Medical trainees and staff take to social media to defend reputation

Impugn the professionalism of Canada’s medical trainees at your peril.
That’s the message one of Canada’s national newspapers – The National Post – should take from the concerted rebuttal to an article they reprinted recently about the slang allegedly used by some medical team members to refer to patients they don’t like.
“How a SHPOS is born: What doctors call their very worst patients,” was reprinted Nov. 10 by The National Post having appeared originally in Slate. The article details how challenging it can be to deal with difficult patients and how the medical team staff may respond by using acronyms such as SHPOS (Sub-human Piece of Shit) to describe especially difficult patients.
Fast-forward two weeks to today and the simultaneous posting on a number of blog sites of a blog by Dr. Elisha Targonsky and five others including social media stalwarts Eve Purdy (@purdy_eve) and Dr. Teresa Chan (@TChanMD).
Titled “SHPOS – never heard of it” the article begins: “We read with horror the recent article ….
We were appalled that the author conveyed the impression that this offensive term, SHPOS, is common and used by the general medical community. … This is false.”
“This article has sparked discussions over several social media platforms and in the hallways of our hospitals. The consensus from our investigation is that the majority have never used, nor heard of this disgraceful and offensive term,” the article continues.
The blog post goes on to chastise The National Post and urges the paper to “consider the ramifications of posting such inaccurate and potentially damaging materials in the future.”
The residents who authored the article stated they felt obligated to use blog postings on Purdy’s and other blog sites because their attempt to publish a letter to the editor in The National Post and not been successful and “because we feel that sharing our perspective is necessary with the hopes of continuing a more thoughtful, balanced dialogue of language in medicine.”
Within minutes of publishing the blog, the response was being retweeted widely by many including Globe and Mail reporter Andre Picard.
“I have never heard the term SHPOS used in Ontario and I don’t think that about my patients,” another resident responded.
“Great article and I completely agree,” a physician colleague of Purdy’s tweeted.
It goes to show that in the era of social media – the letter to the editor – is a possible poor cousin when it comes to public discourse with newspapers.


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