With over 100 million active Twitter users and more than 800 million Facebook users worldwide, social media is one of the most progressive tools available to professional communicators. Anne Cooper, National Clinical Lead for Nursing, explains why nurses and midwives should embrace these social networks to help them engage more effectively with patients and communities.
What is social media and why should I be interested in it?
Social networks are increasingly a key service delivery mechanism for government initiatives and public health campaigns. Healthy Start, Change4Life, SmokeFree, Live Well and NHS Flu Fighter all have an active presence on Twitter and Facebook.
Social media is about online conversations and communication, using a range of technologies to enable social interaction and real-time debate. They include collaborative projects (eg Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (eg Twitter), content communities (eg Youtube), social networking sites (eg. Facebook).
How can nurses benefit from having a social media presence?
Like the wider NHS, nurses have a responsibility to keep up to date with the numerous methods and channels of communication available to them. Social media presents nurses with new methods of communicating key health issues but if you have never used it before it can be easy to shy away.
The NMC provides excellent guidance on the use of social media. As with any external engagement, it’s important to uphold the reputation of your profession and organisation, so just use your common sense when posting information and comments online, and consult any social media policy that might already be in place where you work.
Once you’ve established an online presence, the opportunities for nurses to engage with their patients, communities and networks is endless.
Using social media, nursing professionals, organisations and communities can share information more quickly, monitor reactions and actively engage with other users to gain a better understanding of what healthcare staff and patients want and need.
How can social media help me with my professional development?
Twitter is a great resource for staying up to date with current issues. It provides an opportunity to pick up breaking news quickly and in bite-sized chunks. It’s also an incredibly generous environment where the people you choose to follow can be a useful resource. And if you ask a question, more often than not, you’ll get a helpful response in real time.
I would also recommend using Twitter to practice through real-time chats. These are regular focused topic related debates that occur at prearranged times, each one focusing on a different topic. I find these really useful and often find I have ideas to contribute too. Have a look.
Meanwhile, many professional bodies and organisations are already tweeting; Department of Health (@dhgovuk) Nursing and Midwifery Council (@nmcnews) and The King’s Fund (@TheKingsFund) are great examples
I want to give it a try – what can I try as a first step?
I first got involved in social media when I set up a personal Facebook account, which I use to communicate with friends and family. While this is predominantly for private use and I have made use of the privacy settings, I am always conscious that as a registered nurse I must always represent the nursing profession responsibly, even outside of work.
What does a professional account on Twitter look like? Have you got some good examples?
Have a look at my account: @anniecoops. If you find me, there are lots of interesting people that I follow. Take a look at @julievuolo. She is also using YouTube to present some great videos about pressure ulcers. Also @RTunmore, the CNO Bulletin’s professional editor, @Intnursesdayuk and @britainsnurses, mentioned in the International Nurses Day feature.
Where can I go for more information?
If you join Twitter, send me a tweet to say hello!