Coronavirus Social: Nurses Behaving Badly on TikTok

From bad behavior on TikTok to free in-hospital haircuts to a text chain by female ICU physicians, here's what medicine on social media is talking about related to coronavirus.

MAY 07, 2020 -- From bad behavior on TikTok to free in-hospital haircuts to a text chain by female ICU physicians, here's what medicine on social media is talking about related to coronavirus.

The Dark Side of Medical TikTok

Healthcare providers are increasingly using the TikTok social media app to make catchy 15- to 60-second videos filled with health information, and they are reaching a huge, largely younger audience.

The app's unique presentation of medical information has its upside, as Alok Patel, MD, pointed out in his recent Hospitalist Retort column for Medscape Medical News. Austin Chiang, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, for example, has acquired millions of views for his funny yet informative coronavirus educational content.

But not everyone in the medical community is putting their best TikTok foot forward. Take the now-deleted clip showing four nurses dancing and singing with a corpse bag labeled "COVID 19" slung over their shoulders.

Though some on social media have suggested the video may be a takeoff on a coffin dance meme that has been widely circulated as a tongue-in-cheek message to encourage people to stay at home, outrage has been the more common reaction. The general dismay is memorialized on Reddit in the form of a 200-plus comment thread in the community r/medicine. A sample response from an anesthesiology resident reflects the thread:

"Lots of laypeople are looking at videos like this and wondering if we are really fighting a pandemic or just creating a lot of dramatic commotion over PPE and traumatizing work conditions. I feel that silly videos like this undermine the critical environments and poor staffing ratios that we are working in. I think they work AGAINST our fight to, say, advocate for safer working conditions,more PPE, better pay...."

Lead Physician Styles Her Staff

Massachusetts General Hospital Physician-in-Chief Katrina Armstrong, MD, put her surgical skills to good use by offering free haircuts to anyone who wanted one.

"Physician in chief @katrinarmstrong brings the barber shop to @MGHMedicine. First customer @NinoNJ 'two across the top, 1.5 on the sides and square the edges,' " her colleague Chana Sachs, MD, tweeted.

Tweeters immediately asked to book an appointment for a trim, fix a previous hack job, or refresh their color. Mostly, people were delighted with the idea.

"What #leadership looks like! Talk about maximizing wellness and wellbeing in the #COVID19 era...," one doc tweeted.

Some states have allowed businesses like barbershops and beauty salons to reopen in the past week or so, but Massachusetts isn't one of them.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that more than 4000 deaths have occurred in the state and that nearly 70,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that starting May 6, all residents will be required to wear masks or other face coverings when they are in public and are unable to maintain social distance. He said he is also monitoring the situation to determine when restrictions on movement and businesses can be eased.

Telling COVID-19-Fighting Stories Through Text

McSweeny's new Flattened by the Curve column captures the voices of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and others working on the front lines against COVID-19. A recent submission offered an inside glimpse of a real-time text chain by four female critical care physicians from around the country who are caring for COVID-19 patients and navigating their dual identities as women in medicine.

In essence, the four women used text as their own mini–social media network to share their thoughts and feelings. Mostly, they documented their experiences for each other about what it's been like working with COVID-19 and trying to have a life:

"We have opened up a fifth ICU service to cover for now — when we need it — and we are prepared as can be expected. This is all just so terrifying."

"Ladies. Crap day. Baby woke up every hour overnight because she misses me. Got home late from ICU and baby was already asleep and toddler had epic tantrum on potty and sitter canceled for tomorrow."

"I coughed some last night and started to panic but it went away and I was able to do 21 miles on the bike so I'm probably fine."

The piece has been widely shared on Twitter. You can find the entire exchange here.

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