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Is Twitter changing nursing?

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Through a series of Twitter chats, Teresa Chinn investigates the nursing professions’ uptake of this communication tool

Twitter, much like other forms of social media, is often perceived as something frivolous, and its primary function seen as being to follow favourite celebrities. The use of Twitter in a professional capacity is not something generally considered by the masses.  However Twitter does have a thriving nursing community who are passionate about nursing and relish the opportunity to talk to fellow nurses from diverse backgrounds, with no regard for geography or hierarchy.

The recent consultation for Jane Cummings (Chief Nursing Officer for England) and Viv Bennetts (Department of Health Director for Nursing) new vision for nursing “Developing the culture of compassionate care: Creating a new vision for nurses, midwives and care givers” provided the opportunity for nurses on Twitter to give feedback to the consultation via a series of Twitter chats. Feedback had not been sought in this way before so not only was this a unique opportunity but it was also the first time this had been done.

Twitter chats are real time nursing discussions that take place on Twitter at a given time using a hashtag # to bind the conversation together. The series of Twitter chats feeding into the consultation were hosted by @WeNurses who hold weekly chats around all sorts of nursing subjects.

There were four chats in total each looking at a different aspect of the vision:

  •    the 6Cs (care, compassion, courage, commitment, competence and communication) and the vision action areas
  •    making change
  •     obstacles and solutions
  •    a summary chat

Statistics from WeNurses (2012) show the chats had a total of 207 individual participants, some taking part in more than one chat, with the largest chat having 90 active participants. There were 3967 tweets made over the course of the four chats, reaching a potential audience of over 4 million Twitter users. Nurses from all over the UK and beyond took part ranging from Jane Cummings and Viv Bennett to student nurses, community nurses, directors of nursing, agency nurses, mental health nurses, school nurses and learning disability nurses to name but a few.

Following the series of chats around the consultation @WeNurses tweeted asking “Would you know about the 6Cs without Twitter?” 80% of nurses who replied said no. Some of the more interesting responses were from the nurses that said yes - stating things like they would not have joined in the consultation if not for twitter, that twitter has been a launch pad for the 6Cs and that they may not have heard about the 6Cs quite so quickly if not for Twitter.

Twitter allows for the dissemination of ideas coming from both from top down and bottom up creating a space where nurses can share information and ideas across boundaries.  The Twitter chats around “Developing the culture of compassionate care: Creating a new vision for nurses, midwives and care givers” showed the value of this by providing worthwhile feedback into an important consultation. Twitter gives nurses an immediacy of information which has never been seen before; it allows access of information relevant to nursing, at a convenient time and all accessible through mobile technology. With information and access to diverse nursing professionals so readily available, senior nurses using Twitter and actively engaging the nursing community and the uptake of Twitter being adopted by such a wide diversity of nurses it is becoming clear to see that Twitter can and is changing the face of nursing.


WeNurses (2012) How we used Twitter to talk about the 6Cs

Teresa Chinn is a nurse, a blogger and social media specialist and leads the #NurChat discussions for WeNurChat. Follow @WeNurChat on Twitter.

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