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Is it a good idea to use social networking sites as staff development resources, and how do I make sure I am using them properly?

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Many people all over the world, including healthcare providers, are using various social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn®, Twitter™, etc. They can provide a perfect opportunity for staff development educators to take advantage of the technology and use it as a teaching/learning tool. In fact, an increasing number will argue that social networking sites are where they are getting their professional information, as they are connected to vast resources of experts worldwide.

If you are not using any of this technology yet, start slow and get used to using it. Set up a Facebook page and see for yourself what it really entails. Understand the proper use of posting information and maintaining your privacy as well as others’ privacy.

One way to learn Twitter is to send out a tweet to a group of learners scheduled for an upcoming class. So, say you have 15 people signed up for an ACLS renewal class in two weeks. Propose to them that you would like to use Twitter to remind them of the upcoming class and request that they follow you on Twitter. Then, actually send out reminder tweets to them one week, four days, and one day before the class. Once you get comfortable with that, you can tweet fast facts via Twitter. You can tweet a fast-fact reminder about the correct CPR check compressions to breaths ratio. Once you get comfortable with that, you can tweet an ACLS scenario at strategic time intervals that a patient arrives with chest pain, what his labs are, etc.

Professional nursing associations have identified that nurses should also be aware of social networking, and be judicious about how they portray themselves via these sites. In 2010, the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates passed a reference proposal entitled “Social Networking and the Nurse,” which calls on nurses to understand social networking technology in the frame of reference of the ANA Code of Ethics, the Social Policy Statement, and the Scope of Standards. By being aware of social networking and using it appropriately, staff development educators can maintain the pulse of what is going on with those who are wired into an online environment.

Sometimes in a staff development environment, all that is needed is a quick and easy inservice. These technologies can work well for this, particularly if the learners engage each other and learn from each other. That is really the bottom line of all social networking technologies—to connect and share.

Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

(October 2010)