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The benefits of using social media professionally

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Being a student nurse is tough and the academic pressures can really build up if you are not organised and proactive.

I am currently juggling two essays and a dissertation, and during a recent spell of procrastination and feeling sorry for myself, I got to thinking about how difficult studying must have been 30 years ago before the internet, databases and online search engines.

It was almost unimaginable, and even thinking about it made me feel a little better about my situation, and a little bit more ‘in awe’ of all the nurses that studied back in the days of typewriters and dusty libraries.

Reflecting on that specific train of thought made me think about my own personal journey and how technology has affected my professional development.

“Over the past 12 months I have started to become more aware of the benefits of using social media professionally”

I think it’s fair to say that the internet has revolutionised the way in which we do everything – not only how we search for information but how we communicate, the way we learn and the way we interact with our families, friends, and colleagues.

Social media plays a massive part in this, and most of us use Facebook or Twitter on a regular basis to keep in touch with our personal and professional networks.

Over the past 12 months I have started to become more aware of the benefits of using social media professionally rather than as just a tool for relieving my boredom on the bus or posting pictures of my dinner.

This started in March last year, when I was lucky enough to be offered a place on The Student Leadership Programme delivered by the Council of Deans of Health and the Burdett Trust for Nursing. The programme aims to develop and promote student leadership in future healthcare professionals, which it does by offering exposure to leadership training, mentoring and networking.

To fully inolve myself in the programme, I needed to open a Twitter account. It was not something I had used previously and not something that I had seen any benefit in using until that point – to be honest, I just didn’t really get it.

During the following months I slowly developed my ‘tweeting’ capabilities and built my network; ‘following’ and being ‘followed’ by other members of the programme, fellow students, academics and health professionals from many different backgrounds.

It really opened my eyes to the possibilities and implications for knowledge sharing and multidisciplinary collaboration. I have since gone on to secure an internship with @WeLDNurses – a Twitter-based team who connect learning disability nurses and facilitate fortnightly ‘Twitter chats’ that discuss matters prevalent to the learning disability field.

“I have discovered many benefits, and have developed in many ways through engaging with my newly acquired professional network”

The @WeLDNurses are part of the #WeCommunities family, who bring together nurses of all fields, midwives, pharmacists and other health professionals, to share information, ideas and expertise.

Since that day back in March when I first opened my Twitter account, I have discovered many benefits, and have developed in many ways through engaging with my newly acquired professional network. 

Here are but a few:

  • Breaking down barriers and hierarchies: Twitter has enabled me to connect with a variety of professionals that may have been otherwise inaccessible to a student nurse. I regularly engage in conversation with people with MBEs and OBEs, authors, charities, policymakers, organisations, experts by experience and experts from various health professions (often as part of the same conversation);
  • Peer support: It has been helpful meeting other people in a similar position to myself, and to be able to mutually exchange encouragement and support;
  • Provision of global and multidisciplinary team perspectives: I have been able to access a variety of nursing networks worldwide, which have contributed to my learning and helped to develop my evidence base;
  • Research awareness: Twitter has helped me stay up to date with current research and what is currently happening within the profession and my field of nursing. I like the fact that I am able to engage with the authors of research papers and discuss policy and legislation with the people that contribute to their development;
  • Access to opportunities: I have been lucky enough to be involved with many things this year and Twitter is usually the place I hear about them first. I have been to Parliament with the Royal College of Nursing, I have attended leadership events through the Student Leadership Programme and field-specific events through my university and the @WeLDNurses. All opportunities that have been directly or indirectly facilitated by my Twitter presence.

Obviously, I am reflecting solely on my personal experiences, but what have you got to lose by giving it a go?

Using Twitter is not an exam and it is not a competition – you can be as involved or as uninvolved as you like. There is no pressure to contribute so take your time and maybe look at developing your skills using a guide such as the Twitterversity.

Just remember the The Code and have a read of the #WeCommunities ‘Netiquette’ guide and you will not go too far wrong. It’s another great way of #nursingtogether


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