Would Florence Nightingale use Social Media?

26 June 2014 | Rob Fraser, Registered Nurse, Author, and Digital Tool Strategist.

As many nurses know, May 12 is International Nurses Day. This date also happens to be the date of birth of Florence Nightingale. I think she would have been an early adopter of social media and digital tools had they been available 194 years ago.

In Nightingale’s time, as well as today, nurses have had an enormous impact in health and the ways healthcare is delivered. At the time, she was working to improve society’s health by every means possible. Nightingale cared for the sick, educated the public and other nurses, wrote books, analyzed health patterns, and advocated to politicians. She used every method she could, which is why I think she would be looking for the opportunities that social media currently provides, advancing the nursing field. Fortunately, in her place, there are many other nurses exploring how we can use social media to support our profession, our practice, and most importantly the health and well-being of others.

Phil Bauman, RN recently wrote “140 ways nurses could use twitter in healthcare.” Now, hundreds of nurses are using twitter to facilitate professional dialogue about important topics using hashtags on twitter such as #RNChat, #WeNurses, and #NurChat. Even though each tweet is limited to 140 characters, nurses are using it to connect globally to talk about topics like dementia, preceptorship, and standards of practice.

Blogging is another tool being adopted by nurses to share ideas, educate others, and demystify healthcare. Nursing educators like Terri Schmitt, NP had students reflect and respond to the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Report. Ian Miller, an emergency room nurse, has started The Nurse Path to help mentor and support students and nurses develop themselves. Other nurses, such as myself, are using organizational platforms like the Microsoft in Health blog to mobilize and spread ideas, and encourage positive, forward-looking discussions in and outside of nursing.

Beyond simply using the popular social media service of the day, nurses need to think how these tools support their work. Each tool could be used differently, depending on the desired outcome: from patient outcomes to recruitment and retention. Considering what you want to accomplish helps create and refine how social media or digital tools could help. The Ottawa Hospital in Canada is using a Facebook page to promote a professional culture and their continuing education programs. Connecting Nurses is taking nursing lead innovation award submissions and making them all public to connect collaborators and enhance the professions image. Information Shareapy allows nurses to save and discover patient education materials they can use. Social media creates new possibilities and nurses need to consider how to use these digital tools to support their work, not distract from it.

Nursing around the world makes an extraordinary difference in the lives of patients. Social media provides new ways for us to make an impact and share ideas about how to improve healthcare delivery. It allows opportunities for us to connect with our colleagues. We can support and educate patients beyond their time with us.

Every year on International Nurses Day I’m proud to celebrate the history and hard work of nurses. I also get excited thinking about what the future of our professional will be.

Have a question for the author, or want to share a story on how social media has helped you as a Nurse? Please reach out via email, and be sure to like Microsoft in Health on Facebook and follow us on Twitter in order to stay informed for the next Nurses for Microsoft in Health blog post.


Rob Fraser
Registered Nurse, Author, and Digital Tool Strategist.