Bodell, Sarah, and Angela Hook. “Using Facebook for professional networking: a modern-day essential.” The British Journal of Occupational Therapy 74.12 (2011): 588-590.
This is another opinion piece by Sarah Bodell & Angela Hook on the merits of Facebook use for CPD and professional networking. The above link only links to an abstract which to be honest is not of much use. However I have asked permission from the author to publish a particularly useful table which I will add to this if the answer is in the affirmative. (Edit – see fig 1 at the end)
This article again relates to how using SNS can promote professional networks and improve CPD. However there are two other important areas which the author comments on.
Political Change in the NHS
I am pretty protected from the massive changes in the NHS currently taking place. I work for the MOD which has its own particular pressures. However in any publicly funded service which is under pressure to save money in these times of ‘austerity’, justification of one’s job, role and work is not only vital but may well help preserve that job. A private provider can come in & produce a business plan which superficially states a like for like replacement at reduced costs but I think we all know in healthcare, the job is never like that. Indeed, private companies often underestimate the complexity of providing healthcare (an example). What is inevitable though is that public, private & volunteers will end up working together to provide the service. SNS and professional networking used as a low density and diverse network can play a vital role. The authors describe a low density network as being geographically dispersed and diversity as having a greater range eg OTs from several countries.
The other important role of SNS in this theme is commissioning. Most healthcare professionals will have ‘to articulate the value and purpose of their role against nationally defined outcomes in order to ensure their services are commissioned’. Achieving this may well be helped by joining a professional network. This comes onto the second area the authors raise.
Access to SNS
I am particularly troubled by this. I live in rural Wiltshire where broadband speeds are slow, often at old dial up speeds. What makes things worse is poor 3G coverage. I went up to London for a gig recently and whilst sitting outside a pub enjoying a pint of remarkably good ale, could not believe the speed of 3G on my tablet. It was faster than our home broadband. I cannot access Twitter or Facebook at work. The desktop is not much better. Firewalls and security limitations restrict access to SNS sites in the NHS and in my organisation the MOD. I am not sure why this is. Individual accounts can be monitored so staff could be disciplined for overusing sites (although how anyone ever gets the time to…). Its use as a networking tool for academics has been proven. Unfortunately due to the prevalent belief that risks outweigh the benefits, employers will restrict access and employees will be forced to utilise SNS outside of their own workplace. This is likely to reduce uptake, one of the things I am finding with my blog.
Another area of concern raised by the author is the reluctance of professionals to ‘advertise’ aspects of their professional working in a public domain. It is recognised however that healthcare professionals are very aware of confidentiality and are conservative in the nature of their posting. This is something I have been made acutely conscious of when thinking about what to write on my blog. I stick to generalisations and often will use a patient contact in the context of starting debate about a certain subject.
All of this can be mitigated by an understanding of how to use social media. I have left my blog in the public domain but a Facebook group can be closed as can a Google group. It is disseminating this understanding alongside appropriate guidelines which will be the key enabler of low density, diverse professional networks.