Billy Boland on using social media effectively in healthcare

billy_bolandSocial media is now seen as a tool with potential in healthcare leadership, and some of the online learning at the NHS Leadership Academy is devoted to this. Like most people I’ve messed around with social media over the years. But whilst I usually style myself as ahead of the times, it took me a while to “get” Twitter.

It wasn’t until a colleague showed me what she was up to that I started to get the point. She used it to network, both across her profession and beyond. Her finger was kept on the pulse of events, and it allowed her to engage rapidly in dialogue with people that she may not typically have had access to, in a matter of moments.

As I explored, I saw how it flattened barriers and hierarchies. I could find out what clinicians, academics, patients, and others were talking about like never before. And opportunities began springing up as I made connections.

For the Bevan Leadership programme that I am on, we are required to collect evidence of development, and a lot of us are doing this by keeping reflective notes. I was having trouble getting into the habit of doing this regularly, so I started experimenting with tweeting my “reflection of the day” instead. Some of these tweets seemed to strike a chord with others as a few of them were re-tweeted (i.e. shared with other people on Twitter). It occurred to me it might be more useful and fun if more of us shared our reflections.

I put a post up on the virtual campus and invited people to share their reflections using the hastag #ReOTD (short for “reflection of the day”). That evening a conversation sprang up amongst some of us who were interested. With more people getting involved, others started to notice, and within a week we had a host of people sharing their reflections on leadership via Twitter.

We made a commitment to have a tweet chat just after Easter (a conversation in real time). The Leadership Academy helped us to promote the event, and we kept up the energy on Twitter. When the chat came, we were overwhelmed with the response, and thrilled that people got something out of it.

Afterwards a few of us used Storify to document our perspective on the chat, and made the most out of reflecting on the experience. And the conversation goes on. To date, #ReOTD has had 2,955,979 impressions on Twitter.

Now, I’m a social media convert. From nowhere, a community of reflective healthcare leaders has sprung up, and we’re striving to help each other get better at what we do. We’ve organized another chat on Wednesday 14 May, 7pm-8pm GMT. Our theme will be “Leading with confidence and courage.” So if you’re interested in exploring your own leadership potential, or want to help others with theirs, get involved. Use the hashtag #ReOTD to take part and follow @ReOTD_latest for updates. You can follow me @originalbboland

I declare that I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and I have no relevant interests to declare.

Billy Boland is a consultant psychiatrist and lead doctor in safeguarding adults at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.