Digital well-being

nhncLast night I took part in the #MHnursechat discussion “Does Twitter do your head in?” and it was one of those discussions that really got my brain ticking over. (You can read the full discussion here)  I am sure that you are all aware by now that I am a huge advocate for Social Media and its ability to connect across geographical and hierarchical boundaries in nursing and support nurses to exchange ideas, expertise and experiences … but we shouldn’t see social media through rose tinted spectacles, we should continue to advocate the good but equally we should also warn and prepare for the not so good.

LS017073I have heard a lot lately about Digital Professionalism and how we should behave in a digital space and whilst this concept is every important for us to grasp it really doesn’t cover how we look after ourselves in this space.  Our digital mental health and our digital resilience also needs some thought.  What do we do to protect ourselves from the constant stream of information and the perceived need to read it all? How do we protect our mental well-being when putting our ideas and thoughts “out there”? How do we deal with criticism or disagreements in 140 char? How do we cope with trolls? What do we do when switching off becomes a problem? If you are in social media long enough the chances are that you will find your blood pressure rising over one of these things … so what do we do to protect our mental wellbeing in a digital space?

bpRecently I have come across a few incidents on a personal and a professional level that have made me stop and think.  One was an issue with a close family member being unable to switch off from negative comments being made via Facebook and another incident was with someone behaving in a troll like way on Twitter.  Both incidents had a common thread – they both affected mental wellbeing and had the potential to escalate beyond control.  Which leaves me thinking … how do we deal with this? Often more digital contact can raise the blood pressure even more .. but how do we stop ourselves? Should it be more about building resilience and a “thick skin” to such events? Or should we learn to walk away and switch off? My guess is that it’s a personal thing – just as professional resilience and looking after our well-being in the real world is individual to each of us.  We need to each find our own way and find what works best for us.

There have been some well publicised cases of people dealing with social media stress and this is explained well in The Not So Big Society’s blog post “In Praise of Flouncing” which outlines a way of coping with social media stress by pushing the off switch  (thanks to @thus_spake_z for sharing this during the #MHnursechat discussion) I should imagine that there are many ways of ensuring that your digital well-being remains positive and healthy but here are a few of mine, please feel free to share your own too:

  • Be polite and kind and role model how you want to be treated
  • Only read as far back as one page of tweets  / posts
  • Learn to filter, you don’t have to click on every  link shared
  • Talk to people offline and share online stresses
  • Ignore, unfriend, block and delete trolls and troll like behaviour
  • Remember the majority of Social Media interactions are positive experiences
  • And most importantly …. there is an off switch !

Tweeting from Westminster

This week I have had the huge honour of being one of the first nurses (and indeed people) to tweet from inside one of the Health Committee meetings in Westminster Palace.  I have to say that I was really quite overwhelmed by the whole experience but rather than rambling on I shall start this story from the beginning:

A few months ago WeNurses were approached by Public Information and Outreach Service at the Houses of Parliament and since then both WeNurses and the Public Information and Outreach Service have been working hard to make Nurses tweeting from the House of Commons #NursesAtHoC a reality.  This all came to fruition this week when I hopped on a train to London and headed for Westminster.  It was wonderful to be able to invite another nurse along too and after thinking long and hard about this we decided to ask CareMaker and newly qualified nurse Claire Flatt (@MrsCFlatt) – hoping that this would provide some diversity and differing perspectives to our tweets.

hoc2And so, on a very rainy Wednesday, Claire and I met under Big Ben and waved umbrella’s at each other, both of us very excited about the opportunity ahead.  We first had to go through some security and both Claire and I having never been inside the Houses of Parliament before were pretty much in awe.  As soon as we got through security we were met by a lovely lady, Lucy, who then took us into the beautiful Westminster Palace and up and into the Health Committees meeting room.  Lucy was very knowledgeable about the history of the buildings and kept us extremely informed throughout our visit and she was very welcoming and supportive throughout our visit. With great foresight Lucy had warned us that a bell may go off at any point in the proceedings to call members to vote – and we hadn’t long sat down when this happened.  After Claire and I exchanged an initial confused look we realised what the bell was and used the short adjournment to just collect ourselves and our initial thoughts.

The meeting soon re-convened and got straight down to business.  The committee were listening to evidence about long term conditions and it was great to see representatives from organisations such as The Patients Association, Diabetes UK and The Royal College of Psychiatrists and hear their perspectives and stories.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the evidence given but if you want to view the whole event you can via this link (Claire and I are sat at the back on the left) and you can read my and Claires tweets from the meeting in the embedded Storify of the tweets below. I do however have a few observations and lessons learnt from this experience:

  • People in Parliament care – it was clear from the questions being asked and the responses being made that even though we may feel that Parliament is far removed from our practice they do listen, they do care and the relationship is not as far removed as we might think.
  • Evidence is king – we talk so much about bringing evidence into our practice that we often forget that evidence can be used to make changes beyond our own practice.  It was great to see that not only was data used as evidence but also that patient stories and case studies were held in high regard.
  • We are all concerned about the same things – It was reassuring to realise that the discussions being held were things that were relevant to me as a nurse and things that I am concerned about.  There is a lot of discussion around currently about a common purpose and it was great to realise that this common purpose is radiating throughout the system.
  • One nurse can make a difference – throughout the afternoon we tweeted snippets from the discussions taking place and it was both exciting and humbling to see responses and discussions coming through via Twitter.

hocI count myself very privileged to have been allowed to do this and would have to encourage others to take this opportunity to share information with the #nursecommunity in this way.  Social media is all about breaking down sharing information, ideas and expertise regardless of boundaries and hierarchies and the opportunity to do this at this level is one that should be embraced.  Both Claire and I came out of Westminster with our heads and phones buzzing and incredibly excited for the next nurses who get to do this.

@WeNurses would like to thank the @HouseOfCommons Digital Outreach Team and the Health Select Committee for this wonderful offer to experience, learn and share this often unseen but vital process in providing care.

The Health Select Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department of Health and its associated bodies. To find out more information about the committee’s current inquiries please visit

Herding cats – Leading in a digital space

This week’s WeNurses discussion was led by @NHSLeadership so leadership has been very much on my mind this week. The leadership discussion brought together 207 people over the course of the hour, which was a record for a WeNurses discussion, and they produced a phenomenal 2 tweets per second! So it’s no wonder that WeNurses was trending on Thursday evening.

herding catsThis discussion really got me reflecting on my own role in leading the online nurse community that is WeNurses.  I have often said that leading this community is a little like herding cats …. You just manage to corral one in and another one wanders off.  Leading a discussion in a real space with 207 people, all of whom have something to say, would be completely impossible – yet in a digital space it works.  Each person is heard on an equal footing and manages to find their own space in the discussion and the art of leading these discussions is to allow this to happen. With people wandering here and there and finding their own place but never the less keeping them on track is a bit of a skill.

During Thursday’s discussion @Bartontd shared this video asking “Who Needs Leaders ??”

worktogether2I immediately identified with this video and likened it to the Nurse Twitterverse and the discussions we hold. It appears at first sight as if all the people are just wandering aimlessly each only with their own purpose in mind.  However what soon becomes apparent is that this is a shared purpose and each person within the room is on an equal footing and working towards the same goal – and it works! Slowly but surely they achieve their goal.  So surely this video proves that leadership is not needed after all who is leading this exercise? Well I think this proves that leadership IS needed – as the leader is the person who was talking throughout the video! This leader was thinking a little bit differently and by giving this room full of people a shared purpose, a little encouragement, some inspiration and some confidence something magical happens and the whole group are able to reach their goal.

love herdThis video helped me to see how and why herding cats on Twitter every Thursday evening works.  The #nursecommunity all have a shared purpose (often as simple as discussing a predetermined subject) each person in the room has an equal voice and with a little encouragement, inspiration and confidence something magical happens …. Nurses come together across geographical and hierarchical boundaries, each person finds their own space in the discussion and with a shared purpose in mind our goal is reached.

Many thanks to @Bartontd for sharing the video that inspired this blog.