When I asked my pulmonary rehabilitation group if there was anything missing from the programme, the group, predominately women in their late 50s, suggested a talk related to social media.
As a recent convert to Twitter, I thought it was a great idea. So one week later I was discussing the positives and dangers of the infamous hashtag.
The session developed into a vibrant discussion, in particular about blogs. I quickly felt out of my comfort zone. I’d never heard of most of the sites the group knew about or what was going on within them, so the group took charge of the laptop and projector and enthusiastically showed each other favourite sites. Without doubt, this was the best pulmonary rehab education and provoked a discussion with the whole group on where they sourced help and information.
The world is changing and patients are using social media as a tool to cope with the physical and emotional effects of respiratory diseases. As a nurse, am I keeping up and embracing this valuable source? No, I don’t think I am. The question is: am I alone? I don’t think healthcare organisations, let alone individuals, have kept up with technology as well as patients have.
Twitter and social media help me. As a nurse, I am now able to connect with other specialists, find out what others feel about topics and, if I am brave enough, join the conversations. So why haven’t I encouraged patients to exchange and engage in this brilliant wide spectrum of social media? Why have I only directed patients to traditional sites or printed factsheets from well-sourced respiratory charity sites? I could argue it is because my professional regulator has warned me of the dangers, not the benefits, or because I am too old school in my methods. Whatever the reason, I believe nurses need to embrace social media. If we don’t, we’re going to be out of the conversation and left behind. Nurses need to be involved or we will lose our voice in the discussions and debates.
As a nurse, I believe that I need to be part of this technological world, to give patients the opportunity to benefit and help to empower patients as never before. Social media gives this group a voice and the ability to take part in conversations with others. For a group who are very often isolated and without a visible voice, this is an empowering and liberating opportunity.
Interestingly, the general consensus within the pulmonary rehabilitation group was that many COPD-related blogs they had found were written by American men for men. They found them depressing and not reflective of their voice or experience of living with COPD. This triggered my thinking; it could be something I could help with. As a result of the session, I contacted a colleague who knows about blogging. She is now working with the group to help them to set up their own individual blogs, ones for British women with a positive attitude. I can’t wait to read what this brings forth. NT
Rebecca Sherrington is respiratory nurse consultant at Princess Elizabeth Hospital, Guernsey