The use of social media in health and social care

Guest posts

Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Category: Nursing and midwifery

22 September 2014

Leslie Gelling is a Reader in Nursing in the Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education. Here, he gives his views on the hot topic of social media.

For many people the use of social media has become an important part of the way we live our lives.  The likes of Twitter and Facebook have added to the ways we are able to communicate with friends and how we share what we are doing with those with similar interests.

Whether you are one of the 7.07million people following Stephen Fry on Twitter or just want to stay in contact with old school friends through Facebook, social media allows us to stay up-to-date with what people are doing and allows us to let others know what exciting events are happening in our own lives. But how many of us use social media as effectively as we might to support our studies or in our working lives? I suspect we could all do more.

As a Reader in Nursing in the Faculty of Health, Social Care &  Education at Anglia Ruskin University, I have developed a particular interest in using social media to support my research, teaching and other academic activities. I currently use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and ResearchGate but for the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on how I have used Twitter.

Twitter was launched in 2006 and allows users to send and read messages containing a maximum of 140 characters. It soon grew in popularity and, according to Twitter’s own statistics, there are currently 255 million active users worldwide and 500 million Tweets are posted each day. So Twitter has a huge reach but how and why do I use Twitter? Here are just four ways.

First, Twitter allows me to share what I am doing with others. Research is often about creating networks and partnerships that share an interest in a particular health care topic or academic discipline. Twitter has enabled me to make contact with researchers who share my research interests and is often, but not always, uninhibited by national boundaries.

Second, Twitter can help me to stay up-to-date with what other researchers are doing and with what opinion leaders in health and social have to say about current key issues.

Third, Twitter has also added a new dimension to conferences and allows many more people to engage with those presenting at conferences. For example, Twitter has become an integral part of the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual International Nursing Research Conference. During the 2014 Conference in Glasgow, many more delegates were able to share ideas about the research being presented than would normally be possible through traditional post-presentation question and answer sessions.

Fourth, and a more recent development, is the Twitter Chat. These thematic chats have grown in popularity and allow all Twitter users to share their ideas, concerns and suggestions on the topic of the chat. In July 2014 the Faculty hosted a @WeNurses chat on the topic of compassion and whether compassion can be taught. During that one-hour chat more than 1,700 tweets were posted or approximately one tweet every two seconds. Many issues were raised, discussed and even challenged in what was a fascinating debate.

If you haven’t tried Twitter, the following are ten of the tweeters you might find interesting.

  1. @WeNurses (20,100 followers) – a fast-growing community of nurses that facilitates regular Twitter chats and shares many other resources. You will soon be joining Chats and ordering your WeNurse’s mug.
  2. @RoyLilley (20,600) – Roy Lilley is a health writer and commentator who offers interesting and sometimes controversial insights into topical health issues.
  3. @FHEMS_ARU (398, but growing quickly) – the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education’s own Twitter feed providing news and updates from within the Faculty.
  4. @NRjournalRCN (872) – Twitter feed from ‘Nurse Researcher’; a research methodology journal for nurses and others interested in research.  Many students new to research find this journal very useful.
  5. @JClinNursing (3,669) and @JAdvNursing (6,693) – Twitter feeds from the ‘Journal of Clinical Nursing’ and the ‘Journal of Advanced Nursing’, which are two of the most highly regarded journal’s in nursing.
  6. @DebbieHolley (805) – Debbie is a Reader in Education in the Faculty with a particular interest in the use of technology in teaching and learning.
  7. @theRCN (37,900) and @RCNstudents (3,439) – Twitter feeds from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and RCN students.
  8. @DebraEJackson (2,667) – Professor of Nursing at the University of Technology Sydney and Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Journal of Clinical Nursing’.  Debbie provides an interesting insight into what is happening in health and social care in Australia.
  9. @AngliaRuskin (13,900) – the Twitter feed from Anglia Ruskin University, which keeps followers up-to-date with what is happening at our University.
  10. @Leslie_Gelling (4,277) – it would be odd if I didn’t recommend that you follow my own Twitter feed.

It can take a little time to learn how to make the most of Twitter, and other forms of social networking, but it is quick and easy to create a Twitter account and start tweeting. Care should be taken to avoid causing offence when tweeting, but this social networking tool can be extremely useful for students and academics in heath and social care. Why not give it a go?


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.