By Emma Carder (Freelance Dietitian Liverpool and Glasgow)
Professional training days and health conferences not only raise important issues for NHS departments in terms of staffing resources but they can also have a significant impact on budgets as well. Since leaving the NHS in 2010 to become a full time freelance dietitian I have a much better appreciation of accounting and book balancing! With this in mind I have had to become pretty apt at seeking out free professional development opportunities. My steepest learning curve from the past four years has undoubtedly been in my professional use of social media. I’ve discovered that social networking sites, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, offer health professionals an incredible variety of free CPD opportunities. Having just read a Nursing Times tweet about the newly published #socialpioneer awards I’m pleased to say my social media enthusiasm is clearly shared by many others too!
Sadly, as we all too often notice, there are also a significant number of unscrupulous voices on social media who also enjoy engaging in health related information. With their clever marketing strategies and way with words it can be extremely difficult for the public to distinguish fact from fiction. With this in mind positive social media engagement by AHPs helps to ensure that we are the trusted & recognised key options leaders. AHP’s can engage on many levels within social media e.g. we can; share examples of outstanding practice, disseminate current research findings, contribute to topical debate and challenge the latest media headlines. Not only does such engagement help us to establish a positive online profile it also serves to enhance our professional development and strengthens public confidence within our profession.
It’s great to be given this opportunity to share my opinion on how social media can not only be used as a networking tool but also as a significant platform for promoting the work and worth of Allied Health Professionals. My top three tips for social media engagement are; Twitter chats, virtual health conferences and LinkedIn membership.
There are a multitude of high quality Twitter health conversations and debates going on in which you can participate in or simply eaves drop on. Participants can print off the chat from its archive and use alongside a short reflection as evidence towards their ongoing CPD. This link is a great starting place for finding health related chats that interest you: http://bit.ly/twittertweetchats Simply enter your area of interest and time zone. I’ve just had a little look at what UK chats are running tonight and tomorrow and as you can see, in two days alone, there is a huge diversity of health related information all ready and waiting to be tapped into!
One of the chats highlighted in the table is RDUK.
RDUK stands for Registered Dietitians UK and it’s a monthly moderated Twitter chat that covers a wide variety of nutrition topics. RDUK was established in 2011 by three dietitians; Sasha Watkins RD, Azmina Govindji RD and myself. The overall aim of the chats is to provide a credible and accessible platform for sharing evidence based nutritional information. To date we have organised & led over 25 UK nutrition related chats. Over the past three years the chats have grown from strength to strength and now average ~60 participants including; dietitians, registered nutritionists; allied healthcare professionals, medical& nursing staff, health journalists, food bloggers, health charities and the general public. The February 2014 chat on ‘Sugar’ reached over 1.6 million people and involved 85 participants including Diabetes UK. Chats are supported by the British Dietetic Association and during Dietitian’s Week (9th-13th June) RDUK will be hosting 3 special twitter chats; Meat Free Monday, The Big Fat Debate and Nutrition Truths. RDUK has recently been short listed for a 2014 Clinical Nutrition (CN) Award in the ‘Nutritional Resource of the Year’ category. To find out more on how to participate in any future chats or to view the archived chats simply click the link http://bit.ly/rdukchat
Virtual Health Conferences
Social media now offers the possibility of listening in and even participating in key national and global health conferences. Over the past two weeks alone I have listened in to two major health conferences; Primary Care 2014 in Birmingham and The European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria. Using #PrimaryCare14 I was able to catch up on the presentations of three fellow dietitians, Dr David Johns, Azmina Govindji and Zoe Connor, who were presenting their work within their respective specialities; teenage obesity, the glycaemic index and autism. Using #ECO2014 I was able to read tweets & interact with eminent speakers in the world of obesity research. This week there are a couple of NHS Conferences taking place and I’ll be keeping a close eye on them via #Confed2014 and #NHSScot14. If you are keen to follow a health conference then the following link is a great place to find out what’s coming up in the future. http://bit.ly/twitterconferences
LinkedIn is equivalent to a business version of Facebook. Despite being more formal than both Facebook and Twitter it still offers plenty of learning & networking opportunities. An easy way to maximise your CPD on LinkedIn is to search for public and private member groups that relate to your particular qualifications. At the moment I’m a member of 5 different private member groups which range from the British Dietetic Association to the Kings College Low Fodmap Dietitians Group. Being a group member allows you to interact with fellow colleagues by ‘liking’, ‘commenting’ or simply following their discussions. You can also keep right in the loop with group goings on by adjusting the group settings to ensure you are sent a weekly summary of key discussions.
I hope this post gives you a flavour of some of the exciting opportunities that are out there for AHP’s and I look forward to engaging with you soon!