Embracing Digital Education for Nursing (An @WeNurses WebBlog Article).
This is the original article text for my @WeNurses WebBlog Article on Embracing Digital Education for Nursing. Teresa Chinn (@AgencyNurse) invited me to write this blog article for @WeNurses over at WeNurses.co.uk as she became aware of how we are developing the integration of social media use, and twitter chats in particular, in our pre-registration nursing curriculum at Bradford University (@BradfordUni). I chose to take a somewhat personal perspective and incorporate the story of my development as a ‘twittering’ nurse for want of a better phrase and how the project ensued.
Embracing Digital Education for Nursing
Earlier this year I did something quite major in terms of my twitter identity. Having reviewed the NMC’s SoMe (Social Media) guidelines (NMC, 2012) I changed my identity to a professional one on twitter. I’m now @MHNurseLecturer. From this moment on I shifted the emphasis to largely tweeting about the needs of people with mental illness and how we can learn from their struggles. I wanted to get serious about helping liberate us from what I largely see as something of a mess that our society’s fear and lack of understanding has created. Twitter is a way of communicating and connecting with others who share your interests and also challenging the views of others who maybe don’t.
I became aware of other professionals, groups, service users and nurses in particular. I can’t recall how I stumbled upon @WeNurses initially as an organization. I honestly didn’t like the sound of it at first –“How could it include all of us?” I remember thinking. However, I resolved to give it a try and joined in on a few twitter chats. So I eventually found myself rather late at night in the University hunched over my computer as my colleague was giving a seminar on Diversity in the office via Skype. I was helping co-lead a nursing twitter chat! I had connected with some organizational development professionals I met over twitter in a previous @WeNurses chat when it became apparent that we shared the same kind of interest in resiliency and mindfulness. We led a twitter chat together having collaborated to put in our proposal and you can read the write up I put together for that here, and also here at WeNurses.co.uk (Williams, 2013).
At this time I was in the throes as a module leader of putting together the first run of our Year Three, Semester One module for nurses. At this point of their training they are ‘developing proficiency’ and consolidating their skills. I’d also been charged with threading cognitive based talking therapies and their derivatives throughout the curriculum to bring our nursing training up to and beyond scratch in terms of delivering evidence-based interventions for serious mental illnesses. That’s my area of expertise from my own experience and on-going clinical practice since 2002. I’m currently a nurse-therapist part-time, so I just started weaving in what I do into the curriculum and developed the delivery of teaching sessions that focus on skills coaching, recovery and talking therapy interventions by nurses. I’ve also engaged nurse turned psychotherapist professionals in practice to come into education and co-teach sessions with us.
It occurred to me to join some of these things up. Why not, I thought, get the students to run a twitter chat? First let’s get twitter streamed in our school. I quickly got my learning resource team colleagues to stream @WeNurses chats on one of the displays as a trial. I say ‘quickly’ that was several months of e-mails and effort! Students could have their lunch and watch the tweets of professionals, carers, service-users and others on the current topics as they arose. This trial run quickly showed me that we need a dedicated display so that the screen can be rapidly controlled directly by an academic and not have to compete for space with other necessary university information. So my learning resource team colleagues figured out how to have a dedicated display page that we could switch from #hashtag to #hashtag according to what was topical and also control the time-parameters of the twitter stream so that it could be displayed retrospectively.
At present we have a business case for the screen being processed to have this dedicated display create a permanent social media presence in the school. The vision is that Academic Twitter Champions (ATC’s) will form a multi-disciplinary academic team that can seek out interesting SoMe users, dialogues and #hashtag streams. The ATC will then be responsible for ensuring that they are of relevant interest and are suitable for student consumption so we can respond rapidly and safely to emerging debates. Naturally we are wanting as an organization to safeguard the quality of the content and minimise the risk of deleterious twitter activity from being displayed. Another knock on benefit we forsee from this is being able to role model the use of SoMe and NMC SoMe guidelines for nurses in training.
I took things a step further by making a twitter chat a vehicle for student learning. So for example something we examine really closely at this stage of the nurses education is what they understand of ‘evidence’. As a whole collection of nursing fields they come to grips with the nature of research informed evidence, evidence based practice and evidence informed practice. These are perhaps, to some, relatively subtle distinctions and are further complicated when you consider how these kinds of practice and evidence differ from say practice-based evidence! It may sound as if I’m merely shuffling the same words about but these are distinct relationships between kinds of evidence and types of practice.
I’d already planned on a whole field in class structured debate for the module. That is: there will be a student-led debate after a key lecture on the nature of evidence. This trigger lecture refreshes what they’ve already learned and sets out some of the pro’s and con’s of different kinds of evidence, efficacy vs effectiveness, mixed methods vs single methods and so on. They then have a whole field debate that we facilitate on whether NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Evidence) standards of evidence are sufficient for nursing practice.
From this the students will put together a small working party and use their initial debate to put together a @WeNurses twitter chat on what they found interesting about being ‘evidence based practitioners in nursing’. Everybody in the fields will be able to contribute to the discussion on twitter though and therefore the learning that comes from it. The elected group will make a full submission and lead a twitter chat and see what it is like to disseminate and discuss knowledge creation and sharing in this digital medium. This hopefully will help them draw upon a wider range of critical views, improve their own constructive critical thinking and show them the value of knowledge transfer in the digital age. It will hopefully also show them some of the pitfalls too.
The first run of this module is coming up in September. Part of the evaluation of learning will be the twitter chat transcripts and bits of work following on from the dissemination fed back into the module. I hope they put together a good submission for @WeNurses so that we end up with some healthy sharing of student nurse and professional perspectives on the nature of what we call evidence, and how we put it into our practice. If this would be of interest to the @WeNurses blog-o-sphere, I’ll come back with what we learned and ask some of my student nurse colleagues to give you their account of the process of getting involved in this kind of digital literacy in their nurse education and training. You can then be instrumental in the educational development of your upcoming colleagues who are getting ready to join you in improving and maintaining the delivery of high-quality, compassionate nursing care in our unfolding post-Francis world.
Nursing and Midwifery Council (2012), Practical guidance for students, nurses and midwives using social networking sites [online], London: Nursing and Midwifery Council. Available from: http://www.nmc-uk.org/Nurses-and-midwives/Regulation-in-practice/Regulation-in-Practice-Topics/Social-networking-sites/ [accessed 21st August 2013].
Williams, S. (2013), A Twitter Chat for @WeNurses on Resilience (Hosted 7th March 2013), The Inside Skinny Latte Blog, 8th March 2013, Available From: http://mhnurselecturer.co.uk/wp/?p=10, [accessed 21st August 2013].