How can we use social media to support student nurses?

By Dann Gooding (@danngooding)

This week’s @EBNursingBMJ Twitter Chat will using social media to support student nurses and will be led by the @StNurseProject. To join in or follow the chat please add #ebnjc to your tweets.

We are living in a social media age and it is a safe assumption that most student nurses use social media personally, but what about using social media to educate, optimise student engagement and improve overall student achievement? A study by Jackson et al. (2018) looks at the potential impact of social media use in nursing education, continuing professional development, and the role of nurses as patient advocates. The article targets nurse educators as being “uniquely placed to incorporate the use of social media to enhance students’ learning experiences and support students to develop competency in the use of social media for patient benefit” (Jackson et al., 2018, pg. 188).

A paper by Price et al. (2018) stated that “students find the use of social media an engaging and informative approach to learning. An example of this is the undergraduate module taught by The University of Plymouth which requires each nursing student to have and utilise a twitter account. Price et al. (2018) propose that using tools such as Twitter, can increase opportunities within learning settings. However, to stimulate use of this approach lecturers need to be engaged with social media activities (Price et al., 2018).

However, using social media comes with potential pit falls; universities are often very good at scaring nursing students with the strictest of punishments and university based fitness for practice and therefore with most promote avoiding social media altogether. In this digital age, is this realistic and is it time that universities began promoting the responsible use of social media rather than a total social media abstinence? It is acknowledged by Stevens & Nies (2018) that a “generational gap exists in nursing schools today” (pg.31). With all respect, there appears to be a “mismatch of learning styles with curriculum delivery leading to a lack of engagement” (Stevens & Nies, 2018, pg 31). Most student nurses will admit to being on social media during lectures at some time or other: what if part of that curriculum was on social media? Would that increase engagement and possibly increase student outcomes? As implied by Welch & Bonnan-White (2012) there is no doubt that collaborative learning and an emphasis on engagement with subject matter is essential in nursing education. Student engagement is “positively correlated with student achievement” (p. 326).

Among student nurses, there is an awareness of the second-year slump; it is also documented amongst academics. Tower et al. (2015) looked at utilising social media as a means of addressing ‘sophomore slump’ (an equivalent to the UK’s second-year slump), in second year nursing students. During their qualitative study, Tower et al. (2015) suggest that a contributing factor to the current shortfall in the nursing workforce is the high attrition rate of students from nursing programmes. The results of their study suggest students share mastery experiences, provide modelling experiences, and used verbal persuasion to reframe problems via Facebook indicating it helped build students’ self-efficacy, and alleviated some of the physiological response associated with stress (Tower et al., 2015).

Stephens & Gunther (2016) note that in order to “meet the generational needs of this, the millennial student and to engage that student in learning, it is imperative for the educator to adapt teaching and learning methods that will optimise the probability of success”, after all, millennial students prefer teaching that is “fast, relative, and succinct” (Trueman & Miles, 2011, pg 183). The millennial nursing student is no different, and with an expectation of efficiency and immediate feedback, social media platforms offer plausible and logical adjuncts to traditional curriculum delivery.

So, with all the evidence advocating for the incorporation of social media into nursing education, and the requirements of The Code (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2015) being the guiding principles of nursing programmes, perhaps it is indeed time for universities to start promoting social media within their curricula and instead of encouraging student nurses to avoid it, encouraging them to use it in a safe and professional way.

Questions for Twitter chat

1) What forms of social media does your university use?
2) Is there a role for social media within your nursing course?
3) What are the perceived pros & cons of social media use?
4) What are the barriers to using social media? Does it come down to trust?
5) How can responsible social media usage be promoted?


Jackson, J., Gettings, S. and Metcalfe, A. (2018). “The power of Twitter”: Using social media at a conference with nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 68, pp. 188 – 191.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2015). The Code. Available from: [Accessed 3/9/18]

Price, A., Devis, K., LeMoine, G., Crouch, S., South, N. and Hossain, R. (2018). First year nursing students use of social media within education: Results of a survey. Nurse Education Today, 61, pp. 70 – 76.

Stephens, T. and Gunther, M. (2016). Twitter, Millennials, and Nursing Education Research. Nursing Education Perspectives, 37 (1), pp. 23 – 27.

Stevens, K. and Nies, M. (2018). Transforming nursing education in a 140-character world: The efficacy of becoming social. Journal of Professional Nursing, 34 (1), pp. 31 – 34.

Trueman, M. and Miles, D. (2011). Twitter in the classroom: Twenty-First Century Flash Cards. Nurse Educator. 36 (5), pp. 183 – 186.

Welch, B. and Bonnan-White, J. (2012). Twittering to increase student engagement in the university classroom. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 4 (3), pp. 325 -345.

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