THE ISOLATED NURSE WHO CREATED A COMMUNITY OF 60,000
Teresa felt isolated in her nursing career so took to Twitter to find nurses who felt the same. She is now the driving force behind @WeNurses, a modern day online nursing revolution with over 60,000 active followers sharing information, ideas, knowledge and support in order to improve patient care.
In healthcare circles Teresa Chinn is a social media guru, a skilled communicator, connector of people and a conversation starter, that is as long as those conversations are 140 characters or less.
Back in the 1990s Teresa worked as a nurse in a variety of different roles before becoming an agency nurse and working predominantly in elderly care. She said, “Being an agency nurse allowed me to balance my work and life commitments very well. The downside is that you don’t belong to any single team and have to seek out your own on going training. I felt quite isolated, and after a rant at my husband Nick, he suggested connecting with other nurses via Twitter.” Teresa had not yet embraced social media and at first dismissed the idea feeling reluctant to communicate with people she had never met. However after continual encouragement from her husband she decided to set up an account.
She started out anonymously as @AgencyNurse in 2010 and began tweeting about articles she’d read or new things at work. This sparked conversations quite quickly which both surprised and encouraged Teresa. She then created the @WeNurses Twitter handle to organise Twitter discussions every other Thursday. Teresa soon realised that there were lots of nurses who really wanted to discuss various topics from employment rights to new policies in healthcare. It was clear to her that social media could be a great way to engage nurses, to start discussions and help the large nursing community. She then decided to create a website for WeNurses to become an online community that could share the Twitter discussions. This started in 2012. “From early on Nick helped me out with the technical side, setting up the social accounts, building websites, integrating Twitter into the sites and making sure all the conversations were captured.”
WeNurses quickly grew, attracting healthcare professionals from all over the world with the current count on Twitter being nearly 60,000 active followers. As a result of this success lots of people started contacting Teresa asking if she could initiate discussions on specific subjects and in 2014 Teresa decided to set up WeCommunities which is a virtual space that could connect, drive and support specific tweeting communities within the medical world. WeCommunities hold discussions on chosen subjects, then all of the information from the chats are logged and stored on the site. This bank of resources is constantly growing and amassing ground breaking information, links to sites, journal articles, infographics and other important information that otherwise would be hard to get hold of. There is also a ‘Twitterversity’ which is a step-by-step guide to using Twitter on a professional level. Teresa said, “One of the most interesting discussions we had was when Plymouth University contacted me and wanted to run a discussion around sustainability in the NHS, but they wanted to include their colleagues in Spain. So initially we had half the people tweeting in English and half tweeting in Spanish. Within about 15 minutes people we knew who were English started using Google Translate to tweet in Spanish and vice versa. It was great fun as well as a great discussion.” Ideas and opinions can now be shared outside the confines of a specific hospital and experts worldwide can feed into these global conversations, improving knowledge and shaping day-to-day practice.
WeNurses are coming up to their fifth birthday and although Teresa has had lots of amazing feedback, it has been a tough journey. What drives her she said, was that feeling of being disconnected from other nurses, which she didn’t want anybody else to feel. She was also determined to succeed after various bosses told her it couldn’t be done. As well as online support, Teresa has also had recognition from ‘very high up’. She came home one day to see a letter on the floor that had ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ stamped at the top. She thought it was a parking ticket. It wasn’t. It was an MBE nomination for her services to nursing. “This was such a honour and as soon as the community found out I was receiving an MBE, Twitter went mad.”
Around 50% of the population use social media, and Teresa’s goal is to get at least 50% of nurses using social media as a professional platform. Teresa may have started out trying to stay ahead of the ever evolving policies and training within the NHS, but she has inadvertently ended up amassing an army of professionals who are now fully embracing the power of social media and are redefining the way information is shared within the healthcare industry.