Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nurses and Social Networking

This afternoon, I spent two hours teaching a group of public health nurses how to blog. Curious about the blog that I'd created for the municipal health department that I work for, I was asked to train them this new and curious skill. Nurses and blogging just go together. Period.

When asked why nurses should blog and why local health departments should have their own blogs, the answer is easy. Nurses are repositories for vital information which, if not communicated, remains hidden from the public. Nurses (and other health professionals and officials) have a great deal to share with the public, and blogs offer an excellent venue for disseminating that information quickly and easily.

While a local newspaper might perhaps do a health-related story from time to time, the likelihood of a newspaper actually interviewing a nurse for such a story is slim. Research has shown that when the media is looking for a health care "expert", doctors are almost ubiquitously called upon to weigh in with their highly respected opinions. No offense to our medical colleagues, but nurses' voices also need to be heard, and many nurses now offer their expert opinions as bloggers, utilizing new media as a way to compensate for the mainstream media's ignorance of nurses' valuable collective voice.

As for health departments themselves, my vision is for all of the health departments in our region to have blogs, and for a network of public health blogs to be created in which information is shared, collated and disseminated to the public. Offering such an invaluable repository of information and collective intelligence to the public at large is a great service to the citizens of our region of New England, and such a network could become a model for others to follow and emulate.

In terms of social media, in two weeks I'll be providing a two-hour class in the use of Twitter for emergency preparedness and public health. This is yet another way that information is being shared among multiple players in real time, putting more important data into the right hands where it can be used for the common good.

Social networking and new media are a boon to the work of health care professionals, and I am doing my best to make sure that more individuals and agencies have the tools they need to gather and share information that can improve lives, save lives, and impact the health of the nation and the world.
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