Social Networking for Nurses :: Nurse Linkup

Nurse Linkup LogoAs readers of this blog may or may not be aware of I am a Registered Nurse. I rarely if ever talk about my job or nursing or anything else to do with my career. In fact I make a point of not doing so. You can read all about this in posts that I have made before. But I think that given my career this site was worth talking about. I found late last week a social networking site for nurses. On the whole NurseLinkup is a fine effort and has all the elements to be successful with the target audience.

On first look this site is simple. But I think that is important. The reason being is that I am an exception; most nurses are not tech savvy. Sure we are where it counts, in what we do but RSS feeds, forums, podcasts and social networks… nope. So simplicity with this audience is important. It is also important because nurses are efficient people and more often than not tired. They don’t want or need a plethora of options to choose from. The information has to be easy to obtain, clear in it’s purpose and topic and it has to be quality content worth reading. Five out of five in my opinion. Niche social networks should learn a thing or two from the implementation shown here.

I could see this site as a wonderful place of information exchange and mutual support and discussion of issues that are important to the nursing profession. It has a number of features that it employs to accomplish these things.

Apart from the front page there are News, Articles and Forum tabs. All obvious and accessible from the front page. Although I would suggest that they source more than one site or service for their news and update more often. I do not know if this is a user contributed thing or not. So it may be that the users are not that involved yet. I have found that in cases like this then the best thing to do is to lead by example, which it appears they are doing if this is the case.
The inclusion of “most viewed” and “most popular” is a nice touch. However, what makes them different? If it has something to do with the comments then one tab needs to say “most commented”. But other than that this is a good tool to see what is relevant and felt most passionately by the users. There is a predominant U.S feel to the site but then that is where this is based so I would not expect less. In time should the service gain traction it will be good to see input from around the globe. The networking element of this as time goes on will be invaluable to nurses from everywhere.

The articles seem to have an educational focus. In addition to expanding your practice and getting the most out of your career in nursing. I noticed that there were articles on travelling with nursing and career paths in nursing. Along with a whole heap of other quality articles that are well written and researched with references. Users can also rate and comment on articles. I have not seen this as well done in this type of format before. I was also pleased to see that the articles are “on site” and not just links to articles elsewhere.

The forums are as you might expect. But the options are simple but as I said they need to be. There are forums for students, general nursing and speciality areas plus some others. Once you click on an option the various forums are displayed and the layout in it’s simplicity and ease of use is to be commended. I love the fact that they are making this technology accessible to people that would otherwise not bother or have the knowledge to do so. Any nurse out there would be able to access this service and be able to participate and get something out of it and most importantly put something back.

With these features there is also all the things that make for top usability and simplicity. Tagging is a well utilized feature, although I would question the validity of some tags (a sentence a tag does not make). There are lists of active users. Profiles and most importantly to me an RSS feed in addition the ability to subscribe via email if you don’t have a clue what RSS is. I like the thinking here. Again this makes the technology and therefore the content accessible via a medium that people both understand and trust. Users are able to blog on the site, add friends and upload photos. I would consider these features as standard for social networks but again simplicity at it’s best; well implemented and functional. Nice job.

The site is graphically very appealing and not over the top. The site speed is good but the user base is small and yet to be truly tested. I would however question their picture use in the header. It seems a bit “old school” to me. You have to look at your demographic. Sure nurses are all ages, but what types of nurses are going to be making their way to these sites and services? I think that it is going to be the slightly younger crowd or those of a more modern thinking ilk. Or at least those that have the ability to use a computer and trust the Internet enough to join. This is definitely a younger crowd and I would argue skewed male. I think that a more appealing graphic to cater to this crowd would be better. But not over the top so you would still catch the rest. In my experience it just seems in stark contrast to other social networking sites. These services usually rely on good coding and appealing layout with a nice simplistic logo as opposed to a picture that I might find in a nursing journal. It is not a bad picture, but I can’t help but think it is out of place. But that is just my opinion.

One other criticism that I would have is that of their default avatar. It depicts in silhouette an image that would be considered a female. This may well be associated with the Bio that users set up. But if there is not the option to choose between a male and a female avatar; should you choose not to display your own, I would consider this a stereotypical assumption. I am a male nurse and I am constantly being mistaken for or thought to be a doctor only because I am male. It pains me that this is still the case in the 21st century, it would disappoint me more if this is the case in a community built by nurses for nurses.

These are minor gripes on a social network that is well built and implemented for the target audience and user base. Clearly a lot of thought and effort has gone into presenting a site that works and contains good quality content. I am very proud that we nurses are up there competing with major, better covered and known sites in design and usability. If anything this is an excellent example of how a niche community should be done compared to some if not most that I see (and that is a lot). This is no throw together service. I wish them all the best and hope that they see the growth that a site such as this needs to become a rich source of information and collaboration.

NurseLinkup Screenshot

Changing the World

I have had the most amazing conversation today. It turns out that one of my fellow hosts on The Podcast Network is a Registered Nurse, Molly Carlile. Her area of expertise is Palliative Care. The podcast is called Dead Serious. Molly has heaps of bits of paper but most importantly to me she gets the whole Internet thing and the huge impact that it can and will have as a platform for media delivery and communication. Especially in relation to healthcare and professionals alike. Plus she believes that one person can change the world. That is the thing that blew me away. We have things in common, we are vastly different practitioners yet this technology drives us together. Now that is why I am so passionate about what I do, and why I think nursing and related professionals, leaders, managers and everyone else that might keep the healthcare ball rolling should stop and take notice!

I make a point of not crossing the boundaries between my professional career and what I do online. I rarely touch on what I do or have done as far as work goes in my blog or the podcast. The reasons are many and I have blogged about it before. But this time the two worlds have collided and I feel that it is okay to meld the two. Because that is what I really have a passion for, that is for the medical industry and associated fields to embrace new technology and methods of communicating and apply them.

So Molly and I had a great discussion and we shared some great ideas for some projects that might eventuate next year. I’ll add it to the pile! But this is something that may have a huge influence on nursing and the way that we do things. Not to mention the turns my life may take as a result. That is hugely exciting and frightening for me. It is starting to look more and more like I am never going to be able to win people over by trying to convince them. So what about showing them how it is done? Lead by example and demonstration; showing the effectiveness of new mediums to convey concepts, ideas and access to information.

Molly has some great insights into quantum physics, spirituality and personal existence in the universe. Although she has found it difficult to get a show out lately there are regular blog entries on the Dead Serious Homepage. I am now off to check out some the shows that are available. Keep up the great work Molly and a pleasure to have meet you. Our introduction is a perfect example of the power of this medium.

About Dead Serious:

“Molly produces and hosts a weekly program on The Podcast Network called Dead Serious which addresses issues of spirituality, life, death and how we make meaning in an increasingly isolated social world.”

From Molly’s About page

Dead Serious Homepage

Why I Appear to have Two Different Lives

I have had a busy week at work this week. I have not had as many opportunities to blog as much as I would like. In addition to that Sebastian and I have been producing the podcast as well as organising some changes in that department which have been time consuming. However, today I received a comment about my blog from a real life person, which was nice.

I am sure my colleagues are sick to death of hearing about my supposed “hobby” which sometimes feels like a second job. But I have to say I still enjoy it. I did not really think that many people outside of the blogosphere really got the idea of blogging, podcasting or the on-line community. But today I was proved wrong, to a degree. Not only that it was from a source I thought most unlikely.

Secretary BirdWhile I talk mostly with those that I work directly with and they know a lot about what I do in this forum, I do talk to other people about it. Indeed I will talk to anyone that will listen! I can’t help it I am a fanatic. Anyway, as some of you know I am a nurse in a busy operating theatre. We have two tireless secretaries that work at the “front desk”. They are tops and are crucial to the smooth running of our department. Well, I arrived at work today and I was there not five minutes and one of the girls (is that politically correct? Sorry if it is not) came up to me and straight off the cuff told me that they went to the “Rooster’s Rail” last night and had a poke around. They had also paid a visit to an article that they liked and had touched them. Wow! I felt very humbled by the comment and encouraged. But the thing that interested me the most was the fact that this person said that it was like reading about a different person. Or a side to myself that they did not know existed. That I came to work and I had a front of professionalism and that behind that they did not realise that there was another person.

Just a mention about the picture. Totally unrelated to this post. I tried to find a cool, funny cartoon of a secretary but could not find one that A: was not porn and B: you did not have to pay for. So I got a picture of a Secretary Bird (there are some other great shots of birds there as well, check them out on Flickr) and chucked it up there. The reason for the bird? Well as Seb said “that bird looks like it would kick your arse”. I saw them on a telly show and trust me they would, they can kill and eat venomous snakes! On with the blog…

I am glad that they “saw” this other person and that they realised that I was something other than a nurse. While I like to keep my professional life very separate to my on-line community, my blog and podcast, I realised that I have lost some of my blogging anonymity. I am not sure what I think of that. I don’t mind but do I have to think about what I write here? I would like to think that I will continue on and be happy that people are reading my blog. I guess the other thing that I might keep in the back of my mind is the fact that this person admitted that they had visited the rail, what about those that don’t tell me. Does my boss check my blog to make sure I am not slandering anyone or saying things I should not? Not that I would, but to other bloggers out there that like to keep their private life private, it is not as private as you might wish it to be.

I have a number of motivations for keeping my on-line life separate (you will notice that I did not say private). One is that what I do for a living is remarkably different to what I do here. In real life I am a Registered Nurse, a senior member of staff and hold a position as a Level Two in our department. I work in an operating theatre where we do hundreds of operations a month. I scrub for cases (you know… when the surgeon says “Knife!” – I am the one that hands it to him or her) and manage the floor after hours. I don’t know that you can get much different. The other thing is that because of the work that I do and that I work for the government I have to cautious about what I say. I can not blog about operations that I might have scrubbed for or patients, it is illegal. The other thing is that I will not talk about people that I work with, that would be asking for trouble as well. This is one of the few times I will mention what I do or people that I work with. But this time it has context and I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. Sebastian has often asked why I do not let the two parts of my life mix and I hope that this helps him and others understand that.

That aside, I was delighted to get a comment in real life. To actually see a persons reaction to what you have done was great. I would not mind if anyone that I work with came here, I am proud of what I am doing and after all this is a public platform. However, think twice before you say something on a blog you might regret.

A special thank-you to Rebecca, you are most welcome to come back anytime. I hope you like the person that you did not know existed.