Breaking Bad News via Social Media: an exploratory study of the implications of the use of social networking sites during a sudden, unexpected, emergent hospital admission.

Dr  Melissa Petrakis2, Ms Margaret Cowgill1

1Pensinaula Health, Frankston, Australia, 2Monash University, Caufield, Australia


Aim:  The impact of a traumatic injury transcends beyond the physical causing emotional distress and psychological harm.  Communication to garnish support is imperative to assisting those impacted; however with the advent of social media, the implications of using such a mode of communication are still relatively unknown.  This research aims to gain an understanding of the different ways that people are positively and negatively affected by the use of social networking sites during an acute hospital admission.

Method:  This is a Qualitative study; reflective interviews were conducted with social workers who work in the field of trauma.  A thematic analysis identified various positive uses and negative consequences.

Results: Social networking sites can be useful to inform and update multiple people about a patients progress, seek and provide emotional and practical support.  Both intended and unintended consequences were discovered that intensify stress and create conflict during already unimaginable stress and grief.

Significance of the findings to allied health:  Allied Health staff working in the areas of trauma support patients and families during intimately emotional and stressful times.  By understanding the potential ways social networking sites can support families to communicate about the crisis, and potential issues that can occur, allied health can educate and support patients and families to reduce potential stress, avoid further issues and aid recovery.


Since graduating from the University of Tasmania in 2014 Margaret Cowgill has worked in various areas of health both in Australia and the UK.  Margaret is currently a mental health clinician at Peninsula Health.   Prior to this she worked in the area of Trauma at the Alfred Hospital where the idea for this research project originated.  Margaret is currently being supported in her research as a PhD student at Monash University.