Why Social Care needs Social Media

… And Why Social Media needs Social Care

This week, I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of events as a part of Social Media Week London. Ideally, I’d like to have attended more but combining evening activities with a full time job can be difficult to pace at the best of times.

The two events I went to, one about Blogging specifically and the other about use of Social Media by Nurses and Midwives were very different.

One took place in the downstairs room of a pub. The other in a flash office in central London. I’ll leave you to guess which was which.

Both had an underlying theme though – and that was the positive value of conversation and interaction that is entered into when media becomes social media.

It left me thinking about what needs to change both in Social Care (and more specifically, Social Work) to enable the positives to be accentuated while both practitioners and users of these services remain safe and within professional boundaries.

I considered the three networks than can improve work practice. How I use them and how they can be used.

Professional to Professional

We can build networks of conversation across social work and social care which can enhance knowledge and professional practice. Some examples of this might be both Twitter Chats (#swscmedia #sm4sw #nurchat) but also networks built based on forums such as Community Care’s CareSpace, KnowledgeHub and their specific interest groups relating to Social Care (I’m in a few Mental Health and Safeguarding Adult Groups) and the GSCC forum which is locked to those registered to the GSCC. There are also LinkedIn networks such as the Advanced Social Work Practitioners Network and Groups on Facebook such as the Masked AMHP page.

These have and can be immense sources for support and information. I believe they can also, particularly useful in a profession like social work which has been poorly served by ‘leaders’ who may seem sometimes more focussed on self-aggrandisement than professional representation they can firm up a professional identity and sense of ‘belonging’.

There is also a much freer flow of information between university academics and researchers and front line practitioners which has allowed me access and information about the most current research which has significantly fed into my practice knowledge and understanding.

Within these criteria these spaces are usually inhabited by those who are aware of professional codes of ethics.

In the absence of such specifics, it is obvious that even behind a closed network, no confidential information should ever be shared and that bullying of other users is just as unethical as it would be in ‘real life’. Hiding behind an anonymous user name does not excuse poor conduct. I’ve seen all these ‘precepts’ being broken by people professing to be ‘professionals’ online.

Professional to User and Vice Versa

I’m being a bit lazy with use of the distinction between ‘professional’ and ‘user’. Not least because it is entirely possible to be both. However the context in which I am referring to this here is where a personal self-identifies as someone within a particular profession and someone (not necessarily known to them) may seek them out for guidance on the basis of that professional role.

It might be a general call out for information on aspects of the Mental Health Act (1983 as amended 2007). I know I’ve responded to those kinds of requests on Twitter.

However in the absence of specific social media guidelines from the GSCC, I refer to those used by the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) about not using social media or social networking sites to build or pursue relationships with people for whose care you are responsible or were ever responsible.

Though social media can be used to share information and we shouldn’t be afraid to signpost information. One of my sadnesses (and joys) was to hear about nurses talk about positive use of social media to inform and share factual information to people who might find it more accessible.

Some twitter chats and fora again open up to users and professionals in different ways but if they do and if they are intended to, I think it’s important that they are accessible and open to users by remaining jargon free and informative rather than building further divides in both knowledge and power between those who work in social care and health and those who need those services.

Multi-Disciplinary Forums

This was one area I’d have liked to discuss in more length at the Nursing and Midwifery Council event because for me, it’s been one of my sharpest learning curves in social media and my own professional development.

Too often we hear about ‘health’ ‘social care’ being divided and these social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Blog platforms, Forums, LinkedIn and I could go on, allow me to build links with those in health, and policing, and law and communications and for us all (I hope) to grow more knowledgeable and understanding as a result.

I’ve personally benefited immensely from the Twitter Chats at #nhssm and ‘#lgovsm as well as #polmh from Mental Health Cop. I have found in my professional life that silos are best broken by personal relationships which are made and formed and being able to see these ‘other professionals’ as people before representatives of ‘Nursing’ or ‘Occupational Therapy’ or ‘Social Work’ or ‘Ambulance Staff’ or ‘Academics’.

This is a real way that social media can benefit understanding in the delivery of better care for those who use and need our services and that has to be the outcome that we are all looking for.

And of course, my own witterings at Not So Big Society involve a collaborative element between social workers and nurses!

The Future

There’s a well known saying that the past is another country but then, so is the future. I think the future is very exciting. I’d love to see the College of Social Work establish some guidelines for professionals in the use of social networking in similar lines to the NMC.

I know that we should be able to extrapolate out these guidelines from the current Code of Practice but I feel that more guidance is needed to protect social workers and social work students as well as users of social work services – for clarity and to ensure and promote safe practice.

In the meantime, I’ve said it before and will again, pseudonym or not, be sensible. If you identify yourself as a professional, behave like you. Blog, Tweet, Link as if your name was attached. If you are not happy with that, think about what you are posting/writing before you press send.

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10 responses to “Why Social Care needs Social Media

  1. victorianaomi

    Loved your post and reminded me how jealous I was at not being able to attend the events you mentioned – seems like there is a real buzz going on at the moment. I was particuarly interested in your point about collaboration between people providing and participating in care and the need for accessibility and openness. I haven’t yet seen a lot of this happening openly online and I wonder if it reflects uncertainty from health professionals. I hope that social media provides a platform to decrease the divide of knowledge and power but I also wonder if it may just get replicated. For example, some research suggests that health professionals hold equally stigmatising veiws to people using mental health services as the general public, which includes a desire for social distance. Will this desire for social distance be replicated online or shifted? I’m really looking forward to the debates developing.

  2. RichardatKF

    Great post. Integration of health & social care is a top issue in the policy world at the moment. As we know the barriers are often cultural rather than structural yet most frontline professionals of whatever discipline want to put the patient/first. I’m sure social media has massive potential to create natural synergies between professionals (that can’t be forced managerially). I’d be v interested to hear of practical examples where people have tried this. Thank you for a thought provoking post.

  3. Great post! I have to say I agree with everything you’ve said – I think!! It looks like the comments are shaping up to be very interesting as well. I’m particularly interested in Victoria’s comment. I think it leads on to discussions about what it might mean to be a professional in the 21st century. What is the function on professional ‘distance’? Does it professional or client/service user/patient or both or neither? And what of stigma? There are very powerful conversations to be had I think… But they’re more likely to happen in blogs like this than in 140chts. Blogging has been around for years. It is not ‘dead’ – its probably just going mainstream!

  4. Hi Ermintrude. Thanks for mentioning The Masked AMHP Facebook group. There are other (mainly closed) forums — the MCA/MHA Yahoo Group run by Dave Sheppard is one that springs to mind. What I like about the way The Masked AMHP group is developing is that AMHP’s, trainee AMHP’s, nursing and social work students and service users are all members. I think it provides an interesting forum for both professionals and service users to communicate and hopefully understand each other better.
    Keep up with the blogging, Ermintrude!

  5. ermintrude2

    Thanks all for your comments

    Victorianaomi – Thanks for your kind words. I think there’s a great point about balancing some of the power differential which will always be there – perhaps these kinds of digital spaces will break down some of the barriers of knowledge and accessibility. We can hope.

    RichardatKF – Again, I agree. I have personally seen the benefits from joining and talking to health professionals and giving a ‘social care’ viewpoint. I think integration starts on a personal level.

    Anne Marie – I’m a great fan of blogging – and I do think that we need to move beyond twitter sometimes. I actually think Google+ may potentially be a useful platform for longer form threaded discussions but noone else is there!

    Masked AMHP – thanks for dropping by – love love your blog! You’re right about finding new forums and I will drop into the facebook group – i just get a bit scared about being wrong!

  6. There’s a lot going on in Monmouthshire Victorianaomi. We’ve opened up our systems and successfully use our intranet and Yammer internally to communicate updates, opportunities, feedback etc…
    Externally were not afraid to use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and You-tube to engage and connect with our customers. Yes social media in social care is alive and well in our beautiful county and we love it. Our CEO supports it, and our policy guides us to use it safely and responsibly. We are trusted to provide great services, and this helps us to do it a little bit better. Of course it’s not the answer to all our prayers, it is though another tool in our engagement kit!

    • Hi Cheryl. Sounds like good things are happening in Monmouthshire! Here in Leeds we are using Facebook and Twitter etc. but we are still working on our internal communications and would be very interested to hear about how Yammer is working for your. My email is victoria.betton@nhs.net if you have any information you can share. thank you! Victoria

  7. Top post, not least for the mention!! 😉

    This is bang on for all the reasons you state and the network of professionals that are building up on socialmedia who are like-minded enough to see outside their own professional boundaries is making it clear that many inter-agency issues are there surely for a matter of system and attitude. Things are perfectly possible. Probably easier and cheaper in the long run, too.

  8. Gee Ranasinha, KEXINO

    Firstly, I’d like to thank you for using our image to illustrate your blog post.

    However, you should be made aware that our image usage terms state that attribution include a live “dofollow” backlink to http://kexino.com and not to the Flickr page, as you have it at the moment.

    The usage terms are outlined on the image’s Flickr page – see http://www.flickr.com/photos/kexino/6336663225/in/photostream

    Thanks in advance for modifying the attribution.

    Best Regards,

    Gee Ranasinha, 
    CEO, KEXINO

    • Thanks and apologies. I’ve removed the image as clearly I misunderstood as needing to attribute and link back but will be more careful in the future !

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