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How Nurses Build Community Online

[Jas' note: I'm incredibly appreciative to have Erica Moss guest blogging today on a topic that is really piquing my interested lately: Healthcare and social media.]

Of the many things you’re tasked with in the role of community manager, identifying who your target audience is and where they’re spending their time online are two of the most important. And if you’re good at what you do, you spend a whole lot of time listening in the beginning stages, combing the space for influencers, cues about etiquette and important topics that eventually bubble to the surface.

Health care is a particularly fascinating vertical, comprised of individuals who care deeply about what they do and strive to make an impact in their own communities and beyond. Nurses, specifically, are advocates for their profession and appreciate honest, thoughtful dialogue.

And while many nurses and other health care professionals grapple with demanding schedules and the never-ending challenge of work-life balance, they do also use social media to commiserate with, learn from and challenge members of their peer group.

A few examples:

Facebook
With its recent announcement that it hit the one billion users mark, it’s no surprise that Facebook serves as a meeting place for nurses. Some of the more popular pages include the American Nurses Association, Nursing Notes by Johnson & Johnson, Nurse Together and the American Journal of Nursing. Here you’ll find vocal communities of nurses sharing opinions on health care reform, talking about issues like nurse bullying, webinar information and much more. Thought-provoking questions and photos typically elicit the most likes and comments.

Blogs
While being mindful of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is an ever-present concern for health care professionals who blog, there is certainly a healthy, thriving community of nurse bloggers who share their experiences with the world. Best known as The Nerdy Nurse, Brittney, a clinical informatics specialist from Georgia, uses her blog to talk about things that are happening in her personal life, share her enthusiasm for the latest technologies, and of course, best practices and observations from her life as a nurse. Nurse Keith has a passion for coaching nurses and helping them achieve work-life balance, and his blog, Digital Doorway, is a great resource for avoiding burnout and other best practices.

These are just two of numerous examples of thought leaders in this space who use blogging to connect with like-minded individuals. Many also have Facebook pages that accompany their sites in order to further nurture engagement within their networks.

#RNchat
Scheduled to take place every Thursday around 9:15 p.m. EST, this Twitter chat is a watercooler for relevant topics and concerns related to nursing. Started by Phil Baumann, it’s billed as the first of its kind for nurses. Those who can’t participate in the live chat are encouraged to follow the hashtag on Twitter. And now, of course, additional niche chats have popped up, such as #APRNchat, #IVchat, #ITnurse and many more. Outside of the chat, if you want a starter list of nurses to follow, check out this top 10 from Nursing License Map, a state-by-state guide to nursing licensure.

Forums
Forum sites like allnurses.com and even Reddit are also gathering spots for nurses seeking advice on career next steps, those trying to compare schools or simply to share a funny nurse-related meme. Fellow nurses chime in with their experiences, or point users toward an outside resource that might be of some assistance. There’s a greater sense of camaraderie in this type of setting, as users typically have to register to participate and a certain level of trust is assigned to a community that, presumably, consists solely of your peers.

For a comprehensive nurse’s guide to the use of social media, check out this white paper from the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing.

I’d certainly love to hear from fellow community managers and social media pros in this particular vertical. Have you had the same experiences? What’s missing from this list?

This post is written by Erica Moss, who is the community manager for the online graduate nursing programs at Georgetown University, offering one of the nation’s leading nurse educator programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.

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