Green eggs and ham and the lions’ den

Teresa Chinn RN marks day two of the CNO Conference in Birmingham with her take on a modern nursing revolution:

Do you like green eggs and ham?  – This wonderful Dr Seuss children’s story reflects how I often feel when advocating social media to people.  I feel very much like the main character “Sam I Am” who is trying desperately to get his friend to like green eggs and ham, but his friend is adamant they are not for him.  Eventually (after much a to do) Sam I Am gets his friend to try green eggs and ham … and guess what? It turns out he likes them!

Three years ago I made a conscious decision to reach out to fellow nurses using social media. As an agency nurse I felt isolated, alone and far removed from nursing, but rather than give up nursing I used social media – initially twitter – to connect with other nurses.

Here I am three years on having made over 11,000 connections through the Twitter account I run – @WeNurses, with nurses from all specialities and from across the world.

The weekly Twitter discussions we hold allow nurses to share information, ideas and expertise across both geographical boundaries and hierarchical boundaries.

The #nursecommunity not only provides a positive and constructive space in which to celebrate nursing but the coming together of so many nurses also provides support when times are tough.  But I still often find myself in a green eggs and ham situation – trying to persuade others, who are adamant that there is no value in social media, that it’s a fantastic communication tool.

I felt incredibly honoured last year to be invited to the CNO conference to talk to the CareMakers about social media and get them enthusiastic about tweeting, so we could share the value of the CNO conference beyond the four walls of conference venue.  It worked phenomenally well, the CareMakers embraced twitter with a full blown bear hug, sharing on a huge scale and reaching a potential audience of over three million.

Since then social media and nursing has achieved many milestones including nurses tweeting from the House of Commons, 6CsLive Week of Action Twitter debates, leadership and commissioning discussions, discussions feeding into Department of Health proposals, open discussions between trust CEOs, nurses and patients, patient led twitter chats, nurses taking over @WeNurses for the day, a multi health professional discussion about flu that trended second in the UK and the launch of an open community blog.

At this CNO conference I am hosting a seminar session for the directors of nursing – and I find myself rather nervous about it.  I am very aware that even though many directors of nursing now see the benefit of social media, there are others that refuse to even entertain the thought of it – green eggs and ham! It feels a little like going into the lions’ den!

However, unlike the gladiators who faced the lions with swords and spears, and because the seminar sessions have been deemed a no media zone to encourage debate, I am going in with a list of facts:

  • Over 11,000 nurses make up the online nurse community.
  • 48 per cent of all adults use social media.
  • 87 per cent of adults aged between 16 and 24 use social media.
  • There are nurses from all specialities engaging using social media.
  •  These are nurses who range from students to CNO’s.
  • Students now qualifying have never known a world without the internet.
  • Patients now making their own decisions have never known a world without the internet.
  • Nurses are engaging in this space.
  • Patients are engaging in this space.
  • Patients are talking about NHS services and their care in this space.
  • The internet is now in the palm of our hand so thoughts and comments are quickly and widely shared.
  • We no longer read about yesterday’s news, we experience it as it happens.

I am ready with my list but part of me feels that actually the cold hard fact is that this is a conversation that is happening with or without the reluctant directors of nursing. Thought leaders are emerging, hierarchies are being broken down, and history is being made.

In my opinion the directors of nursing NEED to be in this space. They need to be here because this is where their student nurses and nurses are, and this is where their patients and service users are. We all need to communicate with people via their preferred method of communication and the use of social media is part of this.

Furthermore the UK has an ageing population and because of this the NHS projects a shortfall in funding in the coming years – we need to think smarter and about how we do things differently to meet the challenges of this ageing population and their changing healthcare needs.

Social media is a great place to not only find out about some of those challenges but also to crowd source for solutions and even to resolve some of those challenges.

I am not saying that social media is the cure all solution. What I am saying though is that we cannot afford to be blind to it. Social media is a communication tool that we have never seen the like of before.

My advice is that before you refuse to try it, think green eggs and ham because how will you ever know that it will not be of use if you refuse to explore the possibilities?

Teresa Chinn

Teresa Chinn is a Registered Nurse, and Professional Social Media Community Development and blogger for WeNurses.

Teresa was an agency nurse who found herself professionally isolated and reached out to social media to connect with other nurses.

Teresa runs WeNurses which is primarily a Twitter-based real time weekly discussion that enables nurses to share ideas, information, experience and expertise around a predetermined subject.

WeNurses has grown and developed significantly and now has a following of nearly 75,000 and uses a range of social media to engage them including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Vimeo, Blogs and Prezi.

In addition to running WeNurses Teresa has become a social media specialist and now works with healthcare organisations delivering workshops, seminars, speaking at conferences and providing social media consultancy.

In 2005 Teresa received an MBE for services to nursing .

Teresa tweets as @AgencyNurse and @WeNurses.