By Jennifer Springham @jlspringham2
Joint Appointment lecturer in Mental Health and Practice Development lead, My Care Academy.
There is a drive towards blogging from experience and sharing professional perspectives online. Why is this important for academics, students or healthcare professionals? I know I wondered the same question up until last year. Since I started my lecturing post at Middlesex University and began working with the My Care Academy I discovered the value of blogging and how useful it can be for career development and learning. Read on to discover more about how blogging is useful for continued professional development (CPD) and for increasing your professional networks.
What is a blog?
You will be surprised at how many times you have read a blog without realising it. Simply put, blogs are ‘web logs’ that can come in all shapes and sizes with different areas of focus and purpose. A blog is very individual to the writer and from my experience becomes much easier to do with practice. A blog doesn’t have to consist of lots of writing it can be:
- Short and snappy which makes reading online easier
- Around a page of A4 writing or a just few paragraphs e.g. 150 to 500 words
- Or it can be a photo or video blog with little writing
Why should you blog?
Whether you are providing a viewpoint from your specialism, or a reflective piece from experience, you could write about anything professionally (within reason!). Write about things that you are passionate about or have a good insight on that you think is relevant and useful for others within your networks. For example I chose to write my first blog on something that was of interest to me, sharing how I went from a Twitter novice to a regular user: ‘Twitter as a powerful tool for healthcare professionals and students’.
Reflecting on how I felt about the prospect of blogging a year ago when @Cameron_Fiona our Digital Communication Manager ran a blogging workshop for the My Care Academy team, I remember I wasn’t initially keen. I didn’t have a great deal of confidence, I’d never blogged before. I worried about how I may come across online – who would want to read my blogs anyway? Fiona coached me and gave me some great blogging tips, and by working together on the first interview style blog I realised that it was easier than I thought. With practice, my confidence in writing blogs has developed, and I have learnt that a common sense approach is required to write balanced blog posts, ideally in an accessible and friendly tone.
Anyone who is considering blogging professionally should check the social media guidelines of their organisation and professional bodies and read blogs written by their peers for inspiration. The NMC’s guidance on the use of social media is very practical and useful, read it here. If you are writing professionally to share your knowledge and experiences with others, or to seek feedback on your work then a common sense approach is what’s needed. You’ll soon discover that social media codes all have a common theme: don’t be rude, abusive, or stupid online. Be as professional as you would be in person. It’s also very useful to have a clear idea of who you’re writing for and what’s useful for them to read and you’ll soon find the writing flows easily.
Continued Professional Development: CPD
Another reason to write a blog, particularly for Nurses, is for ‘continued professional development’. Blogging can capture your thoughts and learning which can help prepare you for writing the reflections required for your CPD activity for revalidation. The NMC revalidation guidance states:
You must have undertaken 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) relevant to your scope of practice as a nurse or midwife in the three year period since your registration was last renewed, or when you joined the register.
Of those 35 hours of CPD, at least 20 hours must have included participatory learning
So 20 hours of your 35 hours of CPD can be from participatory learning e.g. online learning via social media, online forums and blogs and reflection. Blogging can be a fun and interesting way to further your personal and professional goals. Plus it’s a great way to expand your professional network and collaborate with your peers online so you also learn from the feedback and comments you receive on your blog.
How do you find time to blog?
One thing I always say to my students is ‘little and often’. Learning can be achieved in short bursts if done regularly, and I realised I had to take my own advice when it came to blogging.
- I note my rough ideas down on my phone or tablet using Google Keep or you can use your phone notes app
- Then I cut and past these into a Dropbox Paper doc (which is an online collaboration tool for PC, Mobile and Tablets – similar to Google Docs)
This helps me write without distraction unlike writing in a Word Doc. I prefer using Dropbox Paper as the content within it is synced across all my devices, so I can edit on the go e.g. mobile phone, tablet, PC. If I get inspiration on the commute to work I can quickly capture and add to my draft blog. I even started a blog organiser index within Dropbox Paper as I’ve got different blogs at different stages. I can start a blog – leave it – reflect and add to it. Or dive into another when I get inspiration. Usually I’ll dedicate a time in my diary when I’m free to tie it all together. It helps having your thoughts and ideas together in one place that you can keep going back to.
Blog Dos and Don’ts for Healthcare Professionals & Academics
- Collect your ideas and thoughts on the go – don’t aim for perfection first time get something down in writing, edit it later
- Regularly dip in and out of your blog – write little and often – reflect and add to it
- Read blogs online for inspiration – you’ll learn lots from reading other blogs
- Do remember to write for online readers – less long academic clauses and shorter sentences required to make your blog readable on the go via mobile & tablet
- Enjoy it! Blogging gives you the chance to be more creative than writing a report or academic report or piece of research. It can also help you improve your writing style
- Plan to write it all in one setting – break the work or writing, reviewing, editing, proofing it into bite sized chunks
- Write an academic piece of work that is thousands of words – keep your writing accessible and focused on your topic
- Be clear who you are writing for. What do you want to say to who and why? Keep that in mind and your blog will get repeat reads and feedback
- Write too much, remember short and snappy will catch the reader’s attention
- Forget to proof read your blog and pass it to a friend or colleague to spot typos and check the flow of it – they’ll often have some valid and helpful points
Blog ideas, content and resources
For those who are regular bloggers, actively sharing the positive elements of blogging can raise awareness and encourage others to write their own blogs. Along my blogging journey I’ve found a variety of helpful resources and blogs, including MeFirst, the RCN and WeCommunties .
If you’ve thought about blogging and are stuck on ideas or topics to write about, here are some ideas based on some great blogs I have read:
- Write about an event you’ve attended so you share your insights with others
- Write a reflection of an experience or perhaps your career journey
- Write a book review, or about a recent mental health research paper you’ve read – share the learning and get some feedback on it for others to widen your perspective
- Write a list blog; for example what are your ten top tips for new students or Newly Qualified Nurses?
- Write a Twitter round up of a recent Twitterchat you joined in including words and pictures and reflect on what you learnt
In terms of structuring your blog, you could use a framework, or start with a question.
If you are a regular Tweeter you are effectively already micro-blogging, so almost there. Writing a blog is just a few more words!
Professor Jane Cummings (Chief Nursing Officer for England and Executive Director at NHS England) is a regular blogger and Tweeter (@JaneMCummings), who launched #70nursebloggers and #70midwifebloggers. This is an initiative aiming to inspire at least 70 nurses and 70 midwives to blog about their work, share ideas/best practice and spark debate that can help shape the NHS of the future. You can read more about it here. Another source of inspiration to read and follow online is Teresa Chinn MBE founder of WeCommunities for healthcare. She is a Nurse and social media advocate in healthcare, who is passionate about creating online nursing communities.
Starting your own blog can feel like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool. Why not dip your toe into the shallow end and write a guest blog instead? The Student Nurse project website is a great example of an online community which helps encourage student nurses to blog under one umbrella website, promoting true collaboration. It’s ‘Information for student and newly qualified nurses’ provides relevant reading for anyone lecturing in nursing, running a preceptorship program or considering a career in nursing. You can visit The Student Nurse Project guest blog page here.
At My Care Academy we regularly feature guest bloggers who have an interesting story on practice or research around these themes:
- Mental health
- Physical health
We’re always interested in research launches, publications, events and news from our partners and co-production partners. So do write us some short blogs to publish. Or if you’re short on writing time but are able to take part in a phone or video interview for a blog then you can also get in touch with us via our Twitter page @mycareacademy, our ‘contact us’ page here or drop us an old fashioned email to mycareacademy(at sign)mdx(dot)ac(dot)uk
Has this inspired you to write a short blog or are you still on the blogger fence – what’s holding you back? Or do you blog in your personal life but have never considered it professionally? If you already blog and have been inspired by some key bloggers let us know in the comments. Share them below!
Further reading: Useful blogs, tips and guidelines