Spreading the word – why SciComm and nurses are a perfect match, especially during a pandemic

Dr Susie Cartledge, BN(Hons), PhD, FESC, FCSANZ  @susiecartledge,Melbourne, Australia

Dr Susie Cartledge is a Registered Nurse and Senior Research Fellow. Her research focuses on empowering cardiac patients and their families to manage cardiovascular disease long term.

There have been so many health messages during the COVID19 pandemic. Stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask, get vaccinated and so on. As we enter our third year of this evolving pandemic, the messages also need to evolve as the public health plan changes. But people are tired, frustrated and confused. Often governments do not provide clear or timely information to citizens and for some people, this is not a trusted source of information. Public trust is essential for gaining public cooperation.1 Those who are most trusted in the community are nurses (in both the UK2 and Australia3).

Nurses as health and science communicators

Nurses are well placed to provide health information. We often have a lived and current experience of what is happening on the ground clinically. We spend the most time with patients and therefore have key insights into their experience, the illness trajectory and helpful treatments.  We are also well trained in science, are able to break complex health information down to digestible content, we are approachable and of course, trusted.

Social media and health information

As social media use grows, expanding across age groups and platforms (eg. Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc.), so too does the potential to provide health information on a large scale. While social media is often coupled with spreading misinformation, like any platform or media outlet, it is important to follow trusted sources.4 Pair a nurse with social media and you have a readymade trusted science communicator (known as SciComm) with a virtual megaphone.

Nurse led COVID infographic

Here in Australia we have recently significantly changed our COVID public health management – from being the most locked down city in the world to keep case numbers low (2,500 cases/day, in my state before Christmas), to minimal public health rules and increased holiday travel and gatherings (now 35,000 cases/day). This has been an enormous shift for the general public to comprehend after working so hard to supress the virus, to now learning to live with the virus. As case numbers rose higher and more people became unwell, I wondered if the community knew how to prepare for and manage COVID19. A quick google search demonstrated to me that there was not a clear, simple and at a glance document that the community could use as a reference and starting point. So, I did what any good nurse, who loves infographics would do – I made my own!

I really just set out to quickly make something that might help family and friends and the little community I have via my Twitter account. I nervously hit “post” on both twitter and Facebook, waiting for bad feedback or the trolls to appear, waiting to pull the posts down. But I had the opposite experience! Within minutes, there was feedback from people saying “Thank you, this is a great graphic, easy and quick to follow in times of elevated stress levels or symptomatic” and “Thank you! This is useful! Particularly as a parent!” and “…I’ve printed it out and it’s on the fridge!”

Click here to see the infographics in pdf:

COVID info (1 of 2)

COVID action plan (2 of 2)

SciComm Reach

I have been shocked looking at all the stats from each platform and the reach you can achieve with only a modest following. My Twitter account is public and I have built up followers through my research work since 2014. With a modest following of 1600, I was able to reach over 91,000 people with the first version of my infographic. My followers have now increased to 1900. My Facebook account is purely personal and it was here that I was able to reach family and friends. By making the post public, they were able to share it with their networks also. And finally, with version 2 of the infographic, I realised that I could also share it via my LinkedIn account! Even in a short time, it has gained some traction and been cited as part of other’s COVID information resource packs.

Platform analytics from sharing COVID 19 infographic (as of Friday 14th January, 2022)

Infographic Twitter Facebook LinkedIn
  Retweets Likes Impressions Shares Likes Shares Views
V1, 4th Jan 2022 330 591 92,178 24 90
V2, 10th Jan 2022 264 525 68,619 21 66 830 7

Impressions: Times this tweet was seen on Twitter

 My call to action! As demonstrated from my experience, nurses are well placed to provide SciComm, particularly during critical times such as a pandemic. We need to shout our messages from the rooftops (via social media!) to raise the profile of nurses in the SciComm arena. Our communities trust us to do so.

References

  1. Hyland-Wood, B., Gardner, J., Leask, J. et al. Toward effective government communication strategies in the era of COVID-19. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 8, 30 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00701-w
  2. Ipsos MORI Veracity Index 2020. https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/ipsos-mori-veracity-index-2020-trust-in-professions [Accessed January 2020]
  3. Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2021. http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8691-image-of-professions-2021-april-2021-202104260655 [Accessed January 2020]
  4. Botterill L, Lake J, Walsh M. Factors affecting public responses to health messages during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: partisanship, values, and source credibility, Australian Journal of Political Science,56:4,358-375, (2021) DOI: 1080/10361146.2021.1978389

 

 

 

 

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