Unique Social Media Mentorship Program Fills an Educational Gap

For the past 3 years, the Nephrology Social Media Collective (NSMC) internship program has been filling an educational need for a professional skill that is lacking in most fellowship programs: preparing individuals to communicate effectively on social media. And the program has been doing so well that it can serve as a model for similar programs, speakers said.

The NSMC experience was presented by Silvi Shah, MD, of the University of Cincinnati, as part of an educational program at the American Society of Nephrology's annual meeting held October 31 to November 5, 2017, in New Orleans, LA. Other authors of the presentation included Matthew A. Sparks, MD, of Duke, and Joel M. Topf, MD, of Oakland University.

Although health care professionals are increasingly using social media, formal education on the topic continues to be scarce, Shah pointed out. The NSMC internship, a worldwide collaboration among nephrologists, was established in 2015 to help address this lack of available education.

Currently, the NSMC faculty has 21 clinicians, educators, and scientists who participate as mentors to help those with limited social media experience gain knowledge, competence, and professionalism.

Interns are selected based on their curriculum vitae, a personal statement, and interest in the program. Each intern participates in an entrance discussion to assess goals and is then matched with 2 faculty mentors (1 junior and 1 senior). Individuals accepted into the program are expected to contribute 3 to 4 hours per month in internship-related activities, and quarterly virtual meetings are held to monitor progress.

As part of the 1-year NSMC program, interns participate in NephJC (an online nephrology journal club) and contribute to its administrative activities, which might include responsibilities such as curating Twitter chats, writing blog posts, constructing visual abstracts, or moderating sessions. Interns are also required to assist with the annual NephMadness contest and the Renal Fellow Network blog. At the end of the NSMC training period, interns are assessed on the timely completion and quality of the required projects and may be invited to become NSMC faculty.

In 2015, the first year of the program, 4 interns were enrolled. The following year, enrollment almost doubled to 7 interns. And in 2017, 12 interns were enrolled from a pool of 40 applicants. Over the past 3 years, interns have included nephrology fellows, medical residents, medical students, practicing physicians, and nurses from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

"NSMC internships provide modern communication skills and opportunities to improve skills in social media," Shah explained. She added that the NSMC program measures success by what its interns go on to accomplish, and a large percentage of interns are offered leadership positions in social media forums. Because of this success, she noted: "We believe our internship could act as a model to be included in nephrology fellowship training curriculum."

Source: Shah S, Poyan-Metr A, Rheault, MN, et al. Mentorship in the digital age: Nephrology Social Media Collective internship—2 year experience. Presented at: American Society of Nephrology annual meeting, Kidney Week 2017; October 31-November 5, 2017; New Orleans, LA. Oral Presentation 001.