Category Archives: Blogging

Rebooting this blog!

Contrary to appearances – the last entry on this blog was over a year ago! – I haven’t actually disappeared! However, 2018 has been pretty busy and I seem to have had my fingers in so many pies that blogging has been left by the wayside a bit. I have decided though that I am ready to come back to blogging, and to be a bit more focused about my writing, so this post is to update where I’m at, and where I think I’m going.

Firstly, I now have three different jobs, and I have been really pleased at how well what I am terming ‘poly-working’ is working out for me. I am still doing some health visiting, but I resigned my substantive post at the end of 2017, and am now just doing that 1 day a week as a bank health visitor. This has given me some much-needed flexibility to concentrate on other areas of interest, whilst keeping my hand in with health visiting. This year I have been working at the same health centre where I had my substantive post, which has helped because I knew a lot of the families that I am working with already. From next year I’m not sure what will happen as a new full-time health visitor has been recruited and will be working there from January, but I hope I can still do that day a week or so somewhere.

As well as the day a week health visiting, I have also started a day a week (well, usually two half days) as the new Stroke Research Nurse at our local hospital. This has been a really steep learning curve for me – I last worked in acute care in the very early 2000s, and have since been either in the community or in academia, and things have changed enormously in stroke care since I last had any contact with stroke patients. I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the research nurse community online, and a number of very wonderful people, who don’t actually know me from Adam, gave me a huge amount of support and suggestions when I reached out on Twitter prior to my interview. As well as that, since starting in post I have had support from other research nurses in Scotland, including spending a day in Glasgow the other week shadowing the stroke research nurses there, which was incredibly generous of them. I’m planning on blogging more about research nursing when I’m a bit more settled in the job (although I won’t be discussing specific studies that I am involved in recruiting to).

And then on top of that, my transcription business has been doing pretty well and is filling up much of the rest of my time. So far I have done work for people from a number of different universities throughout the UK and Ireland, as well as a bit of non-academic transcription, and am really pleased with the feedback I’m getting on my work. I’m actually really enjoying it, and absolutely loving finding out about all the fascinating research that’s going on out there that I would have no exposure to otherwise. I have a blog post about transcription brewing too, so look out for that in the next few weeks!

On top of all that, what I am really wanting to foreground in the coming year or so is to do more writing, and see if I can add author to my list of ‘things I am and do’. After I left my postdoc position in early 2015, I found that my confidence in my writing ability was pretty low, and having previously blogged regularly for several years beforehand, and written academically too, I have written very little since then. I think it hadn’t really occurred to me that I could do writing that wasn’t academic, and I thought that the end of my formal academic career meant the end of any decent chance at publication. However, over the past couple of years I had the germ of an idea for a children’s book, and I did a weekend creative writing course earlier in the year to explore non-academic writing a bit (that course was led by the very lovely Rachel Marsh). Since then I have been exploring that side of my creativity a bit more, devouring a number of creative writing podcasts (particularly Death of 1000 Cuts by Tim Clare (check out his Couch to 80K writing bootcamp which I found super-helpful), The Bestseller Experiment, and The Creative Penn), trying to get my head round Scrivener, as well as reading as much as I can, both in the genre(s) that I wish to write, and also wider. Of course, all this reading and listening means that finding time to actually write is difficult, and so part of my intention in resurrecting this blog is to get me committed to carving out time to write regularly again, amongst all my work and family commitments.

As far as this blog goes, I started it at the end of my PhD to market myself whilst looking for an academic position (which is what I thought I wanted to do at the time). Now that I’m no longer in that place, I therefore plan on refocusing the blog to write about what I’m doing, and importantly what I’m learning (particularly about research nursing and about the writing process). There might well still be the odd academic-focused post, not least because I have a co-written chapter in a big high-profile book for health professionals coming out early in the new year, but my intention is that my emphasis will change towards the more creative side of writing here. So – watch this space!

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Professional use of social media

Recently there was a very interesting debate on GP and clinical lecturer Anne Marie Cunningham’s blog on the General Medical Council updated guidance on use of social media for doctors. There was quite a lot of concern expressed in the (very many) comments about the seeming requirement to avoid pseudonyms and use real names if identifying as a doctor on social media. The GMC clarified the guidance later, see here.

Following the debate made me return to the Nursing and Midwifery Council social media guidance to see what they had to say. As you will see from the link there isn’t anything in black and white (or even grey, particularly) about the use of pseudonyms, and the guidance is based on using facebook but says it is applicable to other sites too, including blogs and personal websites. This guidance seems relatively straightforward with a healthy dose of stating the obvious at first glance – don’t discuss work-related issues, don’t take and post pictures of patients online, don’t use social networks to pursue friendships with patients. The key it seems to me is to use common sense – don’t do anything in real life that would jeopardise your registration, and don’t do anything online either.

The pseudonym issue, which the NMC guidance doesn’t cover but the GMC guidance has elevated to veritable can-of-worms status, is interesting I think. I choose to use my own name on my blog and twitter (the two main places, along with a vaguely neglected academia.edu profile, that I use for largely professional purposes), and am open about the fact that I am a registered health visitor (although I’m currently working in research rather than clinical practice). Nothing I write here or on twitter should come as any great surprise to anyone who’s worked with me – I like to think that what you see here is pretty much what you get. I have chosen not to talk about things that I’m not happy to have my name associated with; and that’s pretty much it. I can see though that using a pseudonym might be helpful to some people – I’ve known people start off on twitter with a pseudonym because they were just nervous about identifying themselves in this unfamiliar environment and then that name becomes established. Some people feel they can be more open and honest in expressing their opinions using a pseudonym, and are concerned that if patients know that they are expressing opinions in social media that this may affect their relationship. I personally have no beef either way – I have made my choice, and obviously I think that other people should make theirs. This is why I must admit I did raise my eyebrows when I read the GMC guidance that doctors who identify as such online “should” use their real names – the clarification that “should” does not mean “must” still seems quite woolly to me in all honesty. I appreciate the reasoning, that if people are making claims in the name of medicine then identifying who they are will help in discerning whether those claims are credible or not. But it does still seem a bit heavy-handed to me.

I would encourage nurses and other professionals to think about professional tweeting and blogging. As a result of this – hardly prolific – blog, I have been able to be part of conversations recently about evidence-based practice and the future of nursing leadership amongst others, opportunities I’d never have had if I wasn’t involved in these sites. The usual provisos apply (see guidance above) – use your common sense, don’t be defamatory, don’t breach patient confidentiality, etc – but see this as an opportunity to be part of wider significant conversations. You never know who will pick it up – I found out after I started in my current post that my boss and colleagues had read my blog (presumably they had googled me when I was shortlisted) so knew that I could write a bit already. I’m not making any claims to literary or academic magnificence, but it’s certainly not done me any harm. I know that some people are nervous about the professional monitoring of social media use – in my last clinical job we were advised by a senior nursing manager that they receive around weekly requests from the NMC related to people’s social media use – but really, if you use your common sense and don’t do anything silly, I think that social media represents much more of an opportunity than a threat both to personal/professional development and to the chance to contribute to the debates that are shaping practice and services.

Useful blogs on central/eastern Europe

I haven’t yet got round to sorting out a blog list for the side of this blog, but wanted to alert readers to some blogs and other sources which I find useful and interesting. For this post I’ll concentrate on the central/eastern Europeanists.

First up, Dr Catherine Baker blogs on teaching and research on nationalism, culture and identity. I’ve discovered her blog relatively recently, but think it’s well worth a read.

Secondly, one of my partners-in-crime when I was doing my PhD at Glasgow University. The Thesis Whisperer blogged recently about PhD topics that give everyone else research envy and that everyone wants to talk about, and Dr Paul Jordan’s research certainly fit that bill – here he blogs on nation branding and the Eurovision Song Contest. Sexual and reproductive health felt like the world’s most tedious topic in comparison to that 😉

For the politics/history buffs, Dr Sean Hanley from UCL and Dr Kelly Hignett from Swansea University are worth a read, as is the Transitions Online Editors’ blog, East of Center. Dr Caterina Preda from the University of Bucharest writes about the links between arts and politics. More specifically Romania-related, Professor Lavinia Stan from St Francis Xavier University in Canada blogs on politics, religion, memory and all sorts and is always worth reading.

I’ve not found too many CEE/FSU health related blogs yet (I’m sure they’re out there!) but will mention Dr Kate Thomson‘s blog. Kate lectures at Birmingham City University, and more relevantly for me was my PhD external examiner.

The Southeast European Studies Association has a blog with calls for papers and information on their activities.

Finally, not a blog but I recently discovered an interesting website from Romania (primarily in Romanian) which describes itself as a ‘social, intellectual and political critique group’, coming from a mainly leftist perspective. It’s not primarily an academic group of writers, but they do write on subjects of interest to academics. Critic Atac.

I would love to find out other good central/east European academic blogs (local and international) – please leave any others you know and rate in the comments.

Using blogs as sources

I’ve been musing about writing a post about following up tangents encountered during research which aren’t strictly relevant to the research project but are interesting and worthy of further attention; I might come back to that at some point. However, whilst musing about this my mind went off on a tangent (did you see what I did there?!) and I was reminded of an issue which came up during my PhD, namely the use of blogs as sources.

As part of my PhD I did a pretty extensive media review, concentrating on online newspapers and other mainline media (such as TV/radio station websites and local news agencies). I also came across a number of blogs which were relevant to my topic, but although I collected quite a lot of relevant blog posts I chose on that occasion not to include them in my final analysis – they were useful to give me a feel for the various views of people on the street, but I felt that the writers of a personal blog would not necessarily have any expectation that their blog would be used and quoted beyond the scope of the blog audience. On the other hand, I had no problem using the personal comments made under articles from online newspapers – it seemed to me that in a national more public forum like that people would feel differently about the use of their comments (they strike me as being in a similar vein to ‘letters to the Editor’) than they would a blog post or comment. In fact I even remember one comment on a TV station website discussion under the article which directly said “someone should collect these comments and write an article about it”!

However, I am now collecting data for a journal article I have wanted to write since I came back from my PhD fieldwork, which I used a bit in my PhD but nothing like to the extent that the amount of data could have merited (I think this is my link to my original musings about following up tangents), and as well as the extensive online newspaper, TV stations etc articles I am coming across a significant number of relevant blog posts which if I were to include them would, I think, make a significant contribution. I did read one article (a chapter by Shannon Woodcock in this book) which used a lot of blog posts as part of the analysis, and it seemed to make a lot of sense using them (I highly recommend the book, by the way, for anyone interested in issues around sexuality in central and eastern Europe).

So my questions are, how do you feel about using the personal blog posts of strangers as part of your data? Am I being over-cautious in limiting myself to online public newspapers etc? Have you come across any good sources arguing convincingly one way or the other? What would *you* do?

My new shiny blog

Inspired by various academics I follow on twitter, and by a desire to channel my considerable talent for procrastination into something more productive, I have decided to join the ranks of academic bloggers.  I see this blog as a chance to write regularly about my research interests and publicise my research and profile. Subjects I expect to appear here include

  • health care provision and policy in the UK and eastern Europe (particularly Romania and Moldova)
  • sexual and reproductive health care
  • sexuality (particularly as it relates to eastern Europe)
  • media representations of health
  • nursing and health visiting
  • public health and health inequalities
  • research methods
  • ethical issues

amongst other things.  I will also include thoughts on books and articles I find interesting (or irritating!) and details of any conferences/seminars I attend and (hopefully!) any articles I publish.  Occasionally blog posts will be inspired by media coverage of an issue of interest; I will try but cannot promise to not rant!

I hope to write something here at least weekly as I expect this to be a useful discipline for my writing and reflection.  Hopefully you will find the blog interesting – please feel free to comment!