Why on earth would a mental health nurse use social media?

Here’s my contribution to Chapter 15 “E-Mental Health” in “Mental Health: A Person-Centred Approach, 2nd edition.”

There is a famous quote attributed to author, speaker and Harvard Business School graduate Charlene Li that states, “Twitter is not a technology. It’s a conversation. And it’s happening with or without you.” This is not unique to Twitter – the same notion applies to all of social media.

Over the years a lot of talk about healthcare matters and nursing has happened without including nurses. Since the emergence of social media, nurses don’t have to wait to be invited to join in these conversations. We nurses we can share our experience, knowledge and values with the world, whether the world want to hear us or not. To paraphrase author, feminist and media expert Jane Caro, social media allows nurses and midwives unmediated access to public conversations for the first time in history.

We would be foolish to let that opportunity slip by.

I’m a mental health nurse working in consultation liaison psychiatry in a busy general hospital in a regional city in Australia. People like me often go unheard in the “big picture” discussions. As a busy clinician, I’m not ever likely to pump-out dozens of journal articles or write books about my role.

Clinical nurses like me are more likely to share ‘war-stories” with each other. A lot of interesting, funny, sad and (sometimes) scary things happen on the frontline. There’s a strong oral tradition of story-telling amongst nurses and midwives, and we learn a lot from each other. Social media allows us to share our stories beyond our workplace and beyond our immediate workmates. We can share our stories with nurses, midwives, and anyone else who is interested all over the world. As our circles of communication and connection become wider and more diverse, our minds expand, we learn more, we have an opportunity to reflect on our work more. It’s a fun way to do professional development.

Some of your patients, some of your colleagues, and some of your current or future employers will use a search engine like google to find out more about you. They probably won’t be malicious or creepy. They’ll probably just be idly curious. Either way – no matter their intent – don’t you want to be in charge of what they find?

I think it’s important to be clear and intentional when using social media. Nurses already know about boundaries and confidentiality, and are nearly always good at in the flesh. Sometimes nurses blur boundaries between their social life and professional life online. That’s where it gets tricky.  I suggest having two distinctly different social media identities: a personal one for family and friends, and a professional one for patients, colleagues and employers.

Personal use of social media is where you share photos of holidays and parties with family and friends on services like Facebook or Instagram. Relax. Have fun with it. Don’t bother naming your employer, or talk too much about work there. It’s a place to enjoy yourself. Do you have to use your actual name? A nickname will increase your privacy.

Professional use of social media is based on your area of expertise and interests. This use of social media allows you to share information and interact with other individuals and organisations that have the similar interests. Here you don’t want to hide your light under a bushel: use your real name.

I have a blog that I usually update every month or so with posts that are of interest to me: have a look at meta4RN.com if you’re interested in what a nursing blog looks like. It’s not the only nursing blog out there – in fact, there are many nursing blogs that are much fancier and more regularly updated than mine. Visit the NurseUncut Blogroll (www.nurseuncut.com.au/blog-roll) to track down others.

Twitter is a fantastic way to connect with people all over the world. The best way to learn about Twitter is to follow people who are already using it – please feel free to follow me via my Twitter handle: @meta4RN. By way of explanation, “meta4RN” is a homophone: read it as either “metaphor RN” or “meta for RN”.

I also use the meta4RN handle on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Prezi and other online accounts. Nearly all of the things I share on these social media platforms relate to my professional life, but there’s room for a bit of playfulness and fun too. Professional doesn’t have to be boring. Just check on yourself as go, and ask, “is this something I want my patients, colleagues and managers to see?” If not, either it belongs on your personal social media accounts, or shouldn’t be posted at all.

So, back to the opening question: why on earth would a mental health nurse use social media? To connect and collaborate with others, for professional development, to make sure that ordinary clinical nurses have a voice online, and to expand my horizons. Also, it doesn’t hurt that when people do search for me online I am in control of what is seen.

Explainer

You may be wondering why I’m sharing this excerpt now. Simple – I’m drawing attention to this news:

Being named best in category for “Tertiary (Wholly Australian) Teaching and Learning Resource: blended learning (print and digital)” at the Educational Publishing Awards 2018 is a pretty big deal. The authors and editors deserve to be congratulated.

I’m very grateful to Rhonda Wilson (aka @RhondaWilsonMHN) for inviting me to contribute to the book. It’s not false modesty to note that my contribution isn’t what won the book the award, but I’m pleased as punch to be part of it!

End

Thanks for reading. While you’re at it, have a squiz at Rhonda’s blog: rhondawilsonmhn.com 🙂

Paul McNamara, 22nd September 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/book

References

Israel, S. (foreward by Li, C.). (2009). Twitterville: How businesses can thrive in the new global neighborhoods. New York: Portfolio.

Wilson, R. (contribution by McNamara, P.) . (2017). E-mental health. In Procter, N., Hamer, H., McGarry, D., Wilson, R., & Froggatt, T. (Editors.), Mental health : a person-centred approach, second edition (pp. 360-362). Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, Australia.

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