s responsibility to decide what’s offensive and what’s not. The platform can’t discriminate against posts based on someone’s profession. It only takes action when someone breaks its community guidelines. That’s for hospitals and health professionals to decide.
One doctor Austin Chiang, said that there are a ton of medical professionals posting accurate and helpful information on social media. Those medical professionals, he said, show that social media platforms—including TikTok—are positive tools for connecting with patients. TikTok has often been singled out as a platform that healthcare professionals should avoid.
But Chiang, who has a TikTok himself and in recent videos has given quarantine advice while dancing, says there’s no reason to stay off the platform. Health providers just need to know their boundaries.
It’s estimated that about 80% of internet users search for health information online, 74% of those on social media, according to the National Institute of Health. And if medical professionals aren’t on social media platforms, especially those like TikTok which serve a younger audience, who will be answering their health questions?