Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Web-based social media and the nursing home sector – where to from here?

Professor Joseph Ibrahim and Fiona Kitching from SPHPM's Department of Forensic Medicine have co-authored a paper with Margaret Winbolt from La Trobe University and Aleece MacPhail from Ballarat Health Services, discussing the use of social media in professional education based on perspectives from senior management staff in the nursing home sector. The project was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Ageing & Aged Care Branch (Victoria).

The professional education sector in the health workforce plays a strong role in the provision of high-quality care to all patients and individuals. This sector has seen many changes across the years, adapting to the changing work dynamics and needs of the professionals in the health sector. The development of web-based learning systems have been introduced to not only provide education tailored to the professional sector but to also rise to demand of modern, flexible and adaptable systems that can cope with  a constantly changing environment.  

Professor Ibrahim said that research has demonstrated that many learning individuals are now starting to prefer the use of online or digital resources. The shift to e-readers or pdf files may make hardcopy material, such as textbooks, no longer a viable learning tool. While this is true for many sectors, the healthcare sector has not seen a successful integration of web-based learning resources. Though evidence does state that web platforms are used by most university students and graduates, this does not indicate the preferences of older or more experienced staff in the healthcare sector. 

Clinicians who are more experienced have conveyed minimal usage of such technological tools and a lack of interest in shifting from traditional resources. Consequently, the consolidation of Information Technology to further quality of services in the health care system does suffer in comparison to other industries. The incorporation of devices such as tablets or smartphones in the clinical sector demonstrates the need to educate professionals on the intricacies of web learning.

“There is a breadth of potential in this sector if there is a successful amalgamation of web based learning systems, allowing for sharing of vital resources amongst clinicians and other staff,” Professor Ibrahim said.

“The intention of this research was to determine the viewpoints of senior policy and management staff on the role that social media does have in the field of professional education within Australian nursing homes.”

The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with executive and clinical staff from a number of nursing home stakeholder businesses. Questions were developed with the intention to extract data regarding staff’s opinions on the prospective role that educational material could have if integrated with social media sites such as Twitter or YouTube.

From 11 different stakeholder businesses, 12 individuals participated in the interviews. Many of these participants were wary of the possibility of integrating social media to deliver or further professional education.  They made note of possible benefits such as delivery of rapid and up to date information in a number of layouts. However, they also highlighted that there were obstacles such as the legitimacy of information being delivered and the possibility of knowledge being misconstrued. Many of these participants also stated that they would prefer an e-learning program over the use of social media based platforms.

The authors conclude that the study does highlight the possibilities of integrating social media into the nursing home sector.

“Many of the executive staff do make note of the benefits of using online platforms but are not entirely confident on using social media as a learning resource. These apprehensions may also be representative of a lack of full understanding on the workings of social media platforms,” Fiona Kitching said.

While this information is vital to develop approaches to introduce online tools in the nursing home field, there is a need for further conservation with these stakeholders.

You can read the paper online here

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