Are nurses undervalued in hospital social media?

Internet search data might suggest that nurses aren’t one of the more highly respected professions in healthcare, but other factors suggest otherwise.

Nurses are being put at the helm of retail and employer clinics.  Entrepreneurs are creating all kinds of new technologies to help nurses do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

And an article that’s circulating the healthcare social media Twittersphere today provides just one example of how they’re helping a hospital create that all-important online connection between patients and providers.


Health Care Communication News points to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and its blog, RN Remedies, where five nurses blog about questions they’re frequently asked by parents at the hospital.  The once-weekly blog gets 10,000 to 15,000 hits per month and is featured prominently on the hospital’s homepage.

I think they’re on to something here. Just last month, we ran a story about a study that found adults — or at least elderly and at-risk adults — were more likely to get flu and pneumonia vaccinations when they were given by a nurse over a doctor. In fact, the study found that putting nurses in charge of vaccinations was one of the most successful vaccination-promoting strategies, along with reminder calls and texts to patients.

Nurses are usually the first and last providers to see patients  when they visit a hospital or doctor’s office. As Deborah Braidic, the director of internal communications and Web content at Children’s Hospital, notes in the HCCN piece:

Physicians are the ones that give the orders for care, but nurses are the ones that stay behind and answer questions, in a way that families can understand. Doctors give care instructions and sometimes, patients have no idea what they’re talking about. Nurses can help bridge that gap.

So why are doctors so often the topic of conversation when it comes to social media  and hospital branding? (And yes, studies have shown that nurses are behind in adopting social media for professional use.)

An Internet search turned up only one other hospital-affiliated nurse’s blog — that of Barbara Dehn, better known as Nurse Barb, a nurse practitioner at El Camino Hospital. A few years ago, she began blogging for people who wanted practical, easy-to-understand information on health. Then this year, the hospital began producing monthly five-minute videos of her interviewing experts and sharing health news and innovations like robotic surgery. She’s accrued almost 15,000 Twitter followers.

Just as talented teams of both doctors and nurses are essential components to patient-centered care, they should both be essential parts of a hospital’s brand. And as the hospital model continues to shift and nurses take on bigger roles, I anticipate we’ll see them also becoming a more fundamental piece of hospital marketing strategies.

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