Making Healthcare Decisions In A Media-Driven World

A look into how we make healthcare decisions in a world consumed with media and social pressure while not forgetting our common sense Nurses General Nursing Article


Making Healthcare Decisions In A Media-Driven World

When the Tube Gets Stuck

When my sister-in-law video-called me on a Wednesday night because my niece decided to shove her finger into a tube, I answered. Being one of the only medically trained members of the family, I get a lot of these calls. After some ice, spray Pam, and a lot of tears, the tube was no longer attached to my niece. I often wonder what the Google search would look like if my family and friends didn’t have me to call. I wonder if they know I sometimes Google these things too. Is it what I learned in school, what I have learned in 10 years on the job, or just common sense? The simplicity of these phone calls is devoid of the Media's influence, a clear-cut problem and solution. What has caused healthcare decision-making to become so complicated?

In the era of social media and the internet, there is a constant barrage of information. Add in a pandemic and constantly emerging infectious diseases it is easy to lose trust in your common sense. Who do you trust? Do you find yourself mindlessly doom scrolling, searching for an answer you already know?

The Media's Influence

Unfortunately, over the past few years, healthcare decisions and information have been politicized. People on both sides of the political spectrum have drawn conclusions and made healthcare decisions based on specific media outlet opinions. Epidemiologists, infectious diseases experts, and doctors have taken to social media to share their information and guidance. They have amassed followers looking for credible information devoid of political opinions. Unfortunately, medical experts who have decided to share their lives, information, and opinions have also faced bullying and harassment. It has even led some to shut down their social media profiles over the fears of personal attacks and attacks on their children. So unless you have time to spend watching the news, pouring over the internet, or scrolling through social media, it can be difficult to know where to turn in terms of information that helps inform your health care decisions.

People often perform a Google search with a specific question; they click on the top link and find the answer they are looking for. But how often do people take the information out of context or not take the time to validate the source of the information? 

Have you ever read an article after a quick Google search and checked the author’s credentials? More often than not, the author has no medical or healthcare-related background. They may interview doctors or cite credible sources, but they are still using their non-medical background to synthesize data and information. They run with the answer they found, often sharing it with others and abandoning their common sense. Before the internet and social media, people relied heavily on their common sense or that of their friends, family, and neighbors. Misinformation was still spread but not at the global break-neck speed it is today. People often trust “doctor Google” over their physician. The way we make healthcare-related decisions has vastly shifted since the introduction of the internet. You can find answers to most of your common ailments in a quick search online. The caveat to this newer trend is those non-medical individuals are making decisions that can contribute to delayed diagnoses and treatments.

How I Make Decisions

I have never been more grateful for my required research class in nursing school. It was drilled into us as nurses to look for credible sources, how to read and understand research studies and journals and synthesize important information. As a nurse, a mom, and a family member to high-risk individuals I pour over the information, facts, opinions, and advice. Through endless hours of research and anxiety, I have come to find a few credible sources I trust to help me make health care decisions. I now use a mixture of local public health data (wastewater, hospitalizations, and positivity rates of infectious diseases), epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, and our pediatrician for decisions related to our kids. Navigating health decisions is multi-layer for our family as we have different risk layers depending on if it is my husband and me, our kids, or our extended family that includes high-risk individuals. Every decision is made based on the risk vs. benefit to the people involved. I also take into account the risk of transmission to others and how our healthcare-related decisions impact others.

When I reflect on my common sense regarding healthcare decisions, I fear I have wasted hours, days, and even weeks of my life filling my brain with information that ultimately did not change the decisions I made. The influx of opinions and facts made me second guess what I already knew in my gut. It made me throw my common sense from years of training and experience out the window and join the media hysterics. At the end of the day, healthcare decisions boil down to a less complex decision hierarchy - 

Am I making this decision based on factual data or others' opinions? Am I making this decision because it is best practice or because it is more convenient and fits the status quo?

Is the answer truly as simple as just figuring out how to remove the tube from a four-year-old finger?

Brooke Schmidt is a registered nurse with 10+ years of experience with a focus in geriatrics and palliative care. Brooke spends her free time with her two young children exploring the Pacific Northwest.

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Specializes in ED, ICU, Public/Community Health.

Isn't it scary how people trust Google more than a doc or other healthcare profesh? I really like the 2 questions you ask at the end to make a good decision. This can be used for more than just healthcare decisions - even something as simple as purchasing something. Thanks for your article!


Specializes in Geriatrics, palliative care, wound care, writing.

Thank you for reading! And that’s an excellent point about using those questions for simple decisions as well. 

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life).

I remember in RN school an exercise in vetting a website. The one given to me was full of information about the unseen agenda of the medical establisment. When vetting the individual directors of the organization I found they were all high ranking members of the church of scientology.


Specializes in Geriatrics, palliative care, wound care, writing.

That’s a great exercise. We had something similar in school as well. 

Specializes in Nurse Educator.

Love this! This is why being a nurse freelance writer is becoming more popular!

Specializes in Geriatrics, palliative care, wound care, writing.

Definitely, there is so much room for healthcare professionals to contribute quality information outside of their traditional jobs.