Today, blogs are a commonplace tool for sharing information, advice, expertise, and opinions. But less than 20 years ago, “weblogs" (so named for their reliance on the web) were just emerging as a means for colleagues in different locations to collaborate on documents and analysis.
While some writers in the 1990s were creating and sharing online diaries, it wasn’t until 1997 that John Barger of Robot Wisdom first coined “weblog," a term that was then shortened to “blog" by computer programmer Peter Merholz in 1999. By 2005, blogs were used widely by organizations and individuals, and not long after, mainstream news outfits were catching on to the fact that the public was interested in consuming content in this new format. Today, blogs are used in nearly every industry, as well as by non-profits, government agencies, and individuals.
It is generally accepted that personal blogs, even those created by professionals, reflect the opinions of their authors, in contrast to blogs produced for companies, magazines, or news organizations in which the content either aligns with an enterprise’s interests or meets certain journalistic standards. That said, even mainstream news outlets often permit their bloggers more leeway to express personal opinion; and this is, in part, the powerful appeal blogs possess.
In 2005, Margaret Mary Hansen (formerly Maag), a nurse educator at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing, published an article on Medscape in which she outlined the research and benefits of blogging generally, and the potential purposes of its use in nursing specifically. Among those that Hansen identified, these are seven of the most important:
1. To practice effective, accurate communication skills through writing, which is critical for safe and effective patient care
2. To become familiar with technology and comfortable with the use of such tools in nursing practice
3. To foster increased self-confidence by articulating ideas and opinions clearly, which, in turn, leads to improved patient advocacy
4. To disseminate preventive health care information
5. To learn the process of giving and receiving constructive feedback
6. To enhance career advancement for both students and practicing nurses
7. To continue formal learning through informal channels
As blogging has become more ubiquitous in the culture at large, and as nurse professionals have recognized the role it can play in their field, nursing schools too have begun to integrate blogging into their communication practices and educational programs. For example, the University of Kentucky College of Nursing has the College of Nursing Dean’s blog, while Georgetown University publishes its Nursing@Georgetown blog. Johns Hopkins University, moreover, encourages its students to blog about their time at JHU’s nursing programs as both an online journal and a tool for communicating to prospective students what they can expect at this university. The school has even created a video to teach its nursing students how to blog and published its tips for becoming a successful blogger.
Nurse bloggers are, in general, avid writers, and many are widely recognized as experts in the field of nursing, education, and health care policy. The nurse blogger community is relatively close-knit, with members offering one another support and advice through private and public groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Indeed, more experienced bloggers actively nurture and mentor aspiring writers, and may collaborate by submitting “guest posts" to support these newer bloggers’ development and promote a diversity of voices in the nursing profession.
The range of areas that nurses address through this medium is vast. For example, I focus primarily on nursing and health care (particularly the topic of career development), while other nurse bloggers address issues related to balancing nursing and family life, working as a travel or school nurse, and surviving nursing school. Some blogs are serious and instructional, and others anecdotal and irreverent. There’s content and style to meet nearly any reader’s preferences.
Through my experiences as a nurse blogger, I have gained confidence in my skills as a writer, developed friendships with nurses and others around the world, expanded my career coaching practice, and contributed articles to other publishing platforms. Blogs have increased opportunities for students, health care providers, and others to contribute to important conversations about public policy, education, and professional concerns — and all through a form of expression that is open to anyone who is willing to put their fingers to a keyboard.
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If you’re looking for more information on the field of nursing, check out further advice from Nurse Keith.