On Friday I’ll be part of a panel leading the digital development session at Physiotherapy UK conference. As part of the session we’ll be talking about our own digital journeys, and this blog is part of our pre-session content to help attendees and others start to think about digital journeys and personal development. You can follow the session from 1.45pm on Friday using #physio17.
My digital journey started the day my Dad brought home a PC, more years ago than I’d like to admit to, back in the day we’d save our dissertations on multiple floppy disks while backing up on a hard drive with less memory than my iPhone.
It accelerated a few years later. A series of career moves led me to a job working for NICE. Focused on supporting the implementation of guidance, I was responsible for writing online implementation support resources, supported by a digital editorial team and published on the NICE website. The initial nerves of seeing work I’d produced out there on the web very slowly progressed into feeling more confident writing health and policy content for online readers.
At the same time I found myself feeling professionally isolated, as one of only 2 physios working for the organisation. I saw nursing and occupational therapy colleagues using twitter as a vibrant space for exchanging professional knowledge and ideas, and as I benefited from their conversations and networks I could also see how physio was falling behind.
So, meeting Janet Thomas through #OTalk was a pivotal moment – it led to us setting up Physiotalk to help physiotherapists embrace learning from tweetchat discussions. The confidence I’d gained writing for NICE helped us to develop the physiotalk website, and over the past 4 years we’ve gained 20,000 followers from over 100 countries, carried out research, and held over 50 tweetchats.
Meeting Joanne Fillingham was an equally pivotal moment – it led to us establishing @WeAHPs, shortly after joined by Helen Owen, a physio student at the time. A different space to physiotalk, we wanted to raise the profile of the allied health professions whilst helping them to connect and learn from each other.
Over the past few years producing, editing, using and learning from digital content has become a core skill set for me. It’s helped me progress professionally, and through digital networks I’ve met people who’ve supported and inspired me, and who have become trusted colleagues, mentors and friends. I simply wouldn’t be in the role I’m in now without this.
But it’s not just about work.
Social media is part and parcel of home and leisure time. As a mid-life crisis looms I’ve joined a local gym that uses Facebook groups to build a community that encourages members to push themselves, and to make and stick to goals. The training sessions are hugely challenging, so it’s this digital community that keeps me going back when I could so easily give up and walk away.
Digital skills have also helped me to be a confident digital parent, raising my children to embrace the positives while helping them navigate potential dangers. Given the choice, my 5 year old prefers YouTube over CBeebies – so it’s this digital world I also need to be confident for.
The road ahead?
Although people make lots of predictions I think the future of social media will probably surprise us.
I do see twitter becoming an increasingly hostile place, even before Trump and Brexit, and this turns people away. While there can be no better place for professional debate and exchange, it can be easy to lose a sense of perspective. I’m confident on twitter – so if I’ve stopped joining some of the discussions because it feels like Groundhog Day then it’s not surprising others don’t even start. Many of us have enough angst in our lives without inviting more in. And when debate gets heated, and sometimes personal, other professions watch with raised eyebrows.
What’s important to me is that the digital spaces I lead stay true to values of professionalism, openness and respect; that I maintain the skills to adapt as social media evolves; and that I help colleagues, peers and my children know what to share, what not to, when to join in, and when to put the phone down and walk away.
I’ve said it before but it’s still important – social media communities and learning will always be about people not platforms. The skills we need to socialise, collaborate, learn and lead in digital spaces are really not that different to those we use offline. As we develop as digital learners, practitioners and leaders we need to use those skills to ensure we are providing the best care and services we possibly can.