Love it or hate it we have all heard of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If you do use social media you will definitely have heard of and even participated in the ‘bare face selfie’ or the ‘ice bucket challenge’ successfully raising awareness of specific conditions and increasing donations for certain charities. With this in mind, our speech and language therapy team decided to create our own department Facebook page and Twitter account in order to raise awareness of the specific speech, language, communication and swallowing needs our service users encounter and how this impacts on their lives. “How hard could it be?” we naively thought.
Several hours later the job was done and, although it was slightly harder and time consuming to do than we initially thought, our reason for sharing this experience is because we could not have predicted how successful this venture has become. If you aren’t already familiar with us, we are the small(ish) adult team made up of speech and language therapists (SLTs), SLT support workers and one A&C based at DGRI and the Galloway Community hospital. So for a small(ish) department, you can understand our excitement at the fact that we currently have over 100 Facebook and twitter followers and this number continues to grow. So we’ve come up with four reasons why we believe the use of social media in professional practice can be a positive experience.
1. If we can do it then anyone can.
I have already hinted that it was initially harder than we thought but that’s because the social media skills within our team were (and still are) pretty limited. So if you’re in a similar position, then here are a few pointers as to how we went about it. Our first step was to check in with D&G NHS Communications department to make them aware of our plans and gain advice as to how best to do this in a way that would not get us sacked or struck off the HCPC register. Joke! (I think….). The next step was to sign up to Facebook and Twitter using our generic NHS email account. For Facebook, we followed their straightforward online instructions on creating a business page (we had to google it!). The admin section allows for each SLT and support worker to be involved in managing the page and posting information. This was important to us, not only because it is less time consuming than one individual being the sole person responsible, but because we all have our own particular areas of specialist interest. (It means we can post out information that is relevant in all professional areas within speech and language therapy). We then linked our Facebook page to our Twitter account meaning our Facebook posts would also be tweeted and vice versa, saving even more time than trying to manage the two accounts. Twitter is somewhat easier and anyone with an email address can create an account.
2. Raising our profile.
Our professional body, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), have been involved in creating a campaign called Giving Voice. The aim of the #GivingVoice campaign is to raise the profile of our speech and language therapy profession and in their words “demonstrate SLTs unique value and evidence of our efficiency and value for money in a time of financial constraints”. Very important stuff that every NHS department can relate to. We do this by sharing posts and retweeting from the relevant larger organisations social media sites such as the RCSLT, Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS), Alzheimer Scotland, Parkinson’s UK, British Voice Association, among the many other organisations where speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties can be a symptom of the associated medical condition they represent. But the more exciting part for us comes when trying to think up our own ideas to raise our profile.
Remember I mentioned the social media ‘ice bucket challenge’ campaign earlier? Well you have our permission to have a good laugh at this video we posted on Facebook and Twitter with the very good intention of raising awareness of our role in supporting people with communication and swallowing difficulties as symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease:
SLT Ice Bucket Challenge
Definitely think our friends from domestics enjoyed this more than us!
3. Health Promotion.
Using social media has even inspired us to get creative in our approach to health promotion. A recent project at the beginning of this year was for World Voice Day, 16 April 2014. Approximately a third of people working in the UK depend on their voice to do their work. The British Voice Association estimates that the cost of voice problems (dysphonia) to the British economy is approximately £200 million a year. Not including the impact dysphonia can have on general health through associated stress and depression from potential loss of work and social isolation. We created a social media blog and video to raise awareness of the importance of our voice for work and when and how to seek help early. We uploaded the social media video on to YouTube and shared it and the blog with DGhealth and our followers on Facebook and Twitter. Over 600 people took the time to engage in our World Voice Day social media campaign. It’s hard to think of any other more effective way to reach so many people in such a short space of time
- Social Networking
Social networking can be an innovative way to share your practice based evidence directly with the people and organisations that will be most likely to benefit from it the most. As part of NHS DG dementia champion’s project, Rebecca Kellett, our SLT #dementiachampion, created the ‘communication and mealtimes toolkit’. She has since been invited to present the toolkit at both the RCSLT and Alzheimer Scotland day and also at the European Alzheimer’s Conference. The slide below demonstrates some of the Facebook posts and @SLT_DG tweets highlighting these exciting opportunities:
But before you think this is all about blowing our own trumpet (!) – If you look more closely at the examples given, can you see the use of # and @? The use of # ensures that anyone searching twitter for information on dementia, for example, will find this tweet. The use of @ means you are directly ensuring any relevant organisations or person’s will receive this information via their twitter notifications. And if you are really lucky, as we were in this example, then hopefully these people/organisations will retweet your message. Alzheimer Scotland retweeted the link to the toolkit to their 10,000 or so followers meaning that many carers across Scotland are now aware of this practical and useful resource for the people with dementia they are caring for.
So as we are drawing closer to the end of this blog maybe you are now hopefully feeling the love for social media a bit more? And maybe even inspired to give it a go if you haven’t already? I should say at this point that we don’t have access to these social media sites through the NHS unless requested and rightly so. But this is something that we are all happy to do out with working hours because it really doesn’t take up too much of our own time. I guess this is also a good time to say, if you are thinking of giving this a go, then stay professional at ALL times. There is no denying that the use of social media is open to abuse; no one wants to know what you are having for your tea. I keep my own personal social media accounts for this more personal information (and even then people really don’t want to know what I’m having for my tea). There is guidance on the use of social media on the intranet that you can refer to if you’re not sure what acceptable use is. You don’t even have to do what we are doing and create a department account; many people within NHS Dumfries and Galloway have their own professional social media accounts. And lastly, you don’t even have to do daft things like tipping icy cold water over your head to create interest. The example below shows how one wee tweet, every now and again, can go a long way.
We tweeted a happy world voice day message to @kendonaldson, Associate Medical Director, Renal Consultant and dghealth guru, who replied and retweeted our message. This then led to Paul Gray (CEO, NHS Scotland and Director General Health and Social Care, Scottish Government (if you didn’t already know)) joining in the conversation and retweeting also. Result!
The Office of National Statistics suggests that eight out of 10 adults in the UK now use the internet on a regular basis. If you haven’t already used social media to raise your professional and service profile, then we would highly recommend it. If you have done so already, then find us, follow us, like, share and retweet us, and we will repay the compliment. We can stay stronger through technology.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpeechandLanguageTherapyadultServiceNHSDG
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/SLT_DG
- World Voice Day: ‘The Little Mermaid’ video.
|Pictured from left to right is Kim Harkness, FairyBodMother. Jade McIntyre, Fitness instructor. Laura Lennox, Speech and Language Therapist and Lynsey Swales, fitness instructor. Thanks again to FBM fitness academy and all the Fairy Bodlings who participated.|
- And, if you didn’t get the chance to read Becky Davy (SLT) World Voice Day blog first time round then here it is again:
- Please click on me for more information
Laura Lennox is a Speech and language therapist at NHS Dumfries and Galloway