The internet enabling better medical practice
Part 4: Twitter tweet chats on the examining table: #RNchat
Now let's look at #RNchat – no need to spell out this hashtag acronym.
RNchat is a Twitter chat for registered nurses and other healthcare professionals from around the world and is open to the public for participation. Founder Phil Baumann, a registered nurse himself, knows his audience. Because many nurses do shift-work, he chose to host RNchat at various times during the week, at different times of day.
RNchat celebrates its first-year anniversary this September and one has only to skim the RNchat archives to appreciate the wide-range of topics discussed and the dynamic exchange colleagues have shared over the past 12 months.
I had a chance to talk to Phil about RNchat’s beginnings, achievements thus far and objectives for the upcoming year.
Why did you start RNchat?
Years ago, I was a believer in the use of micro-sharing in the clinical context, but that was when virtually nobody ever heard of Twitter. In fact, much of healthcare was lagging in the adoption of emerging communications technologies. Even today, it’s a challenge to get healthcare professionals to see the value propositions – but that’s starting to change.
I wanted to create an opportunity for nurses to most easily and simply voice themselves, share their experiences and knowledge, and network. I figured that Twitter’s intimate ambience would fit that need.
There were other chats that developed on Twitter but few – if any – were focused on providing a place on Twitter for healthcare professionals. Also, most of the Twitter chats seemed to be chats about how to use Twitter and Social Media, so I decided I wanted to use Twitter in ways that went beyond the echo chamber.
Although we discuss emerging technologies, we’re able to discuss a much wider range of topics than chats focused on social media. Because of nursing’s diversity, we’re able to discuss virtually anything, from domestic violence to drug safety to infection control to healthcare reform.
What unexpected benefits or outcomes have you seen evolve from RNchat?
The interest that the chat has garnered over the year has helped nurses and other healthcare providers appreciate the value of emerging media. I think RNchat has helped demonstrate that the premise of Twitter, which is communicating in short pulses in an ambient setting, is here to stay. I’ve also noticed that a lot of nurses, who may initially have been dismissive of Twitter and other emerging media, realize the value of these media once they get involved in chats.
It seems that Twitter is a great gateway drug for healthcare professionals to adopt these media.
Do you think RNchat has precipitated any change in the way health is delivered?
I don’t think that the chat has had that affect – and it wasn’t an expected short-term outcome.
What I do think RNchat is doing is it’s helping nurses understand that they’re not alone. Nursing is a diverse profession – one of the most perhaps – and yet nurses share a lot of common bonds. RNchat has demonstrated both the range of experience and knowledge in the profession and the sense of community that’s possible.
What are your plans for RNchat in year two?
For one, I’ve been working on putting together a real-life meeting for RNchat. It’s going to be a hybrid of a traditional conference and an un-conference, and it’s called RNcamp (http://RNcamp.com).
I also want to groom other nurses to lead the chats. We’ve had two excellent moderators so far: Ellen Richter (@EllenRichter) and Terri Schmitt (@onlinenursing).
I’m also going to bring physicians into the Twitter chat scene – an announcement on that chat (MDchat) is forthcoming. I am actually was going to launch a chat for doctors at the same time as I launched RNchat, but decided to hold off to give the physician a community a chance. But it’s been a year, and I’m not going to wait for doctors orders at this point. We need physicians involved here.
What do you think? Would you like to see a weekly physician-specific Twitter chat open to public participation?