Despite the best efforts of many, pharmacy teams still tend to operate in traditional sector-specific silos with little communication or collaboration between them. As financial and operational challenges really start to hit our workloads we have less time to discuss problems or learn and share with others, even as the wider benefits of multidisciplinary collaboration become more important.
Despite these pressures, most of us still find time to be active online. On average, social media users in 2015 had 5 to 6 different social media accounts - 320 million of which were on Twitter - and it’s here that we bring together pharmacy professionals looking to break out of their silos, communicate, network, collaborate and innovate.
@WePharmacists is a volunteer-led group open to anyone, but has particular relevance to those operating in or with pharmacy teams. Our aim is to pursue better patient care and outcomes from medicines through shared learning & a connected pharmacy team. Established in 2013, the idea followed the success of @WeNurses who demonstrated how social media use could break down professional silos, open up communication and facilitate shared learning.
The role of social media in professional practice continues to be well researched and reported on, but is not without ethical or professional challenges including the possible blurring between personal and professional lives, whether or not to remain anonymous, posting something unprofessional (even if inadvertently) and how best to respond to patient queries in a public space.
However, the benefits of professional use of social media are real and go beyond just sharing knowledge and experience, or debating approaches and topics; community members have explained that they feel additional value comes from having a shared identity in a wider community, gaining real-time support or advice from peers and networking outside of usual boundaries, including internationally.
As its core offering WePharmacists uses twice monthly facilitated tweet chats using the hashtag #WePh. We’ve developed two short videos that explain what a tweet chat is and how to get the most from them. Chats are open to anyone with an interest in the topic, including patients, last 60 minutes and typically include around 30 participants. The chat topics tend to be suggested by the community and we offer those people the chance to host the chat themselves, giving it direction and structure. Previous ‘hosts’ have included the Department of Health, NHS England, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and The General Pharmaceutical Council.
Where we feel a wider audience would be beneficial, the WeCommunities will co-ordinate a multi-disciplinary chat (#WeMDT). These are particularly useful in supporting individuals and organisations to make connections and share learning not only with those in their own profession, who are located at opposite ends of the country, but also between those from different professions altogether. As an example, a previous #WeMDT chat was hosted by Public Health England for World Heart Day and included nurses, medics, pharmacists and commissioners.
As new roles and services emerge, the pace of practice development quickens and the demands on our time increase, social media will play an ever more important part of our ability to promptly recognise, respond to and benefit from change. WePharmacists aims to continue to support and develop our community members as they continue in their professional journey.
Pharmacist co-ordinator for WePharmacists