When discussing this post on Twitter, someone asked me if I would write a ‘how’ to blog post for health professionals. I can’t for the life of me remember who asked me this, so if it was you, thanks for the inspiration J.
There’s a plethora of advice and guidance already on how to write a blog, so I won’t recreate it, but will throughout this post link to some helpful resources that will hopefully get you up and blogging.
How to writeI really like how short and simple this guide for 'Dummies' is for general advice, so I won’t repeat it.
This blog-post on how to write a blog is also a brilliant resource aimed at novice bloggers or existing bloggers who want to develop their style. It’s written by a nurse, so she’s been there before you as a blogging health professional too.
Both of these resources will help you think about your style, content, size and frequency of blogging amongst other things.
What tools/sites/apps to useIf you want to create a new blog, you will need something/somewhere to ‘publish’ your wonderful work. This can be done using a wide range of different tools, which come mainly in the form of websites or Apps for mobile devices. There are many out there, some free and some that you can pay for. If you’re starting out, my recommendation is to use the free ones. I don’t pay for the tools or hosting for this blog. The only financial cost to me is a couple of quid per year to own the www.foord.me.uk domain, which I use simply to as a redirection address to get people to this blog.
This Top Ten Review shows in list form the functionality of each of the ten highest-rated blogging tools available at the moment. Many of these have both websites and Apps.
If you’re after a more narrative description of your options for what to use to create and publish your writing; this review of the 15 best blogging services may be more helpful to you.
If you intend on using your mobile device to blog, this guide is a very good review of the best Android apps. For most, if not all, the apps reviewed, there’s likely to be a version for iPhone/iPad, and other operating systems too.
Being a health profession onlineIf you are a registered health professional with a regulatory body, what you do in public online needs the same consideration as to what you do off-line in the real world in terms of observing your professional code of conduct. Therefore, it’s well worth being familiar with how your professional ‘code’ applies online as well as off-line.
Some health professional regulators have produced specific guidance on social media, such as the following (if your health professional regulator isn’t listed below, it’s not because they don’t have guidance, I just couldn’t easily find it!):
- Nursing & Midwifery Council
- General Medical Council
- Health & Care Professions Council
- Royal Pharmaceutical Society*
- General Dental Council
(*I know they aren’t the pharmacist’s regulator, but I couldn’t find any guidance from GPhC)
Finally my six blogging tips for health professionals
1. ConfidentialityMaintain patient and colleague confidentiality whenever posting a blog. It’s probably a good idea to check with family members too when mentioning them. Even if you don’t mention someone by name or use other identifiable information, remember that your narrative about the events you’re describing could still identify an individual or team. If you have their permission to do this that’s fine, but still proceed with caution. If in doubt, seek advice.
2. You can take the nurse out of the ward…Remember, not everyone who reads your blog will be able cope with reading your graphic description of how the pressure ulcer looked/smelled whilst they eat their corn-flakes. It is perfectly OK to give graphic descriptions (within the boundaries of Tip 1 above), but it may be helpful to give a warning up-front so your readers can choose an appropriate time for when they read it.
3. Share, share and share againGreat content is worth sharing. You’ve written your masterpiece but no-one’s reading it! Once you’ve published your blog share the link to it across social media in tweets and on The Facebook for example, as well as telling people in real life too. If you do start to write a blog after reading this post, please let me know and I will share what you’ve written. If you think there are people you’ve engaged with through social media who you think would be particularly interested then contact them to tell them about your post and they will most likely share it. There are many websites and organisations who are looking for guest bloggers, so do search them out too, like the ‘WeBlog’ on @WeNurses WeCommunities site. If you feel comfortable letting your employer know about your blog (remember it’s public, so they probably know anyway) they may be keen to post one or more of your posts on their website or Intranet. If you don’t find your post being shared, this doesn’t mean it isn’t any good, it may just mean you’re not sharing it in the right circles. It is entirely possible that what you’ve written is only of interest to a very small niche audience, which is absolutely fine. If you’ve any concerns that what you’ve written isn’t any good, see tip ‘4’ below…
4. Seek feedback and continue the conversation“We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve” Bill Gates once said. This is so important. We aren’t all budding Charles Dickens, so if you do start to write a blog, listen to your readers’ feedback with the aim of learning and improving your blog. When I shared my previous blog-post, I had some fantastic feedback from @ShelaghAHP which led me to update my blog to make it more broadly accessible to a wider group health professionals than just nurses who I’d originally written for. I’ve had further feedback since then about how this has improved the post. This goes to show that being open to and responding to feedback can improve what you write and how it’s received by others. Most blogging sites/tools have the facility for people to post ‘comments’ about your blog-post. Don’t be afraid of this, welcome it, as it not only allows people to post feedback, it also allows what you’ve written to start a conversation that others can continue.
5. ReflectionWriting is an excellent ways to reflect on what is frequently a stressful, but rewarding, profession. In fact our professional training teaches us to use reflection as a tool for learning; and keeping a blog is a great way to keep a reflective journal. Once you’ve published a blog-post, you can edit and change things, but once it’s been made public, it’s public; therefore, I would highly recommend after you’ve finished writing, go and do something different for a short period, have a cup of tea, then come back to it; give it a thorough proof-read, check you’re still happy saying what you’ve written, and only then publish and share (see Tip 3 above).
6. Before you blog T H I N K F I R S TThis mnemonic which was originally written for Twitter will also help you think about your writing for a blog. Don't feel intimidated by this, you don't have to achieve everything in there all the time, but it's helpful in considering what you're sharing with the world:
Good luck and please to let me know how you get on.