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Online nursing students discover ways popular programs can help with studies

When Tiffany Montgomery, MSN, RNC-OB, heard about Twitter several years ago, she had her reservations. The doctoral student and teaching assistant at University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing. dismissed it as “a place for narcissists to post information about themselves all the time.”

Slowly, however, Montgomery’s opinion began to change when she discovered she could use the social media site as a platform to engage other nursing professionals and students about topics relevant to her field.

“I encourage students to use social media to help them connect with like-minded people,” said Montgomery, who opened a Twitter account in 2011. “In my experience Twitter is the best social media platform for getting up-to-date information quickly. My specialty is reproductive health, and I am always getting tweets from the CDC, Office of Adolescent Health and WomensHealth.gov to stay current.”

Twitter also has helped Montgomery connect with fellow nursing PhD students, and through those connections she learned about reference managing systems such as EndNote and Zotero to organize the citations for her dissertation. “Getting a PhD can be a very lonely journey, and knowing other people who are going through the same thing has been important,” she said.

Twitter also can be a critical conduit to healthcare organizations that may have job openings in the future, Michelle Mercurio, national manager of career services at Chamberlain College of Nursing, Downers Grove, Ill., said.

“Instead of having an informational session at the hospital, organizations are starting to host it on Twitter,” Mercurio said. “There is usually a moderator of the conversation at a coordinated time, and people in the discussion may talk about recruiting or future careers in nursing.”

Mercurio also encourages students to create a LinkedIn account to help them connect with the nursing community. Students can establish a professional presence and also search for LinkedIn groups related to their fields of interest.

“It is important for students to know that the online networking opportunities are more robust than even one or two years ago,” Mercurio said. “LinkedIn has instituted a lot of different ways to share information, and it is really a platform for branding yourself, connecting to other nurses and understanding issues that are out there.”

Finding online classmates

Online nursing students eager to connect with classmates also can interact in smaller social networks. Many of the students in Montgomery’s classes, for example, form private Facebook groups to exchange information about the topics of upcoming exams, deadlines and study tips.

Many online courses also use learning platforms such as Blackboard, which allows students to participate in discussions with one another and the professors. Mary Jean Schumann, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, interim senior associate dean of academic affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., often forms a small discussion board within Blackboard for three to five students who are working on a project together.

“This way they don’t have to miss out on direct contact with each other,” Schumann said. “They can post information, ask questions and chat with each other. There is also an ongoing trail of everything, so it is clear to me as an instructor who has been participating and who has not.”

Words of wisdom

Although there is a clear advantage to connecting with nursing news and people anytime, anywhere, Montgomery said minutes quickly can become hours consumed in front of a screen. She recently started using a time-management technique to set limits on the number of minutes she spends on social media sites.

In her role as a teaching assistant, she also sets boundaries for whom she will connect with on social media platforms.

“I refrain from engaging with my current students on any social networking sites,” she said. “These platforms are not secure enough for the things students typically want to discuss. I encourage them to follow me on Twitter, but I typically do not follow them back so I can respect their privacy.”

Although it took Montgomery a few years to overcome her bias against social media, now she can’t imagine living without it. In fact, online networking has helped her connect with people around the world who share her passion to use technology to reduce high-risk sexual behavior throughout the globe.

To see what else is trending, visit www.Nurse.com/Online-Ed.

By | 2014-08-17T00:00:00-04:00 August 17th, 2014|Categories: National|0 Comments

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