The use of Twitter: A personal perspective

Polly Pascoe, Knowledge and Intelligence Coordinator

Polly Pascoe, Knowledge and Intelligence Coordinator (@pollynhs)

Having developed the Better Knowledge, Better Care Twitter Challenge that was piloted with over 200 health and care staff in September 2015 and released to all in October 2015, Polly Pascoe, Knowledge and Intelligence Coordinator shares her top five reasons for wanting to open up the world of social media to more staff in health and care.

As an advocate for the use of social media, I often find myself in conversations where someone will say, “but don’t people just tell you what they’re having for lunch?”. I’m not blind to the vast amount of frivolous information that can flood social media sites. However, when used correctly – as a place to connect, test ideas and stay up to date – social media’s benefits strongly outweigh the negatives.  In this blog, I outline the benefits to me; these are the reasons why I encourage everyone to get involved!

  • It means I’m instantly connected – not only to a wealth of expertise in the system, but to the issues that really matter to staff, patients and the public. Not only does this widen your frame of reference, enabling you to make the links between your work and the work of others, but it also challenges the mentality of silos by supporting system wide thinking, enabling you to access, and empathise with, different perspectives. Most importantly, I’ve found, it supports connections across traditional boundaries, supporting collaboration and partnerships.
  • The use of social media allows me to bounce ideas off others – for validation and With the development of dedicated communities on Twitter, instead of sense-making flat content in isolation, social media users are now connecting to seek opinions, examples of content use and usefulness. This type of activity has been invaluable to me. Both the fleeting and long-standing connections I have made on Twitter have provided input and feedback that have enabled me to produce much more informed, relevant – ‘three dimensional’ – outputs.
  • I’m able to gain a wider sense of comradery. Trust me, for every trolling story splashed across traditional media’s front page, there are hundreds of friendly, supportive people willing to make connections, particularly in health and care. At times, working in health and care can feel scary, lonely and overwhelming. Not a day goes by in which the NHS isn’t being attacked from one of many available angles, and we seem to exist in a state of constant crisis. Connecting with others in health and care via social media can provide additional support to face daily challenges, do my job well, and feel confident my work can make a difference and deliver better care.
  • I’m better informedin real time. As social media grows, so does its power. The rise of social media has ensured that if you wait until the 6 o’clock news, you’re likely already behind the news cycle, and missing out on a wide range of perspectives. Those on the ground – every day NHS staff – are now able to report in real time, what is actually happening, without media or political bias. Their output is often raw and unedited, and this can all be shared with colleagues at the click of a button. Causes can be shared and social movements are born – take #hellomynameis or #imatworkjeremy as two examples!
  • I’m able to constantly learn. While I’ve put this last, I feel this is the most important reason those who work in health and care should use Twitter. A great deal of my learning originates from participating in Tweetchats. They are an excellent way to connect with others that are working in the same field, or tackling similar issues. They have enabled me to gain knowledge from people working right here in the NHS, but also in different health systems across the world. These insights can support learning to inform your work before, during and after projects, tasks or initiatives. This has helped to me look at a number of tasks, barriers and concerns with “fresh eyes”, once being exposed to differing opinions, perspectives and experiences.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t wear rose-tinted glasses when approaching social media. Behind every scare story, there is an element of truth and I would never encourage anyone to embark on a social media journey with their eyes shut, however my positive experiences of social media have outshone the negative ones.

I find the main hurdle in encouraging others to utilise social media is not convincing them to take the plunge, create an account and start tweeting, but the moment a person realises how expansive and busy Twitter can be. This is why I was keen to incorporate functions such as searching, filtering and lists in the Twitter Challenge. It is these tools that allow users of social media to make it work for them and I highly recommend that anyone interested in better using Twitter taps into these skills.

To access the Twitter Challenge, please click here.

You can follow Polly on Twitter: @pollynhs

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