Social media can make us more professional

paulgimsonPaul Gimson, RPS Director for Wales

 Today a new support resource for pharmacists launches on the RPS website – a package of guidance on social media. Social media? How does that benefit pharmacists, I hear you say. Isn’t that just for people with too much time on their hands?

 Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you don’t subscribe that view! The fact is, we ignore social media at our peril. It is a powerful, and growing tool for our profession. It allows us to communicate our successes or raise concerns with a wide range of stakeholders – colleagues, employers, decision-makers and the general public – anyone, in fact who has interest in what we do. It gives us a forum for instant sharing of news and best practice. It allows us raise the profile of pharmacy in general, and act as advocates for the vital work our profession does.

Community pharmacists so often tell me that theirs can be a lonely profession  – they feel stuck behind a counter, cut off from their peers, a lone cog in a huge health mechanism and unable to see the greater impact of their work. Social media allows them to reach out to anyone who shares their interests and passions. It is their chance to be a voice for pharmacy, and show our profession in a positive, constructive, and professional light.

As a keen member of twitter I was asked to join an RPS panel of social media experts, who helped put together the package of resources being launched today.  I love twitter because it gives me such insight into how my pharmacy colleagues work and think. It enriches the professional landscape, creating a vibrant conversation that brings the sometimes inanimate-seeming world of our work, with its statistics and strategies, to life.

On Tuesday May 21st at 8pm I’ll be guest tweeter in a twitter chat about social media, pharmacy and the RPS guidance package. The twitter chat is hosted by @WePharmacists, a new branch of the @WeNurses twitter community who regularly meet on twitter to discuss issues, to learn and support each other. We’ve worked with @WePharmacists to develop this twitter community and we encourage pharmacists to log in and engage. This shared project is a significant opportunity to work with other health professionals, and an excellent example of how social media can facilitate knowledge-sharing and collaboration between the health professions.

It is our job as pharmacists to make sure we are up-to-speed with the latest ways of improving our practice. Social media is one of these ways.  It does seem alien at first when you are unfamiliar with its jargon and its methods, but the RPS package is designed to hold the hand of complete beginners, to give you step-by-step help to get you started, and then to guide you to make the most of social media as your confidence increases. It is very easy and engaging to use, with documents, presentations, podcasts and videos.

If we can make the most of these new tools for networking, learning and debate, we can support each other and develop ourselves further – and so advance the whole profession.  Far from being unprofessional, social media allows us to be more professional.