Last week members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) met in Cardiff at the annual representatives conference #ARC2014 and debated a range of current issues for the profession. One of them was motion 4 on the ‘dangers of social media’.
Now I admit I struggled with this motion (and with keeping quiet!) as although the title was provocative the content was interesting and relevant, and the speakers highlighted an important issue for members. However, as a profession I believe we do need to start having a more balanced conversation that acknowledges the huge benefits and opportunities of social media as well as the risks. In focusing on the dangers of social media we risk holding the physiotherapy community back and getting left out of some the conversations and learning that takes place through social media.
Social media is not just about Simon Cowell’s new baby, the Kardashian family, or the prime minister tweeting selfies (although there’s lots of that too), nor is it full of twitter trolls or students and health care professionals getting themselves into trouble (but there are some). There are thousands of patient leaders and healthcare professionals around the world connecting with and learning from each other through a range of social media platforms. Social media, particularly twitter, can break down geographical and hierarchical boundaries and enable us to connect with people, and to listen and have conversations that wouldn’t otherwise take place in our day-to-day work. I am lucky to have met and worked with some fantastic people though twitter, and we had really underestimated the global reach of social media when we started #physiotalk.
Our nursing and occupational therapy colleagues have embraced social media and are leading the way (see www.wenurses.com and otalkocchats.wordpress.com). The #OTalk team were some of the first people to inspire me to use twitter for work, and at the same time as #ARC2014 was taking place Teresa Chinn (@AgencyNurse), founder of the 15,000-strong #wenurses community, was speaking on the role of social media in health at the Innovation Expo in Manchester (check out #WeExpo for tweets from the day).
The Department of Health, NHS England and other health and social care organisations now routinely use social media to engage with healthcare professionals and the public, and the recent #nhschangeday is example of the power of social movements that start on twitter.
What’s more as healthcare professionals we need to listen and learn from the experiences, expertise, views and comments of patients using social media. There is a strong #patientleaders community on twitter and a number of patient leaders regularly blog about their experiences of health and care services and of living with long term conditions. This includes a blogger called Norman McNamara (@NormanMcNamara) living in Torbay who blogs about his personal experience of living with dementia (see here). Personal, moving and honest his blog has had a real impact on me over the past year. Most healthcare professionals on twitter should already be of the powerful work of @KateGranger and her #hellomynameis campaign – if you haven’t have a look at this video today.
By providing examples of the risks of social media without promoting the benefits we send out the wrong message – both within and outside of the profession. The real danger is that if as a physiotherapy community we don’t embrace social media we will get left behind and miss out on some fantastic opportunities. As one of the co-founders of physiotalk (with @JanetThomas47) this was one of my main motivations for starting our tweet chats and blog, and in working with others to raise the profile of social media. Let’s promote organisations and individuals who are using social media responsibly, professionally and innovatively to promote learning and sharing with others.
Of course, I realise the irony in tweeting and blogging about all of this is that I am probably preaching to the converted. So, how as a community do we advocate, promote and role model the huge benefits of getting involved in social media to those who have yet to try it?
It’s over to you, the physiotherapy, AHP and wider healthcare community – let us know your ideas and we will collect them and develop a #physiotalk plan for the rest of 2014!
Naomi McVey @naomiphysio (views, of course, my own!).