A sign of the changing health care landscape, a new book on social media and nursing is the first to offer a comprehensive guide on the subject. Social Media for Nurses: Educating Practitioners and Patients in a Networked World; by Ramona Nelson, Irene Joos, and Debra M. Wolf; explores the social media platforms available to health care practitioners and offers the knowledge, principles, and skills needed for their effective use.

“Today’s professional must move beyond computer and information literacy to digital literacy, and this book is written with that goal in mind,” commented Nelson, president of her own informatic consulting company and former university nursing department chair. “If you believe nurses need to have good communication skills in all settings and be advocates for quality health care, then you need to be sure they are fully prepared to function as professional nurses in the online community of social media,” she added.

The guide promotes the dramatic and positive ways in which social media is changing health care, an evolution that the authors believe is marked by its allowance for greater provider-patient communication and patient independence. For example, social media and relatively new communication tools give practitioners greater opportunity to monitor patient adherence to self-care and drug compliance. Such communication can even come remarkably close to an office visit with video conferencing tools such as Skype, allowing the health care provider to visually inspect anything about which the patient may have questions or concerns. For remote patients or those unable to visit a health care provider or facility, this enhanced communication is especially significant.

At a time when many are managing under financial constraints which limit their access to traditional health care, and when health care providers are increasingly overburdened, social media empowers the health care consumer in ways previously impossible. It can, for instance, offer a sort of supplemental health care delivery through apps or digital gaming devices, or offer patients access to others with similar health care concerns through online health care forums or chat rooms, something which can be particularly therapeutic.

However, social media is not only empowering to health care consumers, the authors argue. For example, it also allows health care providers a broader perspective on patients’ experiences, especially through wikis and health forums, and can help enhance their professional development by offering greater and wider channels, as through blogs, podcasts, or other platforms, to disseminate specialized knowledge.

“Some health care providers believe that health care can only be provided in a face-to-face visit. Although that sometimes is the best means to quality health care, it is not the only means, and can actually limit the value of health care delivery if practiced exclusively,” concluded Nelson. “Social media has become so integrated into our lives and health care, and we believe it must be incorporated into health care curricula and policy. We hope that this book will help advance that cause.”

Listen to our podcast with the authors of Social Media for Nurses: Educating Practitioners and Patients in a Networked World below:

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