April 17, 2019

Moving beyond Facebook: unlocking the potential of social media for nurses

by
Mike Holland

It’s often said that social media is changing our lives. Speaking at the 2019 HNA meeting in Birmingham, Teresa Chinn disagreed: “our lives have already been changed,” she said.

Teresa is a nurse and founder of the Twitter account @WeNurses. She was (and remains) an agency nurse, Tweeting under her own name as @AgencyNurse. Not being part of a permanent team, she recognised that she was feeling isolated and she felt her employer’s commitment to CPD was somewhat lacking. Twitter offered a way to make connections with other nurses and she soon found herself communicating with a wide range of nurses, including the Director of Nursing at the Department of Health.

Impressed by the reach Twitter offered, Teresa decided to try holding a Twitter meeting to chat with other nurses. That event attracted 18 participants. @WeNurses now has nearly 82,000 followers worldwide and is one of several Twitter accounts that form the WeCommunities initiative (www.wecommunities.org).

Social media is not just about being social, Teresa said. Twitter offers a global reach with no financial cost other than the time required to participate. It can help nurses share, celebrate and inform practice, and can itself be a part of nursing practice. The @We brand is now promoting a wider agenda within social care with @WeLearnOutLoud, a ‘social learning initiative, bringing healthcare professionals together to collaborate, share & discuss learning’.

@WeNurses has worked with major organisations including NHS England, NHS Employers and the Care Quality Commission. For example, as part of the NHS’s 70th birthday celebrations, nurses were encouraged to blog about their roles and experiences using the hashtag #70nursebloggers. Now, non-nurses can read these tweets and learn about what it means to be a nurse and gain insight into the work of specialist nurses.

A collaboration with Public Health England is using the hashtag #allowhealth to inform health professionals about its All Our Health programme for health promotion (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/all-our-health-personalised-care-and-population-health). This has been very successful and is now in its third year.

@PUNC14 was developed with the University of Plymouth to encourage digital professionalism among student nurses. Nursing has been celebrated with International Nursing Day (#IND2017) and the Experience of Care Week (#expofcare). Teresa echoed the comments of several HNA nurses when she noted that nurses don’t talk enough about what they do.

Using social media as part of nursing practice is the least explored potential of Twitter, Teresa continued, but it is one that will grow with the new generation of nurses. Young people have grown up with social media as an integral part of their lives and its application in professional development is inevitable. She noted that even if some older nurses are reticent about joining a Twitter group, patients do so readily.

Visual Minutes by Woven Ink