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

That will never work !!

I recently asked a question via a Twitter Poll about nurses use of social media:

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The results didn’t surprise me too much but what did surprise me was some of the tweets i received in response to this poll. What most surprised me were the comments made in relation to using social media to communicate with the people we care for, some people were quite adamant that nurses should absolutely not engage with the people we care fro within social media spaces …. I feel that I need to challenge this thinking and ask “why not?”

With more than seven in ten internet users having a social media profile and two thirds of adults, with a profile,  using a social media site more than once a day (OFCOM 2016 ) it could be argued that social media is becoming the default way to communicate.  Particularly when I think of my teenagers social media is such a normal way for them to talk and communicate with others. So why are nurses reticent about using this communication tool to communicate with the people we care for?

The NMC Social Media Guidance does not discount engaging with patients on social media it quite rightly mentions confidentiality and not using social media to build or pursue relationships with patients, which gives us some scope to embrace the power of social media to engage with the people we care for. There are obstacles to overcome – privacy ? – confidentiality ? – do the people we care for want to engage with nurses in this way ? – to name a few … but surely the possibilities are there if we dare to think a little differently? Can we really write off social media as a means of communicating with the people we care for? I’m not sure that we can.

I think that even though there are challenges with communicating in social media spaces as nurses we will overcome them, we will evolve and the technology will evolve to find a way that works… as this is how people want to communicate.

Whilst contemplating this and browsing the internet I came across this rather interesting blog “15 Worst Tech Predictions Of all Time” Documented here are the naysayers, the people who said ‘that won’t work’, and boy did they ever get it wrong … among the worst predictions are:

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1876: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” – William Orton (President of Western Union) – errrrmmmm the telephone is pretty much the basis for modern communication.  If we look at healthcare alone … how many times do you use the telephone during your working day? What about NHS 111 ? Teleconferencing? Telephone consultations?

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1981: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.” — Marty Cooper, inventor. - just take two seconds to appreciate the proximity of you mobile phone. I bet it’s within hands reach.  Of course without advances in mobile communication community nursing and mobile working would be so much more challenging!

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1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” — Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com. - yep!! someone actually said this!! If i have all the time in the world i bet i couldn’t list what the internet has done for health – online journals, NHS Choices, sharing of information, blogs, videos … ahem … SOCIAL MEDIA!!

So in 10 years time when we are tweeting our virtual GP, Facebooking our midwife or have a Instagram outpatients appointment will we look back and say how daft we were to think that we would never be able to communicate with the people we care for through social media? Well I don’t have a crystal ball so I am not entirely sure … however I do know that without exploring the possibilities we will never realise the potential.

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A challenging week

Challenging practice is perhaps one of the most difficult things that a nurse has to do.  Seeing practice that is harmful or potentially harmful is not only upsetting but also can be very stressful.  Having found myself in a “challenging” situation this week I can testify that it makes you question yourself, your judgement and your motives in all sorts of ways.  Whilst I won’t go in to the in’s and out of my situation it’s suffice to say that I had concerns over some practice and raised them.  It wasn’t easy and took courage and thought .. however I am left reflecting on several things:

The NMC Code clearly states:

“You make sure that patient and public safety is protected. You work within the limits of your competence, exercising your professional ‘duty of candour’ and raising concerns immediately whenever you come across situations that put patients or public safety at risk. You take necessary action to deal with any concerns where appropriate.”

As nurses we must raise concerns immediately whenever we come across situations that put patients at risk and we must take necessary action …. It couldn’t be more easy to understand.  And yet I am not sure that everyone understands that nurses have this professional duty.  Most nurses I have met have an understanding of the code and where their responsibility lies – but the difficultly comes when we work with people who are not nurses.  Do they understand our code as we do? Do they even know what our code contains? Do they understand our professional responsibility? I think the answer to this is, sadly, sometimes no!

Which leaves me with a question …. How do we resolve this?

The fundamental problem is that often until we challenge and raise concerns we are unaware of how others will take this and what their understanding is.  My concerns and challenge to thinking this week was met with shock that anyone would dare to raise concerns and what appeared to be a lack of knowledge that this is what nurses have a duty to do! We have to be that voice that says “what about the safety of the people we care for” we have to stand firm and take the action needed to ensure the care of our patients remains at the heart of all decisions both clinical and financial, but until we actually do this we never know how it will be received.  I understand that it’s human nature that when someone challenges you it can be hard to listen, as it can seem like a criticism, and although we have to take this into account when we challenge, we must not let it confine us.  I think that there is some work to do here in educating others in our code and how it translates into practice and I think that we as nurses should use our code more to help and empower us to do the best by our patients.

Another reflection I have is that what happens when your challenge to practice or approach is taken negatively by the people you challenge? What do you do then? This is when you start to question your own judgement … it’s the “is it just me?” thought process.  This becomes even more difficult if you are challenging upwards, that is to say challenging managers or directors as you can be working against the system.  Raising concerns is not easy.

My last reflective thought is – oh wow its stressful!!! Lots of thoughts spinning through your head, was I right to say something? Am I making a fuss? Why don’t people understand a nurses responsibility? But would I do it differently next time? No I would not.  As someone very wise said to me this week “one day the person you challenged may be sat wishing that they has a nurse to challenge for them” We raise concerns because those in our care can’t – the people we challenge aren’t our primary concern … the people we care for are.

Even though my week has been awful, even though through raising concerns I have put my head well above the parapet I am proud to say that the needs of the people I care for come, and always will come, first.

Has it really been a year since #WGT16 ?

As we hurtle towards the end of February I have been thinking lots about this time last year and how we were busy plotting, planning, organising and doing in preparation for February 29th and WeGetTogether or #WGT16.  And what a day it was! For me it was definitely one of the busiest days of my life …. lots to do, lots of people to connect with, lots to see. lots of cake to eat and lots and lots to talk about.

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The whole day seemed to whiz by in the blink of an eye …. however I remember halfway through the day taking time out to just sit and watch; I went upstairs to the balcony and just sat for ten minutes and observed.  What I saw was pretty overwhelming; I saw people from all different backgrounds, with very different roles and pace in healthcare doing what we do everyday via social media .. connecting and talking.  You might think “why was that overwhelming?” – well it was overwhelming because they were all under one roof …. we did it! We got together and we connected beyond our virtual spaces.  It was overwhelming because I was just one agency nurse and here I was face to face with people I had connected with.  It was overwhelming because here was the proof that we are not alone and we are all working together with a common purpose.

One of the enduring images of the day was this time lapse video that we created … we see people coming and going, hugging and laughing, connecting and celebrating …. it has to be one of my most favourite videos of all time:

There are many things about #WGT16 that I am proud of:

  • We had an amazing team that pulled #WGT16 together
  • We crowdfunded a whole conference
  • We connected the conference to social media & social media to the conference
  • We raised money for two charities
  • We showed that there is another way of doing things
  • We had a jedi, a giant blue bird and feather boas in the same room!
  • We embraced tech like QR codes, Vine, YouTube, Infographics and Blogs
  • We had some fabulous cake
  • We had the most amazing and inspiring student nurse volunteers helping all day
  • We worked together to create something amazing

What would I change about #WGT16 if I had to do it all again ….. there is loads I would change and tweak.  I would be braver in the planning and trust my instinct more, I would think more clearly about how we connect the virtual experience to the real experience and vice versa, and I would take more time to sit back and enjoy the time with the amazing people in the room.  We said we would hold a #WGT every leap year …. so perhaps, if I am fortunate enough I can take these thoughts forward for #WGT20 !

But what came out of #WGT16, what did we achieve ? NOTHING!!! However I am not sure that this is a bad thing.  Social media is living in the moment and what #WGT16 was about was living in that moment, in that space and that time TOGETHER …. and we did that!

I feel that there is a lasting legacy to #WGT16 and that is the connections that were made, the friendships that were cemented and the conversations that we had ….. I came away feeling that if we can dream it then together we CAN do it ! Anything is possible when We Get Together !

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The Climb !

What sort of music do you like ?

I’m not talking the music you put on when friends come over, or the sort of music you listen to with a loved one …. I’m talking about the music you listen to when no one else is listening ! What do you sing at the top of your voice to in the car ? What music to you listen to via your earphones ?

Me – I like really cheesy music ! I’m talking Wham, Take That and, yes, even Steps !!! (OK maybe not Steps!) I love running to really cheesy music, I love singing along in my car and I love zoning out with my ear phones to some utter cheese.  It was whilst running and listening to some of the aforementioned cheese and reflecting on a twitter conversation about success and failure that Joe McCeldry came on …. The Climb !! Not heard it ?? Here it is:

… no there really is no need to thank me !

It may very well be utter cheese tied up in a cheese string … however the message is fab … keep going, its the climb that matters, keep chasing the dream, keep on going.

When we have ours heads down and are working hard though I think we sometimes forget some essentials – we forget how important it is to have strong foundations, to gather support and to look around when we need inspiration to keep going.  We also forget to take a rest and to take time out to look after ourselves.  In addition to this it’s hard to remember that when we fall, or get things wrong … thats ok … this is sometimes when we learn the most.  It’s ok at these time to stop and reflect and maybe start again on a different path.  Picking ourselves back up can be hard but determination to keep going, keep putting the effort in and keep on climbing is paramount … as is the continued support of others.

And what happens when we get there ? Well in reality we keep on going and we head for the next mountain, the next challenge or even the next cheesy song ….but, my advice is to take time to enjoy the view. Look around, see how far you have come … take time to celebrate and smile.  And above all don’t forget to share your climb with others !

Who’d have thought cheesy music could lead to so much … and there’s more: here’s a rather dodgy load of stick men to illustrate my point ;D

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#NonListedButHighlyRecommended NursingTwitterFollows

I like a good list …. in fact I start every day with a to do list, it’s one of the reasons why i still have a paper diary (yes i can hear you gasping!) I like to be able to see clearly what I am doing and it gives me great satisfaction to cross things off.  I am also a big fan of shopping lists … now these ones i do write on my phones notes section, a shopping list, to me, is a vital thing that prevents me from aimlessly wandering around Asda , it saves me time and it means that I always remember to buy dog food.

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I quite like Twitter lists .. they allow me to organise my Twitter follows into sub groups and bypass a lot of Twitter noise.  Twitter lists are very useful indeed. But this is about as far as my love of lists goes …. and I have to admit that I very much dislike (even hate!) those hierarchical lists that seem to periodically make the rounds on social media.  You know the ones … the top 20 nurses, the top 100 healthcare tweeters, the most powerful 100 people in healthcare (ok so perhaps these aren’t the correct titles .. but you know the ones I mean)

I’m not a big fan of them for multiple reasons:

  • Often the methodology behind them is not revealed
  • When the methodology is revealed it is often flawed
  • They place hierarchies in high esteem – when there are many of us striving for a flatter world
  • I think that these lists are not really in the spirit of social media … where any connection with any person can add value

I wholeheartedly believe that connections made through peer recommendation is infinitely more powerful that a list generated through some computer algorithm  .. so a few weeks ago I asked people for their top nursing follows on Twitter.  I am calling it The “Non Listed But Highly Recommended Nursing Twitter Follows” its a catchy title and can even be hashtagged :

#NonListedButHighlyRecommendedNursingTwitterFollows

… snappy hey :D

So here they are (in no particular order or ranking and for no other reason than others have recommended, and presented in live embedded tweets so easy to follow) …. there were a few new and great follows here for me too, so I hope you all enjoy connecting as much as I have:

Of course the great thing about great lists .. and even non-lists …is that they can always be added to …. so please feel free to add to this one in the comments box.

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New year – old thinking ?

New year is typically a time for reflection and I am afraid to say that I am very much reverting to type with the advent of 2017 …. more by luck than design I have found myself exploring some “old” thinking around social media and nursing. Over the New Year period I have re-discovered two things that have had an impact on my thinking ….

This first thing I came across was whilst attempting to put pen to paper to write a journal article; I found myself thinking of a paper by Caleb Fergusson, written way back in 2013 “It’s time for the nursing profession to leverage social media” I remember reading it at the time and thinking that it was a bit harsh … that nurses are leveraging social media … however having re-read and some 4 years on I find myself agreeing with Caleb.  Nurses are here and using social media, but it’s in fits and spurts across the profession, there is so much potential, there are pockets of brilliance … but so much more can be done.

The second thing was sent to me by my husband and is a power point presentation that I created when I first started tweeting back in 2011:

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(Click here > is-anybody-out-there to view)

The power point was the first thing i ever created, that put my thoughts down on paper, and was written pre #WeNurses. I remember being quite nervous about doing it … it’s a scary thing to share an idea with the universe! Looking back at it now has made me realise how far we have come and what we have achieved with a bit of vision and a healthy dose of courage.

The two things together seem to contradict each other … how can we on one hand be needing to get to grips with truly unlocking the potential of social media whilst on the other seeing and acknowledging how far we have come …. my thoughts are that we have to remember that this is a journey! In the words of the (maybe) awesome Take That (which happens to be playing on the radio as i write this blog):

“We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high
And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye
And we’re still so young and we hope for more”

Social media in nursing is still a youngster, we have achieved so much … but there is still so much to do.  And in the words of my own power point “Nurses can make it happen”

Lets make social media work for us – lets use social media to inform our practice, lets use social media as part of our practice, lets use social media to share our practice and lets use social media to celebrate our practice.  We may be young …. but lets hope, and work, for more.

Getting Political (Big “P”)

Oh my it’s been a while since I last blogged !!! It’s not because I have had nothing to say but rather that so much has been going on that I just haven’t had the time to put  pen to paper.  I thought about perhaps doing another series of Vlogs and then realised that this almost takes as much time as typing as I need to ensure that my hair is in some sort of presentable state …. maybe a series of podcasts is worth considering ?? Anyway … I’m rambling …. let me get to the point :

commonsA few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the Houses Of Parliament for an event that celebrated the Petitions Committee “A Year Of Action” It was a fascinating event and it was really lovely to be joined by Student Nurses Hannah Smith (Salford University) and Julie Woolman (Plymouth University).  The reason we were invited was due to a #WeNurses discussion that was held back in January around the NHS Bursaries, the discussion was held in conjunction with a London South Bank University live debate and we then fed back about the debate and the Twitter discussion at a Houses Of Parliament round table event.  This in turn informed the House Of Commons debate on the NHS Bursaries and we were able to watch this debate live.  The initial discussion came to the forefront because of a petition that was started and although, in the end, the petition did not result in the Government changing the plans to stop the NHS Bursaries but it was interesting to see how nurses can have an impact on what goes on in Westminster.

So what I did learn from the event last week?  I learnt how important it is for nurses to be aware of Politics (although i am talking “big P” Politics here I am not talking party politics, which is perhaps a whole ‘nother blog!) As nurses I think that we need to know how Politics works, how we can influence it, what it takes to be heard and what it takes to make an impact.  Here are some of the specifics I took away from the event:

Firstly - Health is BIG, health is the number one thing that people petition the Government about, take a look at this great diagram below:

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Secondly - Most petitions that get rejected are duplicates of other petitions! So it’s important to search the petitions and not reinvent the wheel – tap into what other people are doing

Thirdly - Social media has made a huge impact on petitions … some go viral and reach 100, 000 signatures (the amount of signatures needed for the petition to be considered for a House Of Commons debate) in less than a day!

Fourthly - There are some really wonderful examples of where people have made a difference and have been listened too and action has been taken.  Some of the health related ones include The Meningitis B Vaccine, The Sugary Drinks Tax and Funding For Brain Tumours Research (you can read all about them HERE)

Fithly - Petitions are taken seriously.  The team at the event told us how petitions used to be put into a bag behind the speakers chair in the House of Commons .. hence the phrase “its in the bag!” However the digital age has made the bag so much louder, more visible and transparent.  The Petitions Committee are there to help anyone who petitions.

And lastly – The petitions that have made a difference are those that has persistent people at the heart of them. people who use the petition as a starting point and not and end point, people who keep going and keep campaigning for what they believe in.

The event very much reminded me of one of my most favourite quotes:

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As nurses I think that we need to not only believe that we can change the world but also we need to understand how we can change the world …. if we have both belief and understanding then we can make a difference.

Some thoughts on conference Tweeting

It seems that conference season is upon us – and our Twitter stream will soon be full of weird acronym hashtags all ending in 16! It’s tricky to get the Tweeting balance right when you are at conference, you don’t want to tweet too much for fear of boring your followers but at the same time you want to share the knowledge and atmosphere of the conference.

Here is my brainstorm on conference Tweeting:

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I don’t admit to getting it right all of the time, and sometimes I definitely feel that I have tweeted too much (if you ever feel I do then please just tell me – I promise I wont take offence) However it is important to get the balance right – both for you (as concentrating on tweeting what people are saying for long periods can be exhausting!) and for the people following the conference.

I first and foremost tweet for me, I use my tweets to refer to later in my CPD reflections.  I have been known to use Storify or Steller to collate the tweets and link them together: If you search for the conference hashtag and your Twitter handle eg “#ConferenceOfTheDecade16 @AgencyNurse” you can easily find just the tweets that you have sent, even months or years after the event!

Try to keep it informative, don’t be afraid to ask questions and draw in the people who may be watching on Twitter.  It is great watching a well tweeted conference from afar you can glean so much information however it’s even better when you start to have conversations with conference goers.

AND finally and most importantly if you have run out of phone battery by the first tea break you probably need to take a break ! Remember that there are people who are actually in the room too ;D

 

Everything changes…

I read a really interesting blog post a few days ago by one of my favourite bloggers @parthaskar Broken?” In this blog Partha asks if Twitter is broken, he remembers a time when “Twitter used to be a milder place, actually a fun place, a place to learn, a place sometimes for support. That world still exists, albeit shrunk. It bristles with indignation, with anger” I have to say I agree with Partha Twitter has changed since those early days, things are different however my thoughts are that we live in a different time to that of 5 years ago when I first started blogging and tweeting.  Ok, I agree, I am somewhat stating the obvious here so let me explain:

Twitter does not have the same feel as it did 5 years ago, could this be largely due to the fact that the world does not have the same feel as it did five years ago? We live in times of austerity, political flux and uncertainty in healthcare and this is bound to effect what people say and what people share in social media spaces. Heraclitus was once famed to have said:

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A wise man that Heraclitus! Every time we step into Twitter its not the same and we are not the same.  We may not notice the subtleties, of change in temperature, change in composition, or the even the increase in fish from day to day and its only through looking back that we see what appear to be vast changes instead of an ever evolving thing.  But perhaps we need to look forwards ?

Heres where I come back to Parthas blog post and his thought that many people would like Twitter to be “a continued space of education and support.” I stand amongst those people and although this function still exists we also have the political (sometimes angst ridden) melting pot that sits alongside, which is by no means wrong … just different to what it used to be.  I guess what I am saying is its up to us!

The ecosystem of Twitter is as complex as human nature itself and the only thing we can be certain of is that it will continue to change. This is our space to shape and influence so lets ensure that it’s a balanced and productive space.