How is the “digital” impacting the nursing profession? What are the values of online initiatives like Connecting Nurses? What does a career in nursing look like today? What is the future of nursing?
We met with Rob Fraser MN RN to ask him these and other questions:
“I’m Rob Fraser, registered nurse in Canada, I work in Toronto and I have multiple roles in things that I’m involved with. Right now I full time work in research and development translating clinical research guidelines into written documents that help nurses and physicians carry out best practice. I also work clinically at a hospital. The third thing I do on the side is consulting work and supporting healthcare organizations around online engagement of care providers and patients.
What kind of organizations do you work with?
Canadian nursing association, the Nurses Association of Ontario, a number of hospitals and Sanofi Pharma Company. During my undergraduate studies I’ve become aware of the lack of use of technology within healthcare. My role is to work with those more experienced clinically and teach them to use the new tools that become cheaper to share content and advance healthcare. I’ve been working for 6 years like that. There is a lot of interest from researches who are very focused on what they are doing and are not always aware of the changes going on “outside”.
Please tell us a little about your education.
I did my undergraduate at Ryerson University and then my masters of nursing at the University of Toronto. I was fortunate to be pushed towards the profession by one of my best friends – my mother – after I traveled to India and Trinidad to do volunteer work around care and community development she suggested that I consider the profession.
When I looked into it, it turned out to be a university degree and it was becoming more advanced and specialized in research. It also had a very close relationship with patients.
Plus, as an undergraduate I could already start working and go back internationally and bring a skill set and knowledge and expertise rather than just help clean and do basic kind of things which don’t always have a long term impact.
I graduated in 2009 and because of a motorcycle accident I delayed working clinically until 2011. I was taking time to recover and do the masters. And that’s also when I wrote a book on how nurses can use social media. Which was published by an honors society.
Did you feel any major changes or shifts within the profession from when you started ?
That’s one of the interesting parts: I don’t think I noticed a huge shift from when I started (counting my first clinical practice as an undergraduate). The pace of change in healthcare is much more slow and deliberate versus the changes that we see in technology and business. And I think these changes start to have an effect that is starting to accelerate the pace of change in healthcare.
Things available online are still not nearly caught up with some industries, but it slowly starting to pick up the pace.
What is the future of nursing in your opinion?
Interesting question. There always discussions around scopes of practice within the medical profession, everyone is sort of fighting for the old “access to power” in medicine.
For me the real value is the proximity and trust the nurses have with patients. The more we focus on enhancing that, the more we help guide patients through healthcare, monitor them in their home and community, work in health promotion and prevention, the more we’ll have and expanding role. For me it’s really important that we focus on staying close to the patient and not dividing “pieces of care”. It is indeed a specialty of the non-specialist, but the diverse skills that we have to incorporate in our practice makes the profession very interesting to me.
Speaking of social media, what is missing for nurses?
The comfort level of trying out new things and applying them is missing. Nurses are still waiting to be shown the best solutions versus picking up different avenues and trying to use online resources for patient education. Of course, it’s a big challenge in terms of time, especially for average registered nurses. But in hospitals there are nursing educators, administrators and professors who should explore these opportunities.
Plus, we have been used to doing things behind closed doors and in protection, so there are a number of trials done in closed communities and hospitals, which benefit a limited number of healthcare professionals. We fail to mirror the methodology that, for example, someone working on IT solutions are using: they develop a peace of code and then share it for others to expand on that work.
What value do you see in online projects and initiatives for nurses?
What is really important is the offline/online “space”. The majority of people connected on social media have an offline relationship to start with. There are very few communities that formed online only. I’d want to see works and initiatives that are blending and expanding relationships that exist offline and help people find other individuals that work on similar healthcare topics to collaborate immediately. And not wait for that once-a-year conference to start working together.
It has been interesting to keep an eye on Connecting Nurses, for example. The authenticity of the stories and videos has had a strong effect: especially seeing some of the local settings of where the innovations are taking place. There is a level of trust that is being established when people can listen to individual stories first hand.
It’s also interesting the way that this content gets received by nursing professors, leaders and teachers that are looking for information to demonstrate initiatives. The Connecting Nurses videos are well produced and are pushing an innovation agenda. I like the idea of working interstitially to connect different things that are happening and not necessarily to generate unique kind of expertise, as Connecting Nurses does.
What are the online resources you yourself use the most?
Probably podcasts. What got me interested in technology was being able to learn when I did other things. It started when I was having a job driving 8 hours per day to pick up golf balls… so I was listening to lectures.
And when I’m asked to talk to nurses about online resources I try to talk about digital tools in general and not social media only. Getting a Facebook or Twitter is not necessarily going to be of any use. It’s about accelerating the work that you are doing and not about having another account.
I really encourage nurses to use digital tools because if we are accelerating the work we care about, there is always going to be an interest and a value in that.
What we really see in the adoption of social media and youtube type of platforms is the interest. People keep going there because they are able to connect with others both offline and online and get to the purposes that interest us and are practical.
Of course, “digital” doesn’t always mean “better”, sometimes the “offline” is more beneficial. I’m very much about balancing the two”.