The Baseline

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In this, my first blog post on and as the founder of @WeNurses (Twitter chats for nurses) I want to share this data study with you, but please bear with me as this is rather a long post – I promise to try not to make a habit of it! If you are in a hurry though I have created an infographic of some of this data.  I have made some conclusions and recommendations but please feel free to make your own and share them via the comments box.

In order to know where we are going we need to have a starting point – in social media and nursing we really have no firm starting point because all of a sudden the #nursecommunity was there, it almost appeared out of the ether as if it had always been there, (of course it was always there we just merely transplanted it into a digital space) so I have used the birth of nursing twitter chats as a point in time by which we can measure.  I have looked at some of the social data, using a social media listening tool, pre nursing twitter chats and up to the 3rd quarter of 2012 .  By examining and comparing this data we can create a starting point from which we can develop and progress.

Nursing Social

This study set out to explore and compare the social media nursing data (specifically Twitter data) from 2011 and 2012.

The study initially searched Twitter using SM2 for the following key words that were known to be areas of nursing discussion on Twitter:

WeNurses; 6Cs; nurseuk; nurchat; nurseshift; nursingtimes; Nttwitchat; studentnursingtimes; nmcnews; thercn; rcnpublishing; LDNurseChat;

Words like nurse, nursing and nurses were avoided as they have general uses for the public and a basic Twitter search shows that these words are often associated with the advertising of job vacancies and not nursing discussion.

The search looked at the prevalence of tweets containing these key words during two time frames January – March 2011 (pre nursing twitter chats) and Aug – October 2012, the most current data.

Initially the quantity of nursing tweets were examined between the two time frames and from the graph below we can see that volume of nursing tweets has significantly increased – a 536% increase has taken place between the two time frames.

The volume of Tweets along the two time spans was then investigated.  The line graph below shows how the volume of nursing Twitter traffic clearly peaks regularly during 2012   Again this shows a dramatic increase however not only is the amount of tweets in 2012 significantly more in number but also it is focussed at the times of organised tweet chats as the majority of the peaks coincide with Twitter Chats.

A search for the top authors of nursing related tweets, those who produce the most content and talk the most, in 2011 revealed that The Nursing Times had the largest share of the voice, with almost no other volume from anybody else:

In comparison the same search for 2012 not only shows that WeNurses have the largest share of the voice but also that others are now creating Twitter content:

If the two graphs above are examined more closely it becomes apparent that the number of tweets have also increased significantly – in 2011 the Nursing Times reaches 438 to be the largest voice whereas in 2012 WeNurses reaches 1942 to be the loudest voice.

We are also able to see who is being talked about the most and again there are differences between 2011 and 2012:

In 2011 (above) it is clear to see that most of the nursing community’s  discussion is focussed around the Nursing Times and the RCN, however the 2012 data (below) shows that the nursing community have a broader focus:

The gender of those Tweeting nursing content in the 2012 time period was explored and this had some interesting results, shown below:

It is clear to see that the gender split is 60/40 – where as when we look at the gender split in nursing it is 89.29% female and 10.69% male (NMC Statistical Analysis of the Register 2008) Therefore the Twitter nursing demographic is not a true representation of the actual nursing demographic.

One of the most interesting and significant things that came to light as a result of this study was as a result of the following two charts.  SM2 attributes a “popularity” score to each comment it collects (0 being comments with the least social influence and 10 being the most social influence)  and it is clear to see that from the 2011 chart that the share of the nursing voice on twitter is attributed across the scale, with the comments varying almost equally from 10 (influencers in social media) to 0 (those with little or no social media following/influence):

However the 2012 data shows that this landscape has altered significantly, with those with the lowest “popularity” index rating having the largest share of the voice:

This shows that it is now the community and not the most powerful people/organisations who are conversing and adding value to each other via Twitter.


The data clearly shows that there has been a significant increase in nursing activity on Twitter since 2011 and not only has the activity increase but it has also become more focussed with Twitter chats creating periods of intense tweeting.  It is also apparent that more people are creating more tweets; from comparisons of the 2011 and 2012 data  it can be seen that those people creating the tweets has increased and that the focus of their tweets is much broader in 2012.

The gender split of the 2012 data shows that the Twitter demography is vastly different to that of the nursing population not only will future study’s will need to take this into account this should be a key goal for nursing organisations on Twitter. A true demographic representation of nurses on Twitter will allow for a greater validity of social data, crowd sourcing and will give the Twitter community a more realistic online peer group.

The peer index charts show that nursing tweets have shifted from 2011 giving a voice across the board to 2012 showing that those with the lowest peer index scores now have the largest voice.  This shows that the nursing community on Twitter is perceived as non hierarchical as those with low peer index scores able to communicate and tweet comfortably and make their voice heard, this is something that we must strive to preserve.


This nursing Twitter data allows some insight into how things have changed over the last 6 months and creates a baseline to work with. From this baseline it can be seen that:

  • nursing on Twitter is growing at an exponential rate and that tweets are no long central to one or two accounts but spread across several organisations
  • the demography of tweeting nurses is not a true representation
  • the community and it is the community that has the loudest voice

Therefore it is recommended that:

  • as growth continues that the diversity of organisations central to nurse content does to in order to reflect the diversity of nursing
  • that organisations encourage more female nurses to tweet
  • that the whole community continue to listen, respond and share with each other regardless of peer index or hierarchy


16 thoughts on “The Baseline

  1. Great blog, with useful comparative data. Clearly shows the influence factors that individuals can now have, this will challenge the traditional powers to either engage or lose their influence. The spread of voices also adds to the range of opinions and perspectives, which is highly positive in the main, except when used by some on their own particular hobby horse. Wenurses have played a significant role in engaging nurses in using SoMe as a vehicle to listen, to share and to learn – well done you.
    One minor thing – I not sure the info supports the need for more female nurses to engage with SoMe. If it was just about proportions of the profession then fair enough, but that’s rather superficial – it’s about who is willing to engage, to share, to discuss, that’s not gender specific. I look forward to future blogs and of course future #wenurses chats.

  2. Thank you for your comment Derek, I totally agree with you that this data will prove very useful and act as a future comparison. I take on you point regarding the gender and agree that with you that it is about those who are willing to engage and provide value – a point I had not considered, proving that it is good to share in this way.

  3. Really interesting blog Teresa, the statistics support my view that nurses, just like many other groups in society, are increasingly embracing social media. The way in which people communicate is definitely changing and it is clear that nurses (and other healthcare professionals / organisations) need to consider seriously the implications of this in relation to collaborative working, innovation and health promotion. When I refer to collaboration, I include other healthcare colleagues and those who use healthcare services.

    On the subject of collaboration, it would be interesting to see if there are any statistics on the growth of public participation in the nurse community tweetchats? If not it might be interesting to measure this in a year from now.

  4. That’s a good point Mandy, I certainly had not considered collecting data on collaborative work … but its all available, so may take a look. Off the top of my head I would believe that there has been an increase in collaboration, which is expected as social media is such a transparent media and the #nursecommunity are such a welcoming community … will take a more in depth look though. Thank you.

  5. Great fist blog and I loke the look of the site. This is a fantastic analysis of the changing trend in nurses using Twitter and the nurse community as a whole. If ever any individual or organisation needed to see evidence of the power of social media to bring a community together, then this is a great example.

    I will certainly be sharing this with my colleagues to support my encouragement of more nurses to actively engage with nurses and others through social media.

    I was also really interested to read of the shift from mainstream media leading the way to individuals and collective groups of nurses over the time period that you studied. It will be fascinating to see if/how this trend continues in the future. It will also be interesting to see if/how mainstream media will respond to this and if they wish to sustain a high level of influence or change their model.

    I look forward to the next post, keep up the good work Teresa!

  6. Thank you David and this is exactly why I wanted to share this information and not hide it away – please share it and use it to encourage others to see the value and the impact.

    The shift from mainstream media focus to the community focus is certainly very interesting and one which we need to all try to maintain, one of the great things about this media for nurses is the non hierarchical element … it welcomes everyone and we should strive to encourage and maintain this.

  7. This is a brilliant blog and very interesting data, can I refer to it at the RCN conference “Modernising Learning Disability Nursing Working in Collaboration with Independent Sector Providers event” where me and sally are giving a presentation on Strengthening the commitment and social media ?

  8. Thank you Michelle and yes please do refer to it … and if you require any of the original graphs for presentation purposes please just email me.

  9. Hi Theresa – What a great piece of work – Well done!
    I welcome the finding that ‘the nursing community on Twitter is perceived as non hierarchical’. It looks like it will be well worth looking at the nature of leadership and followership in the contxt of social media. Twitter certainly has made some of our nursing leaders more visible and more accessible and I applaud them for embracing it as a key element of their professional communications. Nonetheless, what will be really interesting to me will be the impact of this ‘non-hierarchical’ social media on the traditional social hierarchies of the nursing community, and on delivery of high quality care to patients. Time to revisit McLuhan’s notion that ‘the medium is the message.’

  10. Hello Robert,

    Thank you very much for your comment and yes it does open up an interesting debate in regards to leadership and followership. In my experience when people have something valuable to say and share their followership goes up, simple but true … what this means in terms of leadership in this space I am not so sure as a large followership does not naturally equate to a good leadership (@number10cat is a good example – clearly not a leader but has a large followersip!) In addition to this those who are natural leaders offline may not necessarily be so in this space. It is truly fascinating because although there are clear leaders in this space the lack of hierarchy challenges the traditional use of the word “leader.”

    I agree that it is wonderful to see nurse leaders in this space and it is important that they are here but this raises some issues regarding sustaining the non hierarchical element …. currently our nurse leaders are doing an amazing job of listening and engaging no matter who they are approached by. As I outlined in my post I believe that this is something that we should work hard to maintain as an ability to engage with all regardless of hierarchy provides value for organisations, leaders and individuals.

    You are right the impact of this social structure on the community and patient care will be very interesting and in my opinion with so much information, experience and expertise being shared across boundaries the impact can only be good.

    After a trip to Wikipedia and a rapid read of McLuhan’s notion that ‘the medium is the message.’ … I am most intrigued and fascinated by it and will be exploring this more :)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Robert .. you have given lots of food for thought.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this Teresa. Data such as this provides much needed insight on a significant community in healthcare as well showing the benefit of social media ROI. Am a real fan of WeNurses, not only for my job, but because it gives a real voice to a community we’re only used to reason about in the papers and the conversations have real meaning that others can learn from. On a side note, it would be great to hear your views on the upcoming leadership programmes being launched this March for Nurses by the NHS Leadership Academy. Thanks so much again.

  12. Thank you for your kind words James and I am glad that this data provides valuable insight for you. I will certainly take a look at the leadership programmes .. is this on the NHS Leadership Academy web page ?

  13. Hi Teresa

    Fab first blog and very informative – I wonder how to change the mind set of very busy ward nurses, staff and managers that Twitter has its positive uses? Apart from spreading the word as we go. I have met a few HCP’s whose rule is at 5pm they go home and don’t want to talk about work. I have also met lots that have not got time for it. Whilst there are those that a genuinely interested but just want master classes!
    Would be interested in whether length of service, as a nurse and age of nurse is in there?

  14. Thank you very much for your comment – yes it is difficult to explain the value to nurses not in this space, but I am sure that they will eventually get curious enough to give it a go … we just have to keep talking about it.

    Yes it would be interesting to be able to look further into the demography – unfortunately there is not the capability to currently ascertain this via data tools. Having tried things like survey monkey in the past I know that the uptake is often poor … but maybe now we have a larger following of nurses it might be worth a revisit. Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts.

  15. Hi, good work. Be nice as an interactive. Would you be willing to post the datafiles so others could play with them?

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