Not Mrs Smith!

When I was a student nurse someone told me a story that went something like this:

One day Mrs Jones went into hospital for a minor operation. Before the operation the consultant came to the ward to see Mrs Jones and said “Hello Mrs Smith I am your consultant Mr Brown” Mrs Jones, quite rightly corrected Mr Brown and replied “My name is Mrs Jones not Mrs Smith” to which Mr Brown responded “Hold on let me just check my notes …. ahh yes, you are correct!” 

I am sure that you have all heard similar versions of this story throughout your careers – the point of the tale being that the health care professional is not always correct and when we are incorrect we really need to own up to it and apologise. After all, did the consultant really need to check his notes to see that Mrs Jones was correct about her own name!  I was told this story some 20 years ago now, yet to this day I still come across versions of this story in my practice.

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I was recently nursing a lady who challenged a nurse who was misinformed – it took great courage for the lady to do so, yet she was dismissed by the nurse.  It then took an enormous amount of faith and bravery for her then to raise the issue with me.  I sat and I listened and I checked she was ok.  I took her seriously and reassured her that it was right for her to be concerned.  I then explained what I needed to do next and why and I kept checking back with her to update her on where I was.  Before I went home that day the lady took me to one side and thanked me for taking the time to care.  I was a little overwhelmed by her thanks as I really felt that it was just what should have happened to start with and I in fact felt sorry that this hadn’t been the case.

Over the last week I have been reflecting on this event and how we as health care professionals are in a position of power.  We hold a great deal of knowledge but even with all the knowledge we possess we do not know the people we care for as well as they themselves do.  It’s important to understand this, to listen and respect the people we care for … and when we get it wrong, as Mr Brown did with Mrs Jones, and are corrected we need to admit that we are wrong.

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I am sure that when we all first heard the story of Mr Brown and Mrs Jones we laughed at the absurdity of it.  Yet not giving the people we care for credit for knowing how they need to be cared for and knowing information about themselves, their care and what matters to them still continues.

I have often heard that nursing is an art and science and i think this is true. Nursing is a science because throughout our careers we gain lots of knowledge, information. and experience and this helps us to be the very best nurses we can be … but nursing is also an art and the art of nursing is listening to and gleaning knowledge from each individual person and encouraging them to lead their care.  The art is also in believing that the people we care for know what is best for them …..and they know better than what we think may be best.

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Being smart not unprofessional !

Two conversations caught my eye on Twitter last night, both seemed to get a lot of air time.  The first conversation was sparked by this tweet from @DebsCooper131:

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The tweet got many responses and a good deal of interaction with lots of people tweeting about finding and loosing pens.  It was a good fun sort of thread.

The second tweet and ensuing conversation that captured my interest was sparked by this Tweet from @captaintau:

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There were lots of answers to this tweet and subsequent conversation, and I have to admit that some of the comments surprised me a little.

The two tweets got me thinking as both mention tools that we can use in nursing, the humble pen – been around for eons, everybody has one in their pocket (or even three if you are super organised) its a pretty useful communication device and no one questions its use in nursing; then we have the smartphone – its been around for a bit, it fits in your pocket, its a really useful communication device and yet we seem to question it’s use ! The two devices, pen and smartphone both seem quite useful to me however the two Twitter conversations could not have been more diverse.

The conversation around the pen was light hearted and fun but the conversation about the smartphone could not have been more intense.  I mentioned above that I was surprised by some of the tweets … and I was.  Some people were adamant that it is unprofessional to use a smartphone as a nurse, that it was too “tempting” for nurses to have smartphones in their pockets and why would they need a smartphone anyway ?!!

Can I just say this here and now …. GOOD GRIEF !!!

Firstly a device or a tool no matter how technological can never be unprofessional, ( I am currently rolling my eyes) it’s the inappropriate use of such things that is unprofessional.  A smartphone is a pocket sized communication tool that gives us a world of knowledge and expertise in the palm of our hand ….. why on earth would we not use that?  I would actually argue that not to have one is unprofessional. As for nurses being “tempted” if they have access to a smartphone whilst on duty (again I roll my eyes) I challenge any nurse to find the time to be tempted !! I know that when I do clinical work I really don’t have time to think about anything but the people I am caring for.

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What worries me more about both of these conversations is that our willingness to accept that a nurse needs a pen and that it is a valid nursing tool for 2017 (I rarely use a pen in my personal life, yet at work could not get through a second of clinical practice without one) yet our complete inability to accept that a smartphone is not a valid nursing tool (rolls eyes for third time)

There is so much that the smartphone has to offer nursing – access to information, access to expertise, bedside recording, access to records when and where we need it, access to apps, access to the internet, portable communication and all in your pocket.  The pen … well that just writes, and maybe stirs your coffee from time to time.  I was in a restaurant the other day and the waitress got out a smartphone to take my order, I didnt think it was unprofessional of her … I thought “wow, how fab is that?” Go into any Apple store and the sales assistants all use smartphones to help you make a purchase .. are they unprofessional? Does anyone question them? No ! So lets get over this …. smartphones are a smart way to work not an unprofessional way to work.

I was glad to see that Ann-Marie Riley (@AnnMarieRiley10) from Nottingham University Hospitals tweeted and shared her experience, as I know that they are really embracing the use of smartphones for nurses at Nottingham:

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I think Ann-Marie has hit the nail firmly on the head – why wouldn’t we use technology? It’s definitely the smart thing to do – we don’t need to work harder as nurses, we need to work smarter, we need to embrace the technology, we need to stop being fearful.  We are are the people who make ourselves look professional, technology is merely a tool and it cant take away our professionalism.

Finally Matt Ballantine (@ballentine70) brought my thinking full circle when he tweeted:

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It’s not the tools, it’s how we use them …… so lets get smart !

 

Stuck on CPD

I have had a few conversations lately both on and offline around continuing professional development (CPD)  in nursing, I guess its only natural as more and more of us are revalidating CPD is very much on our minds.  However with austerity still very much the order of the day it worries me that many nurses still remain very fixed in their idea of CPD. I had a conversation with a nurse a little while back who was absolutely adamant that CPD only counted if it took place in a classroom, he was utterly convinced that this was the case until I showed him what the NMC (2017) say about CPD:

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Why was he so fixed in his idea of CPD? I guess historically CPD is something that has always “happened” to us as nurses.  I recall as a newly qualified nurse we had training sessions on the ward I worked, where people came in to teach us about different areas or skills, we were also sent on training courses regularly and CPD was something that came to us from our employer.  Most of the CPD I did was passively sat in a classroom like environment, being talked at – CPD wasn’t something I had to actively do.  So perhaps this has something to do with the reason why so many of us are so fixed in our view of what counts as CPD in nursing?

I have three problems with this idea of CPD:

Firstly – I am not so sure that sitting passively and being talked at in a classroom is really the best way to learn and develop.  I know that it’s certainly not the case with me – I need to actively discuss things, have the scope to read or find out more, explore ideas, try things out and actually “do” instead of just sit and take notes.  A few years ago I came across this on Twitter:

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(Source: http://www.une.edu/studentlife/biddeford/las-1 )

I’m not sure if it’s steeped in any good quality evidence or research but it makes sense to me. I certainly know that passive learning is not for me, conversation, discussion, doing and showing seem to work much better. 

Secondly – There is no money… austerity reigns and classroom based CPD is expensive. Theres the cost of the venue, the speaker(s), the cost of lost work hours and also the cost of travel and expenses.  There has to be a smarter way that gathering people together at a venue … in fact we know there is, we just need to start using them.

Thirdly – We should take control of what we learn.  As a practicing nurse I have interests in social media, elderly care and dementia … learning IVI’s, TPA , BAL, HFEA or some other acronym is not really where i want to take my learning.  I was my CPD to be based around my needs.  I want to dictate when i do it, how I do it and what its on … its my learning after all.

How do we move with the times? How do we change our mindset regarding CPD – perhaps the answer is in developing . social mindset.  I really like this sketchnote by @tnvora that explores social mindset, in particular the social learning element:

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Social learning is about taking our traditional idea of learning and giving it a good shake.  I love the term “working out loud” and I think that the potential to apply this is nursing is huge.  learning together, developing communities of practice and creating an ecosystem of learning when and where we want it is, in my opinion, a very attractive proposition.

Isn’t it time that we took hold of CPD and turned it on its head? Isn’t it time we took responsibility for it? Isn’t it time we took control of it?  Isn’t it time to stop being passive about our learning as nurses? I think that social learning is the way forward – it’s time to step out of the classroom and into individualised lifelong social learning.

Oxygen

I quite often listen to Radio 2 as I go about my day to day life, it’s on in the car, the kitchen and even the office, I like the mix of music and chat … this week Chris Evans was discussing some rather interesting stuff that really resonated with me.  The section was all about worry and stress and whilst I mostly don’t get too stressed I am a worrier so the conversation was one that I stopped and listened to. Chris and the person he was chatting to (apologies I didn’t catch his name) were talking about how we can cope with stress and worry and the phrase “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others” This was something that I had not heard in this context before and it certainly made me wonder … do we do this in nursing?

Entirely by coincidence last week I ran a series of Twitter Polls through WeNurses asking nurses if they had taken their break that day.  I ran it for 3 days … and here are the results:

Whilst the polls themselves reveal some concerning results the comments made in reply to the polls were perhaps the most interesting part:

 

Not taking a break means that we don’t get to rest, eat or drink.   Hydration amongst doctors and nurses on call (El-Shakawry 2016) is a study that looked at the scale and impact of dehydration on doctors and nurses.  The study found  ”Thirty-six percent of participants were dehydrated at the start of the shift and 45% were dehydrated at the end of their shift” and “Single number and five-letter Sternberg short-term memory tests were significantly impaired in dehydrated participants” This doesn’t even take into account hunger or tiredness … and what about the long term effects on mental health and wellbeing and morale? Not taking a break is a serious problem in nursing and you might argue one that affects the care we deliver, yet from the comments not having a break seems so … well … normal … and .. acceptable!

I wonder if we were to view our breaks as oxygen masks would we think differently about the importance of them? I am not being flippant here, I honestly think that we need to take this approach.  We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – how can we make important care decisions if we are have not rested, eaten or drunk throughout the course of our shift?

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At this point I feel I must confess that I have often been on a clinical shift where I have not taken a break and recently I have been reflecting of why this has happened.  Sometimes the shift has been very busy and there just doesn’t seem to have been time for me to step off the floor .. so given the now established fact that breaks are akin to oxygen masks would I do this differently? Yes I think I will – no matter how busy the shift working tired, hungry and thirsty is counter productive and we need to recognise this.  If I were on a plane and attended to someone else’s oxygen mask before my own I would soon be on the floor gasping for air and we would both be in trouble ! By taking a break this means I can return to my work refreshed and able to care more effectively.

Although taking breaks whilst on duty takes a change in individual mindset I also think that we have to support colleagues to take breaks to … ask them if they have had a break, do that urgent thing for them whilst they go off the floor, reassure them that you will care for that really unwell person and tell them that in order to care effectively they must take care of themselves.  We also need to address organisational culture – is it normal in your work environment that people take breaks? How can we make this a good thing to do? How can we check that people have had a break? How can we support people to take breaks?

The choice is simple – we can either care until we drop, leading to unwell nurses and poor care … or we can take a break and breathe in the oxygen that enables us to provide the very best of care.

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The problem with resilience

I think that’s it’s time to open up the debate on the term resilience – I have a problem with resilience, I know its en-vogue currently for nurses to be resilient, and in theory I get why, but in reality I am not so sure.

How about we start this with a definition …. The internet says resilience is:

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I think this is where my problem with resilience starts – recovering quickly, bouncing back and toughness are concepts I find hard to reconcile as a nurse.  Here’s the rub .. I don’t think that I am resilient.  When things upset me I often take them to heart, I can find it hard to recover quickly and spring back and I am not sure that I need to.  I feel what I need are good support networks and self-care so that I can reflect and grow from experiences.  When something adverse happens, I don’t want to be resilient, I want to be human, but I want someone to ask me if I am OK … in the same way that I would ask them.

I recall a particularly tough day whilst working as a care home manager a good few years ago now.  I felt really ill, I had a really bad head cold, I had been in work since 5 am, I was dealing with a number of incidents and short staffing.  I had a phone conversation with my manager during which I asked if it was ok if I left early as I wasn’t feeling 100% and had been at work since very early … she told me I had to be more resilient.  I got off the phone and sat and cried.  Whilst I was crying at my desk another of my managers walked in – he asked, “are you ok?” Of course, I wasn’t but he sat and listened. We brainstormed a few things to help with the staffing and the incidents and he told me to go home and rest.  The first manager epitomised everything I hate about the term resilience and the second show cased everything that is right about supporting one another.

woman-1006102_1920Having had a few discussions on Twitter about resilience I can understand that it’s not the term itself but perhaps how we apply it.  With this in mind it is only fair to look at resilience in the context of health (and not just an internet, black and white – definition) Murray (2014) states:

Resilience can be defined as ‘the ability of an individual to cope with and adapt positively to adverse circumstances’. Resilience has been identified as comprising a serious of personality traits such as optimism, self-efficacy and hardiness which enable an individual to cope with increased adversity. Increasingly, resilience is viewed as the combination of internal and external factors, a dynamic process which develops over time and one which can be learned” 

I agree that we need this! I agree that as nurses we need to be able to cope with increased adversity and yes I love that resilience could be a combination of self-care (internal factors) and support (external factors) I do take exception to the word “hardiness” here but let’s set that aside as the definition within the context of health sounds pretty utopian to me and perhaps what we should all be aiming for. To me though this description is not resilience as I have seen it.

This leads me to think that resilience is the wrong word, I think that it does what we are trying to achieve in nursing a huge disservice.  This isn’t about toughness or bounce-back-ability this is about support and self-care. It’s about what we do to take care of ourselves and what our colleagues and organisations do to take care of us.

So what is the way forward? How do we equip the nursing profession with the skills to cope with adversity? I don’t think that anyone has or ever will become more resilient by a colleague telling them that they need to be resilient! The term resilience, when used like this, seems rather like telling the profession to “man up”! This is not healthy or productive.

I rather like what the police are doing…. Have you heard of Oscar Kilo? There is a great link here that explains all > https://oscarkilo.org.uk/about/ The Oscar Kilo website states

 “We need to get the message to our staff that “it’s ok not to be ok””

Oscar Kilo doesn’t talk about resilience it talks about health and wellbeing.  It acknowledges that policing is tough and that people are affected by the things they see and the role they have but it focusses on support, health and wellbeing.

Screenshot 2017-07-03 12.06.36I guess at the heart of this is that I feel that the term “resilience” is a spoiled fruit.  I can see that there are good intentions by encouraging nursing and nurses to be resilient but I don’t think that this term can be used as its synonymous with hardiness, bouncing back, being tough and manning up … and do you know what … it is ok not to be ok!  I think that we should acknowledge that nursing is tough and learn and grow form this, support ourselves and each other … ask that question to yourself and to colleagues … are you ok today?

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Reflecting on a discussion

It’s not long now until I have to revalidate for the first time and I am trying to be super organised.  As my revalidation date is at the start of September I thought it best to get everything sorted this side of the summer.  I have always been an overly organised person – when we go on a long dog walk I’m the person who takes bite cream and plasters just in case! My revalidation is no exception – I have lost count of the amount of times I have logged on to the NMCs revalidation website - to the extent that I apologise to the NMC as its me who is bumping up your visitor figures, which are sure to drop post September!

I now have my portfolio ready.  I opted for a paper version in the end – I can hear you all saying “what?” – however I tried digital but felt that I needed to really see, touch and visualise my portfolio.  I think that this has something to do with the way I learn, I need to use as many senses as possible and my revalidation is no exception.

IMG_2729I have divided the portfolio into colour-coded sections that correspond to each revalidation requirement. I have my feedback and have completed my reflections.  And this week I had my reflective discussion.

IMG_2730I have an unusual role being a self-employed nurse working in social media so I was a little worried about my reflective discussion.  I approached a fellow nurse, Wendy,  who tweets who I respect and who’s opinion I value and she kindly agreed to help.  We live quite far apart from each other so we decided to use Skype.  I emailed her my reflections so that she could read them before hand and we both sat down with a cup of tea and Skyped.

Having never experienced a reflective discussion before I’m not sure that I knew what to expect.  I was worried about being put “on the spot” or having to answer tricky questions but it wasn’t like that at all.  Wendy made me feel at ease, she used phrases like “I was really interested to read……” and she related my reflections to her own work and experiences.  We found that there were similarities in situations we had come across, particularly one challenging situation that I had reflected on,  but we had dealt with them differently.  We were able to look at why that was and how we would perhaps deal with similar experiences in the future.  We chatted for almost an hour – and stayed on topic ! I can’t thank Wendy enough for making the reflective discussion a positive and worthwhile experience.

The whole discussion has left me reflecting …. Did the reflective discussion help me to become a better nurse? I think perhaps it has …. It gave me time to stop, articulate thoughts, share experiences and understand the reasons for my actions.  It helped me to reason why I felt the way I did about some things and in turn I feel that this will help me in the future in applying learning and learning from experiences and feedback. I think that it has also given me a bit more confidence, people often say that a problem shared is a problem halved perhaps this is true for reflecting on challenging situations. There is a part of you, when faced with a challenging situation, that thinks “is it me?” By reflecting and discussing it can help with that feeling of being the only person to have experienced this and give confidence to act as needed in the future when faced with similar situations.

I hope that if ever I am asked to have a reflective discussion with someone I can do it to the same excellent standard as Wendy did for me, I certainly have a great role model to follow.

At the end of the discussion Wendy asked if I had someone to act as confirmer – I sheepishly said that I hoped that she would consider doing it and again she kindly agreed.  However my hefty, well organised portfolio is somewhat of a challenge in itself – so we decided this was a great excuse to meet up and catch up in person …… I will be hiring a trailer for my portfolio ;D

 

 

Gathering viewpoints – having & eating cake!

I have been engaged in a few projects recently where we have taken the time to step outside of the expertise in the room and ask people beyond the project their thoughts and ideas.  Now we all know that in theory this is what we should do .. but in reality is it really worthwhile?

I have to admit to being sceptical at times about things we ‘should do’ and often subscribe to the ‘just get on with it’ approach.  Working in social media things are very instant and getting on with just doing it is essential. Social media is fast, we try new things constantly, some work and that’s great and some don’t so we either move on or adjust.  To have to stop, take time, ask people what they think is perhaps a concept that doesn’t sit naturally with social media.

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This all presented a bit of a dilemma for me – do I stay true to my social media roots and just go for it or do I stop, gather opinion and delay? But why can’t we have our cake and eat it? Why can’t we get on with doing things AND gather opinion in a timely manner? The more I thought about it the more I thought … we can !! We have the power … social media !!

Sometimes the solution is staring us in the face and screaming very loudly “look here” Social media is a great way to gather opinion ! So here’s what we did:

The first project we developed a tweetchat, asked for ideas and thoughts and then discussed those ideas and thoughts to develop a concept.  We then developed a blog to share that concept and from that held another tweetchat to discuss the concept.  I can now see this becoming a cyclical thing as the project develops:

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The second project was a little more complex so we felt we needed to actually talk to people.  We posted a blog asking people to help, we then held a webinar and gathered opinion and this then fed into the project.  The process was quick, easy and effective.  We recorded the webinar and captured all the typed comments too so we could refer back.

Was it worthwhile? In both cases I would wholeheartedly say YES!

On both occasions other people saw things that we had missed.  We received constructive feedback that confirmed our thinking in some places and enhanced it in others.  On one occasion the feedback was the polar opposite to the plan so we listened and adjusted .. and thank goodness we did as this was instrumental to the success of the project.

The value of listening to what other people think is beyond measure however I don’t think we have to stop to do it! Social media is a fantastic resource for garnering opinion, you get a wide range of views in a short space of time in formats that are easily captured for future reference or analysis.  My learning here is yes just get on with it and yes listen to others views but the two things are not necessarily exclusive – we can have our cake and eat it!

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Up Pomphrey!

I have been running for a while now and pretty much just stick some tunes on and plod on all by my lonesome.  Though every Sunday I do a 2k Junior Parkrun with our youngest … apart from that I stick to running by myself …. until now !

In my wisdom I thought I would give our local proper grown up Parkrun a go – “Pomphrey Hill” – I spent some time reading up about it, where it was and the course terrain.  I wasn’t familiar with the park but the blurb said “mostly flat” with “a small hill called Up Pomphrey!” (The exclamation mark at the end of Up Pomphrey! confused me somewhat ) It was 3 laps finishing on a downhill. Sounded perfect ! I’m not too good at uphill, I don’t mind the flat and definitely live for the downhill, so the run sounded ideal.

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Saturday came and off I went.  The venue was easy to find, though I worried slightly as I saw some eager participants running to the run (yes it seems people do that!) and I had a fleeting thought that I would be the only reluctant runner amongst a sea of super fit experts and suddenly regretted going on my own … so I Facebooked a post about being alone at the Parkrun and was fortified by a response from Kath Evans who posted a pic of herself at her local Parkrun.  Feeling empowered by support I headed to where people were gathering.

As we were all herded to the start line I suddenly remembered my headphones … which were on the hall table at home! I hardly ever run without the aid of some cheesy feel good music and waves of panic washed over me again.  I mentally gave myself a stern talking to and got on with joining the pack ready for the start. I headed for the middle of the pack, thinking I didn’t want to be at the front with all the serious folk but also I needed a bit of a head start being the slow runner I am.

mobile-605422_1920The course organisers then proceeded to give us all a talk on the course, stating pretty much what it said on the blurb on the website.  I was a little perplexed when the course organiser got to the “small hill” part and said “Up Pomphrey!” And the whole pack shouted “UP POMPHREY!” But I put it down to being just a local thing and started limbering up for the off.

I started at a slow pace but was happy to see an older lady in front of me and thought perhaps I will just go at the same pace as her.  There was a little incline to start with and I thought that maybe this was “Up Pomphrey!” and was quite pleased with myself for jogging up.  We then headed downhill and I was pretty much keeping pace with everyone, I was missing Bananarama and Joe McEldrey via my earphones but hey … I was doing it… I was running!

Then we turned a corner and I can only describe what was in front of me as a small mountain! I now fully understood the exclamation mark and the “UP POMPHREY!” Oh my dear lord .. how on earth was I going to get up there? And not just once but three, yes three, times.

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Well I made it halfway up the first time and I then slowed to a walk before medical assistance would need to be called for.  The second time I did about 50 yards before my legs turned to jelly, by this point people were starting to lap me! Yes those serious runners at the front were lapping us mere mortals desperately trying to cling to some sort of dignity.  At this point I seriously missed my headphones to the extent that I think I started humming Gloria Gaynors “I will survive” I also seriously questioned my wisdom … what on earth was I doing? This was no way to spend a Saturday morning. By lap three and “Up Pomphey!” three I had lost the older lady, she had run off ahead, I was lapped by a man pushing an infant in a pram, was lapped by two dogs, a small child and Batman …. but I kept going.  I kept putting one foot in front of the other.

I eventually reached the top for the final time and headed downhill to the finish.  As I ran the last 200 yards the volunteers at the finish line were cheering me on, telling me to run all the way …. I did it!

I came a whopping 317th !! I collected my little ticket and headed over to be scanned.  As I did I noticed that there were lots still behind me, I checked my time and I had ran the 5k in 34.11 which isn’t too bad for me. According to the email I received later in the day I came 15th in my age group, which I think sounds quite impressive.

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As I headed to the car I felt exhausted, thirsty and bloomin hot.  I downed a bottle of water and headed home with the aircon on full and feeling quite elated. As I walked through the door my husband said “how was it?” I replied “It was awful, I hate running” to which he asked “so are you going again?” ……. “Yes” I said ;D

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A reluctant runner!

Did you know I took up running ?? I say this with a smile on my face as I really don’t shut up about it, I have turned into one of those insufferable people who post running times, maps and Fitbit stats on Twitter .. in fact not just Twitter I post them on Facebook too .. nowhere is safe! But I am not sorry, not in the least!

Almost 2 years ago now we ran WeActiveChallenge for the first time.  Encouraging health care professionals to get active and share their activity for 2 weeks in August.  WeActiveChallenge is the brainchild of those fab WeAHPs – namely Naomi McVey (@NaomiMcVey) and Jo Fillingham (@jkfillingham) - an inspiring duo, who I can’t thank and praise enough for getting me moving! My activity levels increased slightly, from nothing to some walking.  We then got a dog (prime excuse to share a picture of Muppet the dog) and my activity levels increased a bit more … still walking but a bit more often.

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A year ago we repeated WeActiveChallenge and the tweets started to have an affect on me …. They made me think.

Both my mum and my brother have had heart bypass surgery, my grandmother died of a stroke and my grandfather died of a heart attack.  In addition to this I was starting to feel “not right” I had periods of anxiety and days when I found it hard to keep going, I felt tearful and generally stressed, I also had physical symptoms – heavier periods, headaches, fatigue and restless legs! I knew my mum had gone through the menopause early so I was genuinely concerned that this was me for the rest of my life!! I went to the doctor and had the blood test and everything came back normal … the doc said I could possibly be pre menopausal .. this did make me laugh, (which was a big relief from the crying) as don’t we spend all our lives being pre menopausal ? I started reading about what would help and taking care of yourself with a good diet and exercise was top of every list.  Whilst this was all going on #WeActiveChallenge was quietly infiltrating my social media streams and my thoughts…. So in late August (the week after WeActiveChallenge finished) I downloaded the Couch to 5k app (free!) and bought some running shoes.

The first thing I learnt was that I hate running! Running makes me feel like my chest is about to explode and I need Ventolin … stat !!! The next thing I learnt was that I needed support in order to keep going … so I tweeted and facebooked about what I was doing, and I was amazed at how many of my friends had done the same.  There was lots of support out there.  It’s been hard and I still dislike running, I still feel like I need an inhaler of some description … I am a reluctant runner and some days I really don’t want to go out.  The app helped in the early days as I wanted to get my ticks for each day. Tweeting my app stars and ticks helped too as the tweets I got back were so positive and encouraging.  The app is a 9 week programme and I kept going to the end … and then I felt a little lost! What now? So I started using my Fitbit, starting tweeting and facebooking maps and stats and personal bests – the encouragement and support was awesome.  My currently goal is to do at least 30 mins of exercise a day and get my green heptagon Fitbit shape at the end of each week.

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So how do I feel … pretty amazing actually ! I am sleeping better, I have dropped two dress sizes, I no longer feel “pre menopausal” and I am definitely less stressed.  I don’t love running but I love the feeling it gives me and I love the social media community that it has given me.

I am really looking forward to #WeActiveChallenge this year, infact I can’t wait to have an excuse to tweet pics. It’s taken time for me to change my behaviour but the positive role models that I was exposed too played a huge part in that change and the support that people gave me (and continue to give me) through Twitter and Facebook has had a huge impact.  Social media certainly affected my behaviour and infact I would say it played an instrumental part.

What is nice now is that I am seeing friends now starting the Couch to 5k and I am trying my hardest to support them as I was supported. My daughter, who is 10, now runs at least once a week and we cycle to and from school. I am going to keep boring people with my running tweets and Facebook posts and I am going to continue to be totally unrepentant.  Social media has changed me, it’s helped make me fitter and healthier, it’s helped me to change my lifestyle. I firmly believe that social media is a brilliant tool for public health and changing our habits and adopting healthy alternatives.  Social media exposes us to and connects us with people and ideas we may not normally encounter, it broadens our horizons and gets us to see that there is a better way … it’s pretty fabulous stuff :D

What makes a good blog?

After months of not blogging rather surprisingly @SarahChapman30 tweeted me asking for some advice on blogging.  Luckily she also copied in @AnnieCoops and @ProfJuneG too – who blog in a slightly more organised and less rambling way than myself. The Twitter thread unravelled some great suggestions and you can read it HERE. The conversation got me thinking …. What makes a good blog? Not just for the reader but also for the writer.  Yes blogs need to be readable but they also need to be manageable.  So this is me writing some top tips down on paper … perhaps more for me than anyone else, that way I might actually manage to successfully resuscitate my blog:

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Find a platform you like and is easy for you to use – it really doesn’t matter which platform you use but its important that you get on with it, the last thing you want to be doing is getting hot and bothered because you can’t figure out how to post your blog online.  I use WordPress but some simple solutions include LinkedIn, Blogger , Tumblr & even the WeCommunities community blog ( and lots more too!)

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Blog regularly – I subscribe to (and often fail) to the theory that if you blog regularly, even if infrequently, then your readers know when to expect a blog.  In theory it makes sense, sometimes the reality is a little different.  It’s perhaps a good idea to decide how often you want to blog and then double that time period so if you think you can manager weekly blog every other week.

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Don’t be hard on yourself – In relation to the above if you don’t manage to blog regularly then don’t be too hard on yourself, the world will keep turning and people will survive

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Blog from the heart – remember this isn’t an academic piece of work, it’s personal, it’s you ! Whatever the subject matter blog about your thoughts, feelings and reflections.

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Keep it short … or not – I always aim to keep my blogs short as it makes them easy to read on a mobile phone and as someone with dyslexia the struggle to read large bodies of text is real! However there are times when more needs to be said … so say it, don’t be confined by word count

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Experiment – Experiments with styles – try reflections, lists, stories, add in tweets, add in pictures or infographics and in addition to this remember blogs don’t have to be written, try video, audio, or even blogshots.

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Tell people you have blogged – ok so I find this bit difficult, it’s self promotion basically and something that a great many of us are uncomfortable with.  I know I don’t promote my blog posts enough – however I liked @anniecoops suggestion in the Twitter thread linked above … promote for 48 hours.  This feels comfortable for me so I may give it a go

bicycle-1533130_1920Have a few blog posts in the bag – this was @ProfJuneG’s suggestion (again please see the linked Twitter thread above) and something that I had never considered, but it seems to make sense.  If you have time and the inspiration then write away whilst you can and save them for a rainy day.

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Make notes – I have a specific note on my phone that is called “Blog ideas” The reason I have this is that I often think  “that will make a good blog” and then totally forget my thought process by the time I get to a laptop.  My phone goes everywhere with me so it’s a good place to jot down thoughts as they come.

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Subject matter matters – when I first started this blog it was going to be all about social media and nursing, however what I have learnt is that it ok not to be specific and fixed in your subject matter.  Blog about what matters to you at that point in time …don’t put your blog in a box, go with the inspiration.

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There are no rules – so having come up with a definitive list of top tips the final point is that these are not rules, more like loose guidelines that are open to interpretation and amendment.  Go with what feels right for you, what you can manage and what fits in with your lifestyle.

So, Dear Reader – here’s hoping that this not only helps you to get blogging but also that it helps me to put pen to paper more often.  I am now off to write 6 more blogs so I have them in the bag and to pimp this blog post for the next 48 hours !!

Thank you @SarahChampman30 @ProfJuneG and @AnnieCoops for spurring me into action :D