I have been a health visitor for seventeen years and during this time, I have used many different methods of keeping up to date. Many of us will remember searching through libraries for text books or documents to support us with our practice and waiting for delivery of hard copies. In the same way, service user feedback would have to be written, via telephone or in person. Thankfully, all has changed and there are many ways of using social media to connect, share and learn. These include Twitter, Facebook, Linked in and also online e- Communities of Practice.
Twitter has become an established way of communicating for health professionals as it provides a network of individuals to share information from practice and education. It also provides a platform to interact with service users. Many organisations share documents related to health visiting on the day of release so it is easy to stay up to date. A useful site for sharing all the fabulous things about the NHS is www.fabnhsstuff.net/. This is a great place to put innovative health visiting practice to share with the world! DH Initiatives on Twitter e.g. the week of action, highlight innovation in practice and allow all to contribute. Adding #healthvisiting to your tweets enables all tweets on this subject to be found easily on one list.
Remember “nurse on line / nurse offline” and use the Nursing Midwifery Council (2012) guidelines to support us with social media practice. They can be sourced here. NHS Employers have also produced useful guidance on using social media which you can access via this link.
Organisations supporting health visiting e.g. The Institute of Health Visiting- @iHealthvisiting and Community Practitioner and Health Visitor Association- @UniteCPHVA have a large following on Twitter and provide forums to engage health visitors, service users and other professionals that we work with. Join Twitter chats using #iHVForum and #cphvatt. Health visitors value the opportunity to talk directly to senior leaders of our profession and Twitter provides the ideal platform for this. Many organisations also have Facebook pages where you can find information and comment. Some organisations offer closed Facebook groups where service users can gain professional and peer support e.g. Cherubs- breastfeeding support group.
In recent months, I have noticed an increase in online conversations between health visitors and service users. This is allowing us to receive direct feedback and build relationships to help shape future practice. Feedback has been positive:
Helen Calvert- Mum and Facebook group Lead.
“I feel that engaging with healthcare professionals over Twitter has completely changed my view of the NHS. I had a pretty negative view of the health service before I joined Twitter, and that has totally changed. I see passionate people on there trying to improve things for patients and staff, engaging in conversation with parents, patients, managers and practitioners and sharing information. Seeing HCPs as human beings with their own interests and fallibilities but also with their passion for their job helps me to put faith in them and to believe that they have my best interests at heart (and the interests of my children) “
Sasha Barber – Health Visitor, Practice Teacher and Fellow iHV
“I liken these Twitter chats to a virtual university course…always learning (and it’s free)
“I found it greatly beneficial being able to access breastfeeding peer support via social media. Accessing their support through here, for me was quicker and easier and I felt safer asking here where there is a sense of community and 24/7 access. When things were going not so great in the beginning it was always the middle of the night and posting on her felt more personal than sending an email and hoping someone somewhere managed to read it at some point. Social media allowed people to respond to my questions almost straight away and made me feel far less isolated “
"I have found the cherubs Facebook page very helpful as well as all the cherubs ladies I have encountered. I'm only 14 weeks into breastfeeding and I am still having problems unfortunately however the help I've received has enabled us to get this far and without the team and Facebook page I'm sure we would have stopped breastfeeding some time ago"
As you can see there are many benefits from using social media professionally. Why not give it a go, just remember to stay professional online and have fun. Follow me on Twitter
Andrea Johns- Fellow iHV
Health Visitor Advisor - Department of Health Health Visitor Team Leader East Cheshire NHS Trust
Chat Lead on #iHVForum