Employee health professionals can use social media, Internet to boost staff health
How did many people learn about the tsunami in Japan? Twitter
Hospital employee health professionals should consider using social media and Internet communications and campaigns to electronically promote safety and health for health care workers.
For example, social media has become an integral tool for the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).
"We formed a committee that managed our social media efforts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and now AAOHN has staff doing this," says Kim Olszewski, DNP, CRNP, COHN-S/CM, assistant professor of nursing at Bloomsburg (PA) University.
AAOHN can now disseminate information and news bulletins quickly through social media, including updates on Ebola or new regulatory changes, she says.
"We look for ways to keep our information fresh and innovative," Olszewski says.
Hospitals also can use social media to get out information about health initiatives and to launch health or vaccination campaigns, she suggests.
There are free healthy lifestyle apps that a hospital’s campaign can promote among employees.
Also, with a little education from hospital employee health staff, hospital employees will be able to find better health information when they use online resources.
"About 70% of Americans go on the Internet to make decisions about health, but they typically go to websites without truly quality information," says Debra Wolf, PhD, MSN, BSN, associate professor and assistant director of nursing programs at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. "You can give your employees tools to search the Internet in a more accurate, proficient manner."
A good starting point is to teach employees to how to find reliable health information on line, Wolf says. She recommends SPAT (http://www.spat.pitt.edu/) a website designed to evaluate the reliability of content on Internet sites. SPAT shows users how to check websites for their address, publisher, audience, and timeliness. If a website’s audience is medical professionals, hospital employees might be reassured about the site’s accuracy and quality. A next step for the occupational health nurse is to select a set of quality websites and give these links to staff.
"You can start with your hospital’s own website and then select a general one about diabetes and one on healthy living," Wolf says.
Some examples of websites recommended for health information are MedlinePlus — a government site with health and medical information — and Healthfinder.gov, a web-based guide to finding health information.
Emergency response applications
Social media tools can be useful in the event of a disaster, which may result in loss of some phone service. "Twitter was used in the tsunami in Japan to let people know there was a disaster occurring," Olszewski says.
Hospital employee health leaders should make sure that any emergency communication system to get messages to staff should be designed with their input. They should have a point person involved in those meetings and decisions to make sure the information sent to staff about any situation is received and understood.
"The occupational health nurse needs to be at the table because they bring the health component to it," Olszewski says. "They are the boots on the ground."
For instance, when a hospital admits a patient with a dangerous infection, such as Ebola, information sent to staff via email could include current infection control and employee health information and recommendations.
Social media and the Internet also are useful tools for hospital health promotion campaigns.
Employee health can use podcasts, blogs, and virtual health communities to launch and promote a campaign, Wolf suggests.
"One university course I just developed [instructs] nurses how to use virtual tele-health to promote wellness," she says. "We teach them how to develop a blog that would support wellness for certain groups of people."
Another approach is creating a platform of health and wellness information on YouTube. For example, a video demonstration of donning and doffing protective barrier equipment as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Ebola was recently posted (http://bit.ly/1oul0Pd).
Employee health can also use mobile apps to guide workers toward healthier decisions, but first they should survey staff to determine how many are using mobile devices and apps, Olszewski suggests.
"We recommend doing needs assessment, finding out exactly how many people have smart phones and how many would be interested in doing a wellness activity," she says. "You can create a friendly competition in wellness or encourage people to download apps that let them follow how their friends are doing on a health challenge."
Before designing a new program that uses peer pressure through a mobile app, employee health should obtain employee input. "It’s usually better received if you can get some employees involved in decision making," Olszewski says. "Find out what they have, what they need, and then get them engaged."