Would Florence Nightingale use Social Media?

13 May 2014 | Rob Fraser, Registered Nurse, Author, and Digital Tool Strategist.

International Nurses Day, also the birthday of Florence Nightingale, is the perfect opportunity to think about how nurses can and should leverage social media to improve health and healthcare. Although it has been over 194 years since the birth of Nightingale I think she would have been the first would have been an early adopter of social media and digital tools.

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

Phil Bauman RN wrote about 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, #NurChat. Even though each tweet is limited to 140 characters nurses are using it to connect globally to talk about topics like dementia, preceptorship, 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 Health blog to mobilize 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 makes 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 not distract from it.

Nursing around the world make an extraordinary difference in the lives of patients. Social media provides new ways for us to make and 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.

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