TikTok’s Medical Professionals Maybe Aren’t All That Professional

Doctors and nurses have always let off steam privately — but what happens when you do it to 1.5 billion people?

Amelia Tait
FFWD
Published in
8 min readJan 24, 2020

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Image: Owen Beard/Unsplash

On the evening of 3 January, 27-year-old receptionist Hannah Nicks began experiencing a tightness in her chest and pain in her left arm. She describes feeling as though her “rib cage was shrinking”, leaving her unable to breathe. The North Carolinian was afraid and considered going to her local hospital to get checked out, but decided against it when she recalled a TikTok she’d seen days earlier.

In the video, a University of Antigua medical student mocked patients for coming into hospital with chest pain. Over the course of 19 seconds, student Mursal Sekandari rolled her eyes at a pretend patient, joked that the patient was on drugs, and patronized them for assuming they were having a heart attack.

“It made me not wanna go to the hospital because what if I go in there, tell them what I think is happening, and they just laugh in my face?” Nicks says now. “Nobody wants to be ridiculed for something that they think they’re experiencing.”

Thankfully Nicks didn’t need immediate medical attention — she has suffered from anxiety for 14 years and after the pain passed, realized the incident was an unusually severe panic attack. Yet her experiences in early January are symptomatic of a wider phenomenon: over the last few months, multiple medical professionals have gone viral after creating inappropriate TikToks, eroding public trust in the healthcare system.

Before Mursal Sekandari, it was Ruby Ray, Tapasi Biswas, Swapna Bala and Nandini Ray. In June 2019, the four nurses from Malkangiri, India were asked to go on leave after filming themselves dancing in a special neonatal care unit. Five months later, on 19 November, the hashtag #PatientsAreNotFaking began trending on Twitter after an apparent nurse, Danyelle Rose, shared a TikTok in which she pretended to be a hyperventilating patient dressed in a medical gown under the caption, “We know when y’all are faking”. After the incident with Mursal Sekandari in late December, a TikTok user known as “Nurse Holly” then went viral on 10 January for recommending abstinence as the “best” way to…

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