The Pharmaceutical Journal recently sought my advice for a professional dilemma piece about handling online criticism. In response to a distressed pharmacist, I advised: 

Social media provides an excellent forum for pharmacy professionals to network, share information, learn from others and publically promote the profession. However, the main downside of social media is that, from behind the anonymity of their computer, many people feel free to be abusive online and behave in ways they never would in real life.

The standards set out within the GPhC’s ‘Standards for Pharmacy Professionals’ apply at all times, in both the real and online worlds. Even online, pharmacy professionals must act professionally, treat people with respect and maintain appropriate professional boundaries.

If their comment was discriminatory or grossly inappropriate, you might wish to report the matter to the GPhC. Such complaints are taken seriously by professional regulators. For example, in July 2018, a solicitor was suspended from practice for 18 months as a result of tweeting offensive comments about the Muslim, Jewish and Catholic faiths.

If, on the other hand, the other pharmacy professional’s comment simply expressed their disagreement with or lack of regard for the project, you could chalk the matter up to experience and note for future reference that a thick skin is required before exposing yourself to the scrutiny and potential negativity of social media.

Another option would be to contact the other pharmacist privately, explain how their comment made you feel and ask them to delete it.

I would also suggest discussing the situation with a trusted colleague or manager. You might be surprised how many people have experienced similar events on social media. If you would prefer to speak to someone anonymously, Pharmacist Support’s Listening Friends service is available on 0808 168 5133.