This is always the time of year when I really feel I must get to grips with my garden. The weeds are growing, and the only way to really keep them at bay, is to plant something else in the borders. It’s been the same with social media, as the healthcare community online increases, so does the need to cultivate good practice. I’ve worked in healthcare for around 23 years now, and about 8 months ago, I thought I would give Twitter a go.
Twitter offers some fantastic benefits and opportunities, as healthcare professionals share good practice, newly published documents, and sometimes even discuss new strategies as part of consultation processes. For example, the 6Cs were discussed in the weekly twitter chat #WeNurses, with Jane Cummings, Chief Nurse, joining and listening to ordinary nurses from around the country.
So how do we support colleagues to get the benefits of social media, without finding themselves in trouble for inappropriate use? Questions like this benefit from a collaborative approach; there have been twitter chats on the issue (for example, at #WeMidwives, #nhssm). But for a genuine action based approach, you still can’t beat a face to face meeting. So we started to have the occasional, “Tweet Meet”, an opportunity for those interested in using twitter, or other social media, to get together to discuss the issues.
Then, in March, Anne Cooper, (otherwise known to those of us on Twitter as the famous @anniecoops) asked when we were next going to have a tweet meet in Leeds, as she would try to come. Well, given Anne’s reputation as a national leader in informatics and on social media platforms, we couldn’t pass up on that opportunity! We may have planted some seeds before, but now was the time to look at how best to help them grow.
Once we had agreed a date, we spent a couple of weeks advertising, posting regular tweets, talking about resources, and of course, discussing cakes. Those who follow me on twitter know I also both bake, and post pictures of the results, so I couldn’t run a Tweet Meet without at least offering to bring some cakes…
It was amazing to see the enthusiasm across Twitter for the Tweet Meet. We were getting plenty of encouragement and retweets, and I’d particularly like to thank Rob Webster @Rob_Webster and Jane Brocksam @HoJane who were unable to attend, but spent considerable time publicising the event. I even had to switch the room to a bigger venue to accommodate those who had confirmed attendance!
In the end, 15 people turned up, and all people with busy schedules! We were ready, with a list of recommended people to follow on Twitter to hand out, and guidance on using twitter from both the NMC, and Dr. Mark Newbold (@Drmarknewbold, who is the Chief Executive of Birmingham and Heartlands NHS Trust). We had people from Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Leeds Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds Community Healthcare, and some working independently.
The meeting kicked off to a flying start. We had only just introduced ourselves, when Anne Cooper threw us a real challenge. She suggested that if we were really going to make a change, and make a difference, then we had to think radically. We shouldn’t be asking for permission to use social media, but we should stand up and take personal responsibility. It was different way of looking at where we were, and opened the flood gates of conversation. There were concerns about the risks of using social media, getting into trouble for saying the wrong thing. Those appearing on radio or TV have training to do so – but there is none available for Twitter or Facebook, yet posts can easily end up in the national media. But there was plenty of advice on offer, including comments like, “If you wouldn’t say it in a crowded room, don’t post it.” Confidentiality requirements still apply. Most of us had picked up social media skills by following others, reading blogs, and generally dipping our toes in the water. @ClaireOT (Claire Jones) recommended having a strategy for using Twitter, a clear idea of who you are online. It was a good point. Having a plan can help to make the whole “Twitter thing” make more sense, and be more purposeful.
One message came across very clear. People were already on Twitter. Colleagues were already on Twitter, and Facebook, and other Social Media. Trying to stop staff using social media would be like standing in the middle of the M62 trying to stop the cars. A better plan would be to build a service station, so they can pull in, and get help to use social media in a safe and responsible way, making the most out of the opportunities available through Twitter and Facebook. And there are so many benefits. We talked about how we had learned from others, picked up tips and references, and even crowd sourced ideas. We talked about how being on Twitter helped us to hear of new developments, and have conversations with people with whom we wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity. I can remember not long after I joined Twitter, I found myself part of a discussions on the 6Cs at #WeNurses, before publication – with Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for the NHS Commissioning Board, listening and responding to us.
So as we batted around the advantages and risks of Twitter, a plan began to form. A list of the local community to build a strong network would create links to help improve understanding and integrated care. I agreed to set up a list on Twitter (Leeds Twitter Community) which people could subscribe to, or access to follow others working in local health or social care. Vanessa Garrity and I agreed to run some social media workshops, to be held in each Trust – but with an open invitation. We would provide some sources of help and support. Anne Cooper had pointed out that Leeds were seen as leaders in social media. Well, if we were seen as leaders, then it was high time we started leading, we talked about a straightforward to guide to encourage good practice on social media. But then, Anne went on to point out that there was more to health and social care provision than just the three NHS Trusts, and she suggested a code or charter, shared between our organisations. Perhaps we could extend the work to include all Leeds health and social care? A charter that everyone could sign up to? It was a vision worth pursuing, and we agreed to build contacts with Leeds City Council and the University to follow that up.
We finished with an agreement to meet again, to discuss progress. And to eat more cake, of course! Besides, it was fun to meet up with those we had got to know online! There was a definite sense of hope and optimism about promoting the safe use of social media within our respective organisations.
The next Tweet Meet will be at 10am on 26th June, and will be at Stockdale House, Headingley, part of Leeds Community Health. Hopefully this will continue to grow, and we will gain wider attendance from the Leeds Health and Social Care Community – we’d like to see you there! And next time I must take some photographs!
I have a feeling we have just planted an acorn, and I am hoping that in time, we will get more than one oak tree shooting up, perhaps the beginnings of a forest. Now we just need a bit of sunshine to help it grow….
Deputy Risk Manager
Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust