Nursing Online: To Blog or Not To Blog?
Nurses who spend time on the Internet generally sooner rather than later happen across “the nursing blogosphere,” the nickname those of us in the sphere ascribe to that group of loosely networked and informally associated blogs written by nurses. There are no set criteria to join, except it helps to be a nurse or a nursing student. I’m not talking about the larger formal sites that contain blogs (such as this one)—I’m talking about a good old personal blog (from “Web log”). Traditionally, a blog containers longer-form posts, as distinguished from snippets posted to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. Some blogs are based on a specific topic; others exist to allow the owner to express whatever interests her at the moment.
If you are a nurse or a nursing student, the list of reasons to have a blog is about as long as the reasons not to have one. The reasons to have one include the same reasons everyone else has:
- You have something to say.
- You don’t want to wait on “dead tree media” to say it.
- You enjoy writing.
- You enjoy the interaction that results from your own voice.
Blogs are a miraculous way to insta-publish thoughts and ideas. Bloggers can reach a huge audience in seconds, compared with the weeks to months required to get an idea from a brain into a print publication of any kind. The information is absolutely current, although not generally subjected to the rigorousness of fact-checking required by a print publication and therefore also less respected in general. Many bloggers build up a kind of personal brand and become huge hits: witness Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess; not a nurse blogger, but her dead-tree book has been on the NYT Best Sellers list for weeks) or Theresa Brown (a nurse blogger who writes online and off). It is entirely possible to make a living with a blog: provided you are good at it, consistently provide good information, and find a way to persuade people to pay for your content.
If you’re a nurse or nursing student, the reasons not to have a blog are different from reasons normal people have.
- You are bound by HIPAA (although this bugaboo is not as scary as it should be).
- Nurses are perceived by other nurses and the general public as trustworthy and needing to be unblemished, so posting as a known nurse about any controversial topic can result in professional image complaints.
- Even if you totally make up a patient story, but it happens to resemble a patient someone knows, you’re in for it.
- If you write something that makes another nurse mad, you’re in for it. If you’re a student and you write something that makes your faculty mad, you’re doubly in for it.
I have had a personal blog for 6 years. I’ve been threatened with expulsion from nursing school twice because of it, made a fair number of online friends (some of whom I now know personally), learned a great deal about myself and my profession, and landed two paid writing jobs as a result of the unpaid blog. I have seen the great nurse bloggers fall and rise again as our employers navigate the waters of HIPAA and freedom of speech. I truly believe that on balance, although we are an opinionated, passionate bunch, nurse bloggers move the profession forward. I think I would actually prefer an opinionated, passionate nurse any day.
Are you a nurse or a nursing student? Someone will be interested in your life as one. Google how to start a blog. It is easy, and your blog can be up and running in 10 minutes—30 if you want to add some fancy widgets to the sidebar. Just do your homework and be ready to face the music if you post about anything other than kittens, puppies, and rainbows.
About MegenMegen Duffy, RN, BA, BSN, CEN, works in an ED at a community hospital in the Midwest. She serves as a local board member of the Kansas State Nurses Association and is a contributing editor to the American Journal of Nursing. Before her nursing career, she was a freelance medical editor and writer.
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