Unlock the professional benefits of Twitter
The online network can provide nurses with a platform to explain what they do, share ideas and keep abreast of news and innovations
The online network can provide nurses with a platform to explain what they do, share ideas and keep abreast of news and innovations, writes Anne Taylor
Using Twitter professionally is an excellent platform for articulating what I do as a district nurse, but many nurses I talk to about tweeting are concerned about inadvertently breaking the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC's) Code (2018), and allowing their work life to spill in to personal time.
These are completely valid concerns but, in my experience, used with care and self-discipline, Twitter is a tool that nursing in general, and community nursing in particular, cannot do without.
Twitter accounts to explore
- @theRCN (The Royal College of Nursing (RCN))
- @RCNi_Julie (editor of Primary Health Care)
- @RCNi (publishing arm of the Royal College of Nursing)
- @kj_hackett (assistant editor at RCNi)
- @RCNGPNForum (RCN General Practice Forum)
- @nurses4ph (RCN PH Steering Group)
- @RCNANPForum (RCN Advanced Nurse Practitioner Forum)
- @RCNDNForum (RCN district nurse forum)
- @NurseStandard (Nursing journal)
- @WeDistrictNurses (WeCommunity)
- @WeGPNs (WeCommunity)
- @iHealthVisiting (The Institute of Health Visiting)
- @WeNurses (WeCommunity)
- @AgencyNurse (Teresa Chinn, co-founder of @WeNurses)
- @Anniecoops (chief nurse for NHS Digital)
- @TheQNI (Queen’s Nursing Institute)
- @CrystalOldman (chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute)
- @MDTea_podcast (MDT Education on Ageing)
- @NursingNow2020 (global network empowering nurses)
- @nmcnews (Nursing and Midwifery Council)
As a district nurse, our practice is hidden in the privacy of patients’ homes. With a focus on preventive work which, if done well, reduces the incidence of hospital admissions, there is an even greater responsibility to demonstrate value to make the case for future investment in services. I would argue that Twitter is a powerful tool in giving community nurses a voice.
Twitter allows individuals to network online using comments of up to 280 characters.
Following professional guidelines, including the NMC guidance on using social media responsibly (2017) and your employer’s social media policy, is a fundamental aspect of professional tweeting, but I have found using personal guidelines, such as not tweeting when tired or angry, to be as important.
A purely professional account, separate from personal accounts, also enables some nurses to retain a metaphorical uniform when tweeting professionally and avoid slipping in to inappropriate communication.
Whichever mechanisms are used, the key to tweeting professionally is to do so mindfully, being aware of the implications of what you choose to share and respond to. For example, giving personal information knowingly, through tweets and a biography, is clear but leaking information unintentionally through, for example, a pattern of connections, likes and follows is less obvious. Tweeting with a professional mindset even in personal time and spaces safeguards unintentional sharing.
Twitter is designed to be a public arena and while it is possible to restrict visibility of an account to approved followers only, this is missing the point of Twitter as a networking tool.
Tweeters can speak directly to those with power and influence, debating issues and bringing professional expertise and opinion to bear while learning from others including patients, service users and professional communities.
'The key to tweeting professionally is to do so mindfully, being aware of the implications of what you choose to share and respond to'
Nurses using Twitter are also able to keep up to date with notifications of research, journals and national reports, follow conferences, and follow Twitter chats such as those developed by @WeNurses that can be used for revalidation and contribute to, or initiate debate.
I have found that my knowledge of current professional issues is often ahead of colleagues because of Twitter.
Used with care, Twitter can provide nurses with a platform to articulate and demonstrate value and so help unlock the resources they need to continue to deliver services for patients.
Top tips for nurse tweeters
- Know the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code of Conduct
- Follow NMC guidelines for using social media
- Does your employer have a social media policy? If so, follow it
- Decide if you want a purely professional account or whether you can mix personal and professional
- Decide your personal rules for using Twitter (for example, don’t tweet when tired or angry)
- Follow experienced nurses on Twitter and see how they do it
- Follow your employer – the account is probably run by a media expert
- Follow a Twitter chat
- Think before you tweet
- Be mindful you are in public when you tweet
- Tweet when you are ready, starting with something you can speak on confidently. Remember, if you wouldn’t say it on the bus, don’t say it on Twitter (even if you are tweeting from a private space in your own time)
- Buresh B and Gordon S (2013) From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public. 3rd Edition. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY.
- Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC) (2017) Guidance on Using Social Media Responsibly
- NMC (2018) The Code: Professional Standards of Practice and Behaviour for Nurses, Midwives and Nursing Associates
About the author
Anne Taylor is a practice tutor for the Open University, a sessional district nurse for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and a Queen's Nurse.