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One tweeting nurse

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Teresa Chinn talks about her passion for nursing and social media

Nurses are usually intrinsically social by nature. We like working in teams and we like to talk and reflect with colleagues about the care we offer; often it’s the way we learn and develop our skills.

For some nurses, like myself, who do not work in the same team every day, making sure I have this support and opportunity to reflect can be a challenge. This is my personal story of how I found social media could help me to find what I needed.

Social media seems to be taking over our lives. Many of us are tweeting and interacting with our friends on facebook, allowing us to keep in contact with those we love and follow those we aspire to be; but is it possible that social media could have a place in our professional lives too? Can nurses use social media to learn, to develop and to share experiences online?

We are increasingly finding both our professional and personal lives becoming busier and busier. Nurses are continuing to work harder and more often than not, in difficult circumstances. They have less and less time to discuss problems and to learn and share with others. In addition to this, there are many different types of nurses and they don’t all fit into the ‘NHS ward nurse’ description. This means that nurses can find it difficult to access relevant training and development. These types of nurses may all find it increasingly frustrating to grow professionally within the remit of their roles. Study days are often inconveniently scheduled during the 9-5 working day and don’t fit around busy people and busy family lives. Journals and online articles are fantastic and offer a way of developing at your own pace and in your own time but it can then often be difficult to discuss them with likeminded people.

I am an agency nurse and have been for the past five years. I have a young family and agency nursing allows me to continue working at times convenient for me. I am a nurse and love being a nurse, I love learning about nursing and want to nurse to the best of my ability, but I miss being part of a nurse community and I feel the need for more interaction with other nurses.

In November 2010 I decided to start tweeting and blogging. I wanted to see if there was anyone out there like me who needed a nurse community. At first I found no-one and began to doubt if one nurse could ever find another nurse in the vastness that is Twitter. Slowly but surely I began to find more and more nurses like me online. It was difficult at first and it was through this difficulty that I decided I wanted to make it easier for other nurses to find a nurse community. I started to blog about hash tags (#) for nurses and encouraged other nurses to use #nurseuk when tweeting. This worked really well because it is an easy way for any nurse to share and ‘flag up’ information for the attention of other nurses. I also developed a guide for nurses using Twitter and tweeted about this, all the time encouraging the community to share with non-tweeting nurses. The response was amazing! It was not only used by the nurse community but also the social media community.

I then saw a tweet that inspired me greatly, about a journal club for doctors on Twitter. This was a regular Twitter chat where doctors were invited to log on every Sunday at 8pm. In their chats they used a # to tweet a discussion surrounding a predetermined journal article. The following Sunday I logged on and watched. It was truly fantastic: a real time discussion amongst professionals. I searched the web to see if a similar twitter chat existed for nurses; I found nothing. Being a true nurse I was not going to let this deter me and decided that if no-one else was doing this then I should get the ball rolling!

With the support of my employer, Newcross Healthcare Solutions, I developed a Twitter chat just for Nurses - NurChat, helping nurses to develop professionally whilst not feeling isolated; everything a professional community should offer. The first chat was centred around the adequacy of PREP requirements and we had a great response, despite my ‘first night nerves’. The first chat had 14 participants from a range of nursing areas - ICU, community, neurology, mental health, student,nurse lecturers, staff, prison and - of course, an agency nurse! We had a great chat and there was some really positive feedback that followed from all those involved.

There has been an amazingly diverse group of nurses joining in with NurChat - even the NMC have joined in a chat. NurChat has had between 10 and 25 nurses participating on each chat, creating nearly 3000 questions, answers and opinions from nurses, with around 200 visitors reading the fortnightly NurChat transcripts a week. NurChat is being tweeted about by universities and nursing journals, but most importantly by nurses!

I have found the feedback from some of the nurses participating really inspiring ,proving that they find Twitter chats as invaluable as I do.

Cheryl Galloway is a CSICU nurse who tweeted: “NurChat makes you think about bigger issues when debates get going. It gets you thinking about relevant issues and you get to meet fellow nurses who want to constantly improve patient care”.

Debbie McKinnon, an ITU nurse. tweeted: “NurChat is the most dynamic way of discussing pertinent nursing issues ever! Peer to peer learning, networking and fun in one!

“I really do love it. I can’t recommend it to people enough. It’s an amazing environment in which to learn”.

Pam Nelmes, a nursing lecturer tweeted: “Thoroughly enjoyed a recent #NurChat: Amazing how 140 little characters triggers debate, reflection and learning! Twitter-power”.

NurChat has also been involved in the NHS FluFighter campaign, holding a Twitter chat to discuss why the uptake of the flu vaccine was so low in nurses last year. The chat was a fabulous exchange of ideas and NHS FluFighter tweeted: “Thanks for having us and thanks to everyone who joined in the live flu chat”. This particular chat was enjoyed by nearly 30 nursing professionals.

One of the most refreshing elements of this journey has been the support from the nurses using social media. It is this support - and this support alone - that has created the success to date; NurChat has had no advertising on or offline. The word has been spread by nurses using social media, demonstrating the value of social media to professionally develop within the nursing community.

I feel very strongly about using social media to develop nurse community and believe that if we all share our expertise, knowledge and experiences we can all develop and grow into the best nurses we can possibly be. Striving for excellence is a nurse ideal that I believe in. I am very lucky that my employers share the same ideals and values in excellence and community as I do, enabling me and supporting NurChat to develop online nursing communities through social media, which in turn becomes a forum to promote nurses to strive for excellence.

There have been some concerns over the use of social media sites, and social networking and nursing. In response to this, in July 2011, the NMC published guidelines for the use of social media by nurses; these guidelines take a common sense approach and basically remind us to ensure that we are abiding by the NMC code of conduct when using social media - the general rule being that if you wouldn’t discuss it in a roomful of people then don’t discuss it on social media. When you are sat in your own living room on your own computer it is sometimes hard to believe that you are in a public forum, but we must remember and respect this in order to use this type of media for the good of nursing.

I started this journey as just one nurse who wanted to talk and I feel proud to now be working alongside others building the growing online community. Now I want so much more; I want to share this community with all the nurses I meet and for them to benefit from it as I have. So, if you are reading this and thinking that social media is all too technical for you and you don’t know anything about Twitter then I would encourage you to give it a go. I was like you only a year ago and since then I have gained and developed so much. Tweeting professionally is a brilliant way of staying updated and in contact with the nurse community; of course it will never replace invaluable face-to-face training and contact, but it provides us with the ability to easily talk to one another - and also, to listen.

Follow NurChat on Twitter

Teresa Chinn heads up NurChat for Newcross Healthcare Solutions

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