For years now I've been challenging undergraduate nurses to get using Twitter for their professional development. I have an opportunity early in their 3rd and final year to suggest ways of engaging in networked learning. In recent months I have been delighted to see a real growth in engagement from a range of nursing and midwifery professionals and professional bodies, which gives newcomers an instant network to connect with (I began a list ages ago to help with this but it's had some significant additions recently).
In the first year, first week in fact, of the pre-registration Bachelor of Nursing programme, it seems only right to confront frivolous use of online social networking (see links at the foot of this post). I got a strong sense this year, at inductions in March, that, following a lecture on the subject, students were deleting their Facebook accounts, slamming the door to social media and throwing away the key. Suddenly, social networking was the enemy, as a single slip could prevent students from ever realising their cherished ambition of joining the registered ranks. Added to the risk of personally making a single simple costly mistake is the problem we all face when driving... How many of us have thought/said, 'It's not you I'm worried about, it's the [possibly insert the word "other" here] idiots on the road"? As much as this can be true in social media, it never stops us hopping right back into a car (because the destination and mode of travel is worth the risk).
As someone who has benefitted hugely from the networking Twitter enables, imagine my delight last week at finding this 'Nurses and Social Media' article, via Twitter, on the Department of Health's pages of the Chief Nursing Officer:
Nurses and social media cno.dh.gov.uk/2012/04/20/nur…. Very well done to @annie.coops for creating and sharing this
— Pam Nelmes (@PamNelmes007) April 20, 2012
Emboldened by this article, I've been encouraged to mention Twitter more than ever. But the professionalism question is never far away. For example, what to do about undesirable followers? Those 'other idiots on the road'? Amidst all the messiness of using social media, learning to accept that, just like the more appalling type of spam email you have to somehow learn to deal with, keeping your public profile 'clean' enough to avoid 'bringing the profession into disrepute' by association, means learning to be vigilant about blocking and reporting vile spam followers. How many Health Service users who stumble across your profile understand that you dont choose your followers, in fact you have to 'un-choose' the nasty ones. And that could predictably include service users! This kind of insight is easily missed in the nervy path towards trying to reap the rewards of networked learning. In leading students to leverage social media rather than safely dismiss it, it's a hard balance to strike, knowing which aspects of the territory to treat, and how. Newcomers to Twitter have a tough time grappling with the concept of what Twitter is without also taking on a 'sufficient' number of specific techniques to ensure their nascent use is not strangled at birth. It's like plugging a PC into the Internet without any anti-virus protection. That computer may only last a few seconds before it's compromised.
If you have any thoughts about what those specific techniques are, please let me know, or start a list somewhere and point me to it. Thanks!
Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery's own guidance is here. It is based on The NMC Code, and the specific social networking advice page.