President’s Column: Social Media’s Sphere of Influence

Feb 03, 2020

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As a kid, I remember the unmistakable thump of the daily newspaper hitting our front door — the welcome sound of daily news, current events, features and op-eds. And, it’s mostly a thing of the past.

Many newspapers and print publications either have been replaced by or moved to digital platforms, including social media posts, online editions, and websites featuring short news videos.

Back in the day, my parents read the paper column by column, page by page. Today, I consume news very differently. I wander the internet, use hashtags to search topics that are important to me, explore trusted websites and skim social media for what’s trending.

I appreciate that today’s news and information is not as one-dimensional as in the past. Online media is more of a sphere or a multidimensional space. With a few finger taps or keystrokes, I can read, comment, share, engage with someone I’ve never met, view a topic’s different viewpoints or seek other opinions. Unlike print media, online news and information is available in real time — fast, easy and accessible whenever and wherever I want.

With limitless content available instantly and the growth of online social and news platforms, social media is an essential professional communication tool for all nurses, regardless of their role or years in practice.

True, there are pitfalls associated with online engagement, but I believe the benefits outweigh them. One key benefit is engagement among nurses, which allows us to disseminate research and evidence-based practices, and to translate this knowledge into practice.

Social media is also a uniquely accessible and instant way to collaborate, contribute and connect with co-workers, community members and others around the world. We also have an opportunity to reach the public, especially as they become more integrated into healthcare design and delivery. What if nurses began to have a dialogue about what the public sees as priorities in healthcare?

Social media empowers us and provides an opportunity to have a positive impact on the public view of nurses and nursing. By being more visible and highlighting our vital role in healthcare delivery, we elevate who we are as nurses and demonstrate our clinical knowledge and value. This visibility is more critical today than ever.

To underscore this need, new findings from the “Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media,” a 20-year-old study revisited recently, show, disappointingly, that nurses were identified in mainstream media only 2% of the time. That’s down from 4% when the original study was conducted in 1998.

Even as nursing has been voted the most trusted profession for the 18th consecutive year in the new Gallup Honesty/Ethics in Professions poll, the media rarely quotes nurses or identifies them by their credentials. In addition, the new Woodhull study indicates that most social media and other online dialogue generated by nurses is inward facing — 80% of our posts are directed to other nurses and 20% to the public.

The consequence is that the media and public don’t fully understand the range of nurses’ roles, work and value. We can do a much better job communicating what we do and elevating our profession. So, even if you are active on social media, I encourage you to engage differently and to seize new opportunities to initiate education and engagement beyond connecting with other nurses.

Email me at to tell me how you use social media and other online engagement to share resources, advocate for nursing and patients, and connect with others.