Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Never Stop Asking Questions (Little Chirp's Big Day Out)

Today I had the great honour of being the Guest of Honour and giving the keynote address at two ceremonies for graduating students of the University of Bedfordshire.  I'm never one to miss an opportunity to promote the use of social media to support healthcare professionals, so Little Chirp came with me (and after all it is #TANTTT: Teach A Nurse To Tweet Tuesday).  Given the wonderful community of health professionals on Twitter, I had taken the chance to crowd-source the content for my speech.  If you read my blog from a few weeks ago, you'll be familiar with how I did this; and thank you if you participated in the conversations that contributed to this.  I've taken a little artistic license in re-wording some of the advice for the speech itself, but it all came from you.

After a very generous introduction from the University's President, here is what I said:

"Mr President, Vice Chancellor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and graduates; thank you for the kind introduction; it’s an honour to be here.  I would like to start by congratulating you all on your academic and professional achievements we are celebrating today.

It is traditional in graduation speeches to give advice from the speakers own personal experience and knowledge to help prepare you go out into the world.  I don’t know who it’s attributed to, but I’ve often heard it said that the worst kind of advice is unsolicited advice!

With that in mind I decided to take an alternative approach today.  I thought quite early on in my preparation to talk to you that you probably wouldn’t want to listen to my views on the world, as they are limited to only my personal knowledge and experience.

As a nurse I am part of a wonderful and expansive community of health and social care professionals in this country and around the world.  Anyone who knows me will be aware of my passion for engaging with new people in this community and in particular doing so through social media, such as Twitter.  So I thought; what if I could seek advice to give you from this broad community?

On a rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I asked two questions on Twitter to get some advice for you, as you start, or continue your careers in the caring professions.

I asked:

  Firstly: "What is the single most helpful or inspirational piece of advice you've ever had in your professional training or career?"

  And secondly: "If you newly graduated tomorrow, what's the one piece of advice you would want to hear?"

I had hoped to get just a few gems of inspiration that would help me write this speech, but over the subsequent two days I got over 250 individual unique pieces of advice and joined in some of the many dozens of conversations that this stimulated.  Those giving advice included students, nurses, chief nurses, chief executives, doctors, OTs, pharmacists and members of the public to name a few.  Don’t worry I’m not going to read out all 250 now! You can see all the advice given for me to share with you today in my blog, but now I’d like to share just a brief summary:

·        Walk in their shoes.
·        Care for yourself and colleagues; stay home if you are unwell.
·        There's no such thing as a 'difficult patient'.
·        Engage in clinical supervision.
·        And never stop asking questions…

·        Listen carefully; you’ve two ears and one mouth for a reason.
·        Plan your workload before you start it.
·        Holding someone’s hand can be more powerful than many words.
·        Listen to understand, not simply to formulate a reply.
·        And never stop asking questions…

Have Compassion
·        Smiling is really important, no matter how bad your day is.
·        "I am a person not a condition”.
·        Give people the gift of time, time to grieve, time to heal, time to voice concerns, time to really hear what they mean.
·        Be humble.
·        And never stop asking questions…

Be Competent
·        If it’s wet and not yours, always wear gloves!
·        If your intuition differs from the results of ‘the machine’, listen to yourself and take action.
·        You’re not expected to know everything, caring is a craft, not a skill and takes time to master.
·        Make invasive procedures as dignified, respectful and pleasant as possible.
·        And never stop asking questions… 

Have Courage
·        Be aware of your limitations and never be afraid to say “I don’t know”.
·        Be yourself, never compromise your values or your standards.
·        You are never ‘just a nurse’, be the best you can be.
·        Be the leader that you would want to follow.
·        And never stop asking questions…

Give Commitment
·        It’s a privilege to care so always do your best for those depending on you.
·        When times are difficult, remember why you started & never lose enthusiasm.
·        Have a five-year plan.
·        If you get a chance to sit down / wee / drink / eat then take it because you don't know when you may next get a chance to.
·        And never stop asking questions…
And finally, my own personal piece of advice to you?…
Yes, you’ve guessed it…

Never stop asking questions!

Friday, 14 November 2014

How to blog, for health professionals

It’s still November and therefore, it’s still #NaBloPoMo (no, nothing to do with ridiculous facial hair; National Blog Posting Month – come on, keep up) and in my last post I wrote about ‘why’ health professionals should blog.

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 write
I 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 use
If 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 online
If 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!):

(*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. Confidentiality
Maintain 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 again
Great 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. Reflection
Writing 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 T
This 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.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

#NaBloPoMo (and why health professionals should blog)

November is National Blog Posting Month (follow the #NaBloPoMo hashtag on Twitter).

Many people are familiar with the age-old adage “everyone has a book in them…”.  Whilst I doubt that’s strictly true, I like the sentiment; I do believe that everyone has their own story to tell and their insight on how they understand the world.  Through seeing things through the eyes of others, or walking in their shoes, we can benefit from the diversity of experience that this gives us.  We also can’t do everything personally ourselves and there is great benefit to learning from others’ knowledge.

During this month, you are encouraged to try to write a blog, either for the first time or to take it up again if you’ve tried before, but not written for a while.

After a little furtle around t’Internet, I found many helpful sites and posts on how to write a blog and what it should include.  There are also many great examples of blogs you should read, including this: 101 blog-posts every nurse should read.  There are plenty of resources about why blogs are helpful and why people should write them, but there aren’t many aimed specifically at health professionals describing the benefits.

Some other examples of good blogs written by and aimed at health professionals can be found on the WeNurses community blog.

What’s a blog?
It might be helpful at this point to be clear about some of the basics: the word ‘blog’ is an abbreviation of ‘web-log’, which does what it says on the tin; it’s “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style“ (Google, 2014). For a bit more of a detailed explanation, try here: What Is A Blog.

There are simple web-tools/apps to help you write and publish your blog, many of which are free, so you don’t need to spend any money ten-years training web-design to get up and running. It’s really straightforward to get started; here’s a guide to some of the ‘THE Best Places to Start a Blog’.

Why would anyone be interested in what I’ve got to say?
When I embarked on writing my first blog, I honestly thought that it would mainly be Mrs F and my Mum that would read my blog; however, in addition to these two devoted readers, I got an incredibly positive feedback and to date, my 100 words a day for 100 days blog has had almost 13,000 page views!  When I set out I intended on using this blog as a way of keeping a journal of some significant events and experiences from the first 100 days in a new job.  I was encouraged by friends to write this publicly in the form of a blog.  This obviously meant that I had to be a bit more disciplined in what I wrote for public consumption than I might be in a private reflective journal.

Pick a specific topic area that really interests you and that you will be motivated to write about.  There is a great chance that many others share this interest.  You will then get people interested to repeatedly return to read your future posts and use the tools available to allow people to sign-up to receive an e-mail update when you post new content.

What’s the benefit of health professionals blogging?
Health professionals are encouraged to get into the habit of using reflection as a tool for self-learning throughout pre-registration training and beyond into professional life.  Writing a blog is a natural extension of this, which allows, where appropriate*, for that reflection to be shared more widely and therefore for others to benefit from this learning.  Whilst guidance from the health professionals regulators', such as the NMC, on continued professional development doesn’t specifically cite blogging as a tool for reflective practise, I firmly believe it’s a helpful process for this.  The NMC’s PREP (Post-registration Education & Practice) Handbook says: “You should think about how you might like to record what you do, what you learn and how you apply it to your professional practice”.  Similarly, the HPC's guidance for registrants on Continued Professional Development states "registrants should: maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their CPD activities seek.. and ensure that their CPD has contributed to the quality of their practice and service delivery". Writing a blog is both an excellent way to learn in itself and can be used as a way to evidence learning and how it can be applied into every-day practice.

This is simply a start of the benefits in terms of how blogging can support your maintenance of your professional registration.  There are many more, including inspiration for others and peer support.

If you choose to write a blog, you never know who may read it, as you will be publishing to the world*.  Albert Einstein said “A ship is safest in the harbour, but that is not what it was built for”.  Whilst we should be considerate in what we write publicly, don’t feel too restrained by this; take some risks with what you write in order to inspire others.

There is a wonderful 365-day blog currently being written by Rachel (@nursingrahs) a student nurse about every day of her final year of pre-registration training.  Rachel writes each day about the trials and triumphs of her third year of training before qualifying as a nurse.  I have huge respect for her honesty and perseverance in writing this.  It has certainly inspired me and helped me reflect on balancing personal, professional and other elements of my life.  There are countless others who get inspiration from this and other similar blogs.
Another great example is the University of Salford Occupational Therapy Education Blog.  This contains content created through the collaboration of different people with an interest in the education of OTs.  Through the blog current issues are discussed, pages shared for those who want to know more about the profession and external links to a range of relevant and useful places to find out more about occupational therapy.  Started in 2007 it's an inspirational resource for a range of people from those with little or no knowledge of the profession trough students, health professionals and to academics. These wonderful people can be found on Twitter at @otsalforduni and also on Facebook.

Peer Support
There are fantastic communities of health professionals across the UK and around the world.  This is demonstrated perfectly through social media in many ways.  None greater than through the amazing work of Teresa Chinn and the astounding success that she’s had with the WeCommunities that she has developed and inspired, originally through @WeNurses.  These communities now include midwives, many branches of nursing, paramedics, pharmacists, hospital chaplains, commissioners and a newly emerging @WeDocs.

A great feature of blogging is the ability for people to share and comment on what you’ve written and for this to be distributed far and wide through social media.  This really broadens the experience and the support for you and others that can be achieved.  What is really wonderful is when boundaries between the digital world and the real world blur and people personally talk about blogs and what they’ve learnt from them.
You may also try writing a blog with someone else or as a group, support each other, use it to learn.
What’s more important; quality or quantity?

Whilst it’s important that what you write is easily readable, relevant and that others can connect with it; it is equally constructive to blog often as well.  A really well-crafted single blog-post on a topic relevant to the masses may be read and re-read by many.  For you to really get the benefit from the connection with others that blogging will give you, write little and often.

Blogging isn’t about publishing your thesis and nor is it just about sharing brief thoughts; there are other tools like Twitter for this!  You can write as little as 100 words, or even less, but seek feedback and listen to what others tell you with an open mind and learn from this, but also trust your instincts; you’ll get to know whether you’re writing enough or too much.

What if I need help?
November is a great month to start to write a blog, as many others will be starting out at the same time and generally, established bloggers are only too willing to offer a helping hand.  Specifically, during NaBloPoMo there’s a Twitterchat at 5pm (UK time) every weekday throughout November 2014 using the #NaBloPoMo hashtag.  There should be a lot of encouragement and advice available through that route.

Personally, I am always happy to assist in any way I can too and finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  The chances are that if you’ve got a question, there are many others also wondering, but too afraid to ask, so don’t worry about how simple or complex the question is: The only ‘stupid’ question, is the one you don’t ask!

(*please do ensure that you never include any information in any blog-post that you write that could identify any individuals without their explicit consent to do so, unless information you’re sharing is already in the public domain.  Even if this is the case, it’s still a good idea to check with/inform them first.  Also, be aware of your professional code of conduct and ensure that what you publish is aligned to this, e.g. the NMC Code or HPC Standards)