How you can use social media to support your pharmacy studies
Social media have been around for several decades in many differing forms. LinkedIn, Bebo and MySpace were some of the more widely used sites of the early 2000s.
In 2004, the social media phenomenon began to develop when Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at Harvard, where it was used as an on-campus site. Facebook went on to become a household name when it moved to a public site in 2006 and from that point on, it has changed the way social media are used. More recently, Twitter has become one of the most popular forms of social media, the main differences being that a user can “follow” anyone with a public profile and users “tweet” an update in 140 characters.
One factor that has helped to make social networking more accessible has been the increased ease of using the internet. In 2013, 36 million adults — 73 per cent of the population — in Great Britain accessed the internet every day, with mobile use of the internet doubling between 2010 and 2013 from 24 per cent to 53 per cent. Mobile devices allow users to access the internet and interact with social media from almost anywhere and at any time of the day.
There is a wide range of social media available, from professional networks such as LinkedIn to networks that are primarily used for connecting with friends like Facebook, so all types of people and age ranges and represented.
Social media are most popular for those aged 16–24 years, with 93 per cent using the sites (in comparison to 53 per cent of all adults). This age category matches the biggest demographic of undergraduate students in the UK and so it is of no surprise that there has been an increase in the use of social media within education.
How social media can be used in education
Twitter is one of the most widely used forms of social media and it is not just individuals who use it on a regular basis. The General Pharmaceutical Council (@TheGPhC) and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (@rpharms) each have Twitter accounts that they use to share information and initiate discussion.
One of the advantages of Twitter is that anyone can enter into a discussion, and in 2013 an account called WePharmacists (@WePharmacists) joined Twitter with the aim of connecting and supporting the pharmacy community. They hold regular “live chats” that are usually based around a topic of interest and other Twitter users join in the debate.
Twitter at RGU
A number of lecturers at the Robert Gordon University School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences are active Twitter users. On occasion they have set up a hashtag for a module to allow relevant information to be shared or live chats to take place. For example, #RPSpharmacyed was used for updates from a presentation at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference in 2013.
On a different note, the hashtag #teamRGUpharmacy was set up for the @5x50challenge that a team at the university undertook last year to raise money for the charity CLIC Sargent. The team, who had to run, walk, jog or cycle 5km every day for 50 days, regularly updated on their progress and received both encouragement and donations from their Twitter followers.
Well known names on Twitter
There are a number of high profile people on Twitter from a variety of backgrounds. If you have an interest in professional leadership, then chief executive of the RPS Helen Gordon (@MrsHGordon) may the person for you to follow. If you have an interest in the RPS Faculty and the future of your professional recognition, then Catherine Duggan, RPS director for professional development (@DrCDuggan), should be another addition to your Twitter account.
Most people tend to use Facebook as a private profile to interact and share information with friends and family. However, over the last few years at RGU we have seen the student community using Facebook to create groups.
These groups can have a number of different purposes. A group may be created for a specific year group with a focus on social activities available for students. Groups can also be used to share information specific to the course and to discuss issues that the students think are relevant.
More recently, students have begun to use Facebook to plan group projects, which may include assigning different roles, discussing meeting times and sharing information.
YouTube is a library of videos posted by millions of users. It is probably most well known for the funny videos it hosts but the platform has an educational use as well.
Although working in practice placements and pharmacy environments will provide valuable experience, students are unlikely to encounter all of the medical conditions that they are expected to be aware of as pharmacists. An example of such a condition is croup and there are a number of videos available on YouTube that demonstrate both the stridor and cough that are often associated with an episode of croup. YouTube has the advantage of presenting the information in an easily accessible format.
Recently a team at RGU has begun filming a consultation skills package that will soon be available on YouTube. The purpose of this package is to provide a library of good practice consultations in a variety of different settings. The package includes child consultations and a medicines review in community pharmacy as well as a cardiovascular risk assessment. While these can be used for general viewing, the added benefit is that they will be used at specific times during the course to give context to a subject area.
Blogs can be used to reflect or inform and pharmacy professionals often use blogs to give commentary on current developments within the profession. Pharmacist Jonathan Burton writes a popular blog from a practice point of view in which he reflects on what is happening in the world of pharmacy.
At RGU in 2012, we initiated a blog (pharmacygems.blogspot.co.uk) that was used to capture information provided in lectures to allow students to access this at a later date. It was expanded to include reflections both on practice and pharmacy as a profession.
Things to remember
While social media should not become an alternative to education, it can be used for connecting with people with similar interests and to enhance and contextualise knowledge gained from university. There is a wealth of information available through social media and more generally on the internet, and so it is useful to find its source to allow you to ascertain its credibility.
There is a lot of advice available about using social media, including guidance issued by the RPS. Many guides have a dual focus: firstly, providing advice on how to use social media; and secondly, suggesting appropriate etiquette and conduct online. It is worthwhile remembering that what you choose to share on social media is public and can be potentially accessed by anyone, including prospective employers and regulatory bodies.
In the words of Brian Boyd, chief executive of Media Connect Partners: “Social media takes time and careful, strategic thought. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
Using social media is a personal choice and the extent to which you choose to interact will depend on your motivation for using it. Having an awareness of what is available will enable you to make decisions on what may be of benefit to you in your learning and engagement with the profession.
Citation: Tomorrow's Pharmacist URI: 11135903
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