Introduction to Social Media for Nursing Workshops

HLG Nursing Bulletin Vol 38 (1)

Marian Brown
Former Information Skills Librarian for Health and Social Care at Havering and Southwark
Havering Campus
London South Bank University
Goldcrest Way,
Harold Wood,
Twitter: @mlb303

Now working as an Academic Engagement Librarian at Roehampton University   

Erin Bloxsidge
Former Information Skills Librarian for Health and Social Care at Southwark
Southwark Campus
London South Bank University
250 Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 6NJ
Twitter: @erinbloxsidge

Now working as an Academic Achievement Librarian at Roehampton University

Keywords: Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, Nursing


This article discusses teaching pre-registration Nursing students to understand their “digital footprint” and responsible social media usage. Online privacy and professional conduct were highlighted as key concepts. Discussion of NMC social media guidance and employer guidance allowed students to understand the range of behaviours that could be in breach of professional conduct requirements. To highlight the benefits of social media for continuing professional development, students participated in a live chat on Twitter to show how social media can be used by health professionals to share best practice and connect with their wider profession. 

How it all started

In the summer of 2015 LSBU implemented the HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report). The HEAR scheme allows undergraduate students to have extra circular activities or roles recognised and recorded throughout their course. It focuses on employability skills that students can then take to a future employer to prove they have the required skills for a role.

We looked at developing a Social Media HEAR accredited set of workshops at the Southwark Campus that focused on helping students give a positive impression online and also made them aware of different avenues they could explore to learn more about their area of interest but also interact with people in their field.

Our original presentations were designed for Nursing students but have been rolled out and adapted for different subjects to teach students to be aware of their Digital presence when using Social Media Platforms. We explained how anything that they post, comment or share on a social media platform can be searched and is public, especially if they don’t have the necessary privacy settings in place.

The generic workshops were split into three sessions, the first looking at what we mean by digital footprint and demonstrating some real life examples of people being disciplined or fired from their jobs for inappropriate use of social media. This may be in the form of disclosing information that met with the disapproval of their employer or comments that affected the company’s reputation. The students were also asked to Google their name, an exercise which often brought up information about themselves that they didn’t realise was publicly available. We looked at their Facebook privacy settings and discussed additional functions that would give them more control over what photos or posts they are tagged in.

The second workshop focused on helping students set up a LinkedIn account and professional Twitter account. We stressed to students that more advanced support on using LinkedIn should be sought from the Employability Service at LSBU who specialise in career development and planning. Our primary aim was populating their LinkedIn profile with enough information to get them to All Star standard, which is achieved by adding previous work history, educational background, location, five employability skills (e.g. teamwork, leadership, or communication), a professional profile photo and a personal summary.

The third workshop looked at timesaving tips for Twitter, like creating lists and activating mobile notifications and explored the option of joining various groups or following organisations on LinkedIn. We gave students the opportunity to complete the assessment during the workshop so they could reflect on what they had learnt and we could address any questions. Our assessment involved practical activities on two different social media platforms and write a 500 word reflective piece on how they are going to use social media in the future. The tasks included following three people/organisations on Twitter, liking three posts, replying and retweeting three posts, and writing three original posts. For LinkedIn we wanted them to achieve Expert level on LinkedIn, but found that all of the attendees were able to reach All Star level. Once they had completed all of the assessment criteria, their participation in these workshops could appear on their HEAR.

What has all this got to do with Health students?

Where possible Marian, who works cross site, tries to introduce relevant Southwark workshops to the Havering Campus. However, as this campus is for Nursing students only, there is a need to adapt the workshops to be suitable to Nursing students. As a Higher Education Librarian from a non-Healthcare background, Marian sought the help of a health lecturer who suggested various people, organisations to follow on Twitter and websites such as We Communities, to read to gain a better understanding of the Healthcare sector.

Nursing students have a heavy teaching timetable and disappear for weeks and sometimes months at a time on placements, so workshop planning had to be meticulous to ensure good attendance. Early morning sessions and sessions towards the end of the day generally have poor attendance due to a large number of students with childcare commitments. And for the same reasons, students were unlikely to come in specially on their day off.

Working with the Havering lecturers Marian was given a timetable for the students’ Skills sessions where some weeks they were only required to attend for half a day. This seemed like an ideal time to put on a pilot two hour workshop.

Marian enlisted Erin to help with these workshops. The first challenge was squeezing three, two-hour workshops into one, two-hour workshop. We looked at all the materials to ascertain what was not applicable to Nursing students and thought about including a new aspect which is very popular within the health community on Twitter: Live Chat. Speaking to lecturers, we established that LinkedIn would not be relevant to pre-registration Nursing students and is more suited later on in their career, dependent on what route they chose to take. This removed most of the content from the second Southwark campus workshop. When we removed the generic disciplinary examples leaving only examples from a healthcare context, we were able to introduce the Live Chat element to these Nursing specific sessions.

Our main source of inspiration was WeCommunities, and in particular WeNurses. We directed students to read the excellent Chat Guide ( and Twitter Chat Netiquette ( before we ended the workshop by running a Live Chat with us. We asked them two simple questions using our own hashtag #SNTweetChatLSBU. The questions were: “What are the benefits of using Social Media as a Nurse?” and “What advice do you have for people wanting to stay safe when using Social Media?”

Feedback from students

What we learnt

Rather than ask our students to fill in a short survey, we wanted to give them an informal chance to practice the professional reflective writing skills they build during their time as student nurses. We asked for a 500 word reflective writing piece on what they had learnt during the workshops, and what they were going to put into practice. We asked them to reflect on their new knowledge of social media and how they could use it as professional CPPD. They had two weeks to complete this task so they could process the information they had learned on the day. Due to time constraints on these condensed sessions we were unable to set aside time for the final reflective writing piece.

Through the feedback we received both in this written piece, as well as verbal feedback in the classroom during our session, a number of themes reoccurred:

“You don’t know what you don’t know” – Our students, even ones who felt familiar with social media, commented on how surprised they were that there were basic aspects of social media they hadn’t considered before. In particular their unintended public visibility on some social media platforms like Facebook, where the default setting is to allow search engines to link to their profiles. We were also surprised to have some students attend who had no social media presence. These students wanted to build their online profile from scratch and ensure that their behaviours came across as professional and engaged. 

“Private is not as private as you think” – Our sessions focused on  understanding privacy online from an employability perspective, which meant students were thinking more about how visible their online behaviour is. They were encouraged to know that they could make informed choices about how much to share of themselves online. We focused on making sure our students understood that even though it feels scary to know how much is out there about yourself online, you do have control.  We reinforced that you can contribute and shape your digital footprint by how you interact publicly through social media. Taking these small actions can have a big impact on what employers and other professionals can see of you.

“Professional appearance for good online first impressions” – Several students commented on how they might change their usernames or emails associated with old social media accounts .This  will give a professional appearance and help shape their online presence to be in line with their career goals. They also gained more awareness around sharing profile photos online. Being selective with the photos they made available could project a positive professional image whilst maintaining privacy.  

“The world is my CPPD oyster” – The students in our workshops were generally unaware of the large international presence of nurses and health related fields on social media. Several commented in their written feedback that they were excited to connect with other student nurses across the globe to share their experiences. By introducing them to tools like Symplur and online groups like WeCommunities, we were able to show them how they could connect with health care professionals all over the world and participate in conversations they found interesting.

For students studying health related fields, social media has the potential to connect their learning and professional practice in a way that builds digital literacy skills. Using these tools improves their awareness of how information is shared in their profession, beyond the walls of university. Students are investing considerable time and money in their education. Social media provides a cost free avenue for professional development and networking with other students. Social media also offers an additional learning tool for informational professionals to expand their knowledge in the field that they are supporting. We would encourage anyone interested in using social media professionally to explore using these platforms.   

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