The We Get Together occurred in Salford University on 29 February 2016. Attendees included a very diverse group of nurses, educators, patient representatives and students. The intention was to give participants, most of whom knew each other through Twitter and @WeCommunities, a chance to meet ‘in person’ and to share ideas and connect with other people interested in healthcare and the place of technology in learning and connecting.
Social media has really changed the isolation some professionals feel when they are engaged in their working lives. Teresa Chinn, a WeNurses founder member worked in agency nursing when she reached out through Twitter to connect with other nurses. Nursing is a profession based on communication and discussion with peers remains one of the best ways to make sense of the complex and demanding work. If we work in temporary positions or autonomous clinical roles we can be isolated from connections that help reduce stress, support ongoing professional development and provide some needed perspective including through humour.
A further advantage is in the way social media can help inform and develop us. New experiences, new tasks and new challenges can all be shared and discussed (using NMC guidance). In the past two years my own role has changed from clinician to nurse educator. I have moved from a profession in which I have experience and some expertise into a new exciting challenging role. What better way to explore this than through social media. Students, lecturers and professors are available on Twitter. The #WGT16 in Salford gave me an opportunity to meet some of those people and share ideas and enthusiasm. Amongst others at my table sat a neuro-specialist physiotherapist from Belfast, a Manchester health visitor, an American Health IT expert, two school nurses, a learning disability nurse and a district nurse educator.
Some conferences I have attended feel intimidating but the very fact that we had social media connections in common helped to allow us to move rapidly from social courtesies into what our roles involved, what the challenges were and how social media can be used to genuinely connect. The friendly atmosphere meant that the pair and group-work became rapidly productive. Enhanced communication involved guided active facilitation by the #WeGetTogether team. Over the course of the day I realised that we were not really talking about the technology (as I had expected) but about genuine human communication which might be facilitated using social media. In particular the talk centred on helping some groups with difficulty being heard, for example those with mental health difficulties, with learning disability or who are isolated by illness or caring roles. Social media can be used to recognise and encourage their messages to be listened to and accepted. I would strongly recommend reading the transcript of @Markoneinfour as an example of this.
Being part of Twitter conversation has helped me really connect and I have received some great resources through SoMe that I may never have found in a timely way by browsing the internet. Social media is dependent on us learning how to best use it, in this way technology is a just a tool. We need to be taught the proper use of tools and when we develop skilful use the end product is much more satisfactory, a means to genuinely improved communication skills and multidisciplinary connections.