All technology ages

Derek T Barron is an Associate Nurse Director in Mental Health at NHS Ayrshire and Arran. @dtbarron

I was delighted to be asked to write a blog in the birthday month of AHPScot – various topics came to mind, indeed some were suggested e.g. a reflection on my time as Executive Director of NMAHPs in NHS Orkney (although Lycra and running on beaches were also mentioned) – appropriate of course as this blog’s primary audience is AHPs and I was privileged to be their executive lead while I was there.

However, for me, the thing about blogging is simply to write about something that interests you, that you’re enthusiastic about or want to create a conversation around.

It will hardly be a surprise to many therefore that this blog talks about social media. I’m fortunate to have been asked to speak about the professional use of social media on a number of occasions this year, my enthusiasm, rather than expertise, hopefully came across. I believe that we can and should be engaging in the professional use of social media, and Twitter in particular.

In the DGHealth blog (November ’13) I wrote about leadership related to social media – “an interpersonal relationship of influence” (Malby), “influencing/guiding, future focussed” (Bennis &Nanos).

To engage, to explore

Over the past few months, I have engaged with a wide range of clinicians and non-health staff related to the use of social media. It’s increasing evident that’s many people don’t want to use social media to lead, but simply to engage. To engage with others, to learn, to explore and sometimes simply as a source of information.

Firstly though, what is social media?








For others it’s more like this:






The ‘Cavazza’ graphic simplifies the landscape into four main areas – publishing, sharing, discussing and networking – at the centre are the ‘big three’.



As Twitter is my favourite platform to use, I have tried to lay out a few reasons why I think you should use it. Additionally I’ve included a few hints as I’m frequently asked by people about ‘how’ to use Twitter.


Twitter is an instantly updated stream of information, which is both it’s strength and potentially its weakness. As it is constantly updated, therefore it is easy to miss information, to overlook something of interest. The great thing is however, that someone is very likely to retweet it, or the original tweet will be posted again – so all is not lost.

In general terms I use it to keep myself up to date on topics of interest and/or relevance to my area of work. Additionally it helps expand my areas of interest and challenge my thinking. I love that people generously sharing their knowledge, expertise, passions as well as links to useful resources and blogs.

When I was in Orkney last year I followed the Australian International Mental Health Nursing Conference via Twitter (couldn’t sleep one night!). I then joined a discussion on clinical/academic careers, which followed from one presenters talk.

There are a number of journals that tweet links to open access articles, and of course, those of us with Open Athens accounts can access many other articles which are shared via Twitter. Additionally I follow a number of senior leaders, academics and organisations that regularly tweet links to information of great interest and relevance. Each of us (as professionals) have a duty to keep ourselves up to date, I consider Twitter as valuable source of information.

However, like many things you need to put something into it to get true benefit from it – it’s not instant, in that you have to find the people/organisations who are sharing information of interest to you. It’s rather like most endeavours – you have to out some effort into it to get something out of it; it is however, worth persevering.

Twitter tips

Download the app onto your smartphone or tablet – it is much nicer and easier to use than the web version. Once you are more advanced you can consider other Twitter app such as Hootsuite, Tweetcaster, Tweetdeck etc; some people rave about these apps, I guess not being a ‘power user’ I don’t really need all the additional features they bring – at heart I’m a simple person.



Complete some biographical details and of course add an avatar (picture) – an egg is so unappealing and disengaging. From day one my blog has identified me in my professional role – in my opinion, once you’ve done this it’s very easy to understand the parameters to your conversations. For me it is about conversations, it’s about sharing and engaging – this is your shop window and reason why people would want to engage with you i.e. it’s not a numbers game.



Don’t be obsessed by it, for some people it will never be a must do, or central activity – it’s ok to dip in and out. However as I said before, you’ll only get out of it what you’re willing to put into it.   I do think we (as professionals) should know about it and understand its use as well as its limitation – our patients and population are using it (well 550 million world-wide are). Can we say we want to engage and listen and yet demand that the engagement is always done on our terms, using our choice of communication?

Of course you don’t actually need to tweet to get benefit from it, you can simply ‘follow’ in the beginning. Hopefully though, you’ll re-tweet your first tweet fairly soon and then move to writing your own. Can you think of another route whereby you can get direct access to the Chief Executive of NHS Scotland – where you can communicate with the Health Minister, or the Cabinet Secretary? One of our Senior Charge Nurses had a direct conversation on Twitter with the Health Minister re his visit – where else can you do this?

Remember, it’s not about being clever, it’s about sharing and discussing – keep it simple. Where possible keep it fairly short 100 – 115 characters, this allows other to comment; also, shorter tweets are more likely to be re-tweeted and therefore shared more widely.

Enjoy it – if you don’t, after making a reasonable effort to engage with it, then simply stop doing it, at least you have a choice. I’d like to stop doing email, but I don’t seem to have a choice!

New endeavours


Other social media options are available. I would really like to use Google+, it seems to have potential – but, if I’m being honest, I just can’t get the hang of it.; perhaps if you are an expert you can contact Fraser and offer to write a blog on it – or contact me and write a blog for ayrshirehealth on its use within a healthcare sphere. If you are on Google+ please feel free to connect with me and offer hints and tips.


Vine and Wordeo offer the potential as educational aids (see examples via the links) – I’m fortunate to work with some enthusiasts who are always willing to push the boundaries of how we do things.   There is a new and developing world out there, we must keep our eyes open, be willing to learn, to innovate and to engage. The limit is your imagination and curiosity to continuously improve.

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All technology ages and passes, the only thing that never gets old is connecting with people.

I hope to meet you on Twitter soon (@dtbarron)



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