Comment

The bigger picture: keep your wits on the Twittersphere

Social media has transformed how healthcare professionals communicate with each other. This is great, as long as you remember social media comes with health warnings

Social media has transformed how healthcare professionals communicate with each other. This is great, as long as you remember social media comes with health warnings.


Social media use should come with health warnings, says Janet Youd
Picture: iStock

My daughter recently complained about me being ‘always on the phone’.

Her comment made me reflect on the professional impact of the information revolution, and how the past decade has seen major clinical advances, the biggest being the transformation in how we communicate. Googling, tweeting and messaging have replaced searching in a library and making phonecalls.

Professional versus social

Health professionals at first regarded social media as just a leisure activity, but it is now used for professional networking and information sharing. Organisations that once put the big two social media sites behind firewalls, now use of them increasingly to communicate with staff and the public. Leaders, including prime ministers and presidents, deliver messages via social media.

Educational resources can also be readily accessed. Videos have replaced traditional presentations, often suffixed by the Free Open Access Meducation hashtag, #FOAMed. Individuals share conference presentations, professional journal articles, case studies and images with thousands of followers who can then retweet them to a wider audience.

Common

When speaking to a group, whether in a classroom or conference hall, it is common to see those present all heads down with thumbs tapping away. It is difficult to distinguish those enthusiastically sharing your message from the bored ones just texting a mate.

Some nurses have been seduced by the ease of the medium into inappropriate sharing, leading to allegations of professional misconduct. Some high-standing officials who failed to realise the implications of their online posts being published material have lost their positions. Loose lips sink ships.

Virtual support

I get much professional satisfaction from the Twittersphere and appreciate the virtual support network of like-minded emergency care professionals. Some vociferous tweeters relay valuable information and stimulate essential professional debate, and this can all be evidence of professional development for revalidation purposes.

But, with the sheer volume of information, it can be difficult to tell what has a valid clinical application and what is merely personal opinion, albeit expert. We must remember not to believe all we see, and evaluate information with as much scrutiny as articles published in journals.

We also need to consider that constant connectivity can feel like work never stops, which is not great for mental well-being, and to take measures to be present for our children.


About the author

Janet Youd

Janet Youd @ecacommittee @janetyoud is nurse consultant in emergency care at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs