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Embracing social networks and enabling change

The Nursing in Practice team pride themselves in being both proactive and responsive to trends that support nurses in their professional role and confidence.

Now we think we have identified a need in our readership and for those who attend NiP Events - nurses need greater confidence in accessing and using social networking websites.

I'm the first to admit I need more encouragement, but I am far from being alone. Taking a straw poll of around 500 of the delegates who attended a recent NiP Event in Glasgow, a show of hands indicated around 40% of nurses accessed Facebook. When asked if they could sign in to the NiP Glasgow Facebook page and 'check in' at the NiP Glasgow Event, only about 15% indicated they knew how to do it - fewer were successful.

A handful of novices learnt how to from willing and enthusiastic social network fans.

Yet the social network seed was sown in me. The concept of delegates on Facebook sharing live news of the free NiP Glasgow conference or tweeting on Twitter about the choice of sessions and the quality of speakers became a reality.

Ten years ago we were asking delegates to turn off their phones, not use them to send real-time information from politicians and clinical leaders. The ability of social networks to spread news quickly, efficiently, widely and indiscriminately is staggering.

There may have only been a few tech-savvy nurses there but they were enthusiasts for social networks, and it drew others in. If this catches on, NiP Events will get greater coverage and attendance, advocated by the best judges - the nurses themselves. News and information can be sent on quickly and questions for speakers can be forwarded through attendees.

Tweet us at @NurseinPractice and see what I mean - share news and views with others, ask questions, get answers and much more. 

Every credible organisation, from the BBC to the local bakery, uses social networking sites. They invite you to post a message to their Twitter account or indicate if you 'like' them, their message and their product.

Almost 26 million people over 18 in the UK are on Facebook; 77,580 of these were recorded as a nurse, midwife or health visitor in March 2011.

The NMC estimates there are 355,000 registered nurses and midwives on Facebook. Are you one? The average Facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. That's a big network.

Not surprisingly, my Glasgow straw poll on social networking sites indicated that the most confident users were generally not the mature nurse with retirement beckoning within the next 15 years.

This reflects an Office of National Statistics 2010 survey that found the greatest users were between ages 16-24, with 75% posting messages and 50% uploading a profile of themselves.

In my rough and ready survey, older nurses were not confident about using a social network site, a number were suspicious of them and some were on one because their children were doing a gap year and it was good to keep in touch: admitting that once the children were back, they never used the site again.

Most of those questioned had been introduced to social networking by their children. Do you recognise yourself here?

The more mature of the nursing workforce are working in the community, with little chance to access the internet in a working day - yet we probably know the biochemical normal values and don't need an 'app'. We are slower to embrace the opportunities of social networking sites, seeing the potential for harm outweighing that of good.

Even the NMC outlines more problems and risks than it celebrates social networking opportunities. There is an increase in cases coming before the NMC fitness to practice panels, and professional guidance has been developed.

The social networking seed will continue to grow - and will blossom. More nurses need to understand what it is and how to use it - and NiP will be publishing an easy guide to get readers started. Nurses can embrace social networking  safely and be in control. The NMC information on social networking sites is essential reading.

Tweet NiP your thoughts. Spread the good news to your Facebook friends. Watch this space as patients and professionals take social networking to another level.