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Social Media and Nursing Education: An Interview with
Terri Schmitt Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC

by Amy McNeal

Terri Schmitt Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC is an Instructor for the nursing program at Southwest Baptist University in Springfield, Missouri. She's also an expert in the use of social media in nursing education. I spoke with Terri recently about using social media to further one’s nursing education, the best social media tools for nurses and her upcoming projects. You can find Terri on Twitter @onlinenursing or visit her blog “Nurse Story”.

How is social media useful to you as an educator?

Social media is a democratic communication platform where students, educators, and working health care professionals can connect, share ideas, explore and learn written communication, and have a voice. Social media is the platform by which students can connect and collaborate with other nurses with whom they would have previously never been able to communicate.

Do you encourage social media use among your students?

It is a requirement of the nursing informatics course in our RN-BSN program. In that course students are required to create a twitter account and use it, attending a chat, gaining followers, and learning the 'lingo' of twitter. Students are also required to create and keep a blog. Both requirements are designed to help students understand why people use social media, learn the ethics of social media communication, become more savvy at writing to an audience, network with nurses globally, and create a platform for encouraging continued writing and connection.

What benefits do you think your students gain from using social media as a learning tool?

The students benefit from social media use through being able to network with other nurses globally, learn ideas, expand nursing knowledge, collaborate on assignments, and learn 'netiquette'.

What are the benefits to the larger nursing community from encouraging more social media use?

Nurses are very busy and when they work in acute care they have little time to utilize social media. Further, many of them are banned from it by their employers at work and are heavily discouraged from use even in their personal lives. I find this understandable but disheartening.

Social media can become a time consuming technology, so I advise my students to pick only one or two platforms to utilize at a time and see what benefits there are not only for patients but for themselves. Moderation is key. As for nursing as a profession, social media allows us several important advantages. Social media allows us to connect with nurses globally and discuss relevant nursing issues, collaboration on projects and exploring solutions, and it gives us voice within health care. Until very recent years nurses were little valued in health care discussions. Social media creates a communication platform where nurses can speak up clearly for their patients and themselves.

What social media tools do you find the most useful, and why?

I am personally a fan of Twitter, because I love attending chats like those with #RNChat organized and facilitated by Phil Baumann or #IVChat which is organized and facilitated by Cora Vizcarra. Twitter users, or 'tweeps', also supply endless amounts of material to read and ponder, particularly from other health care professionals. Lippencott's @nursingcenter twitter account is full of relevant topics and articles.

I also blog some and encourage my students to do so; often their work from courses, which is very timely and relevant to current nursing practice, gets relegated to some folder on their computer after they turn it in and never used again. Much of their work is excellent and thought provoking reading.

Facebook, Mendeley, Sigma Theta Tau International's "Circle" and others are all viable and wonderful ways to use social media. Those interested in research and applications should check out Mendeley. Rob Fraser from Nursing Ideas (http://nursingideas.ca/) is a big proponent of Mendeley and with his encouragement I am now exploring it for students. Also, I think Google+ holds much promise for students, faculty, and nurses.

What Twitter streams do you encourage nursing students to follow?

This question made me laugh out loud! Who do I not encourage them to follow is a better question. Look, anyone who is not trying to peddle merchandise or who is spam is fair game on Twitter. Many of the larger entities are good to follow, but do not really engage in 'dialog' with their followers. Twitter is about two-way conversation. Other regular working nurses and students are often wonderful tweeps to connect with.

What do you see as the future of social media in nursing education?

Right now social media use in nursing education is limited. I would love to see this grow and for more open platforms for communication of all nurses, not just those in a select organization or group, to join and participate. However, the great organizations of nursing have been the best users and encouragers of social media in nursing. Thank you to the ANA, AANP, RWJF, INQRI Sigma Theta Tau International, and others; your use of social media is time consuming and costs but it is changing communication and distribution of knowledge resources in nursing!

How can nursing students use social media most advantageously?

This is a complicated question and first requires a good informatics course and/or time spent exploring and setting personal goals. The use of social media depends on the user, the user's abilities, the user's practice area in nursing or interests, the user's goals in using social media, and the user's time.

I purposefully left out technology abilities because any of this can be learned and most social media is relatively easy to use. I find it interesting that technology abilities are one of the primary reasons that nurses cite for not using social media.

Is there anything else that you'd like to tell the readers about social media and nursing education?

Just go out and try it. Give it some time and use will grow on you. For example, Twitter doesn't really work unless you utilize a Twitter medium like Tweetdeck and are following several people. Otherwise it is a little difficult to navigate and maintain.

Do you have any upcoming books, papers, appearances, conferences, etc. that you'd like mentioned?

I will be speaking at the 41st Biennial Sigma Theta Tau International Convention in Grapevine, Texas later this month on use of social media in nursing education. I am very lucky to be able to share the stage with Dr. Carole Eldridge (@nerdnurse), Teresa Heithaus (@NurseEducator), and Rob Fraser (@NursingIdeas). I am also working on a manuscript of my recent intervention research. If anyone wants to see it for publication feel free to contact me.

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