Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cell phones and developing countries

For some time now I have been interested in how cell phones can be used to share health care resources and information with health professionals in developing countries, especially midwives. It has been my personal observation that cell phones are ubiquitous, even in countries like Pakistan. And my view has been that they are a wonderful way to opening up communication with people who would otherwise be cut off from professional communities in the Western World.

In my role as convener of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife I have been keen to turn the recordings of the sessions into files that can be downloaded onto cell phones. I have made the assumption that this would be a more effective way to targeting midwives in developing countries than via the Internet.

But my recent trip to Vanuatu has shown a different side to cell phones.

Every where I went there were signs advertising Digicel cell phones - every few feet is a booth selling cell phone re-charge vouchers. What I was told has happened is up to recently Vanautu was a barter economy. I bartered one cabbage with you for half a dozen coconuts. No one was rich, but no one starved. Now everyone wants a cell phone. Young people are often given free cell phones, which is just fine until they need to be topped up. And to do need money. So now the economy has changed and young people especially are looking at ways to make money which is difficult in this very poor country. And needless to say, one way of making money is by turning to crime.

I am not saying that cell phones are to blame for Vanuatu's crime. But in my naivety, I hadn't thought of the issues that cell phones bring and their wider impact on society.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What I love about history

What I love about history is when you look back you realise there is nothing new under the sun.

Take for instance, men's fashions. There isn't much difference between what the young lads today are doing with their hair to what the toofs did with theirs in the early 1800s...brushing it forward a la Brutus.

The only difference is back in those days the men didn't wear their trousers hanging off their bums!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cinderella did go to the ball after all thanks to Facebook

I was feeling a tad sorry for myself yesterday afternoon. I was desperate to get to the last England game in the World Rugby Cup at Dunedin stadium, but sadly was unable to get a ticket because I am totally broke at the moment. So I communicated my sorrow on Facebook and went back to my spring cleaning....

About 4.00pm I received a phone call from an ex midwifery client of mine saying she had a spare ticket to the game...saw my plight on Facebook...and asked if I'd like to go with her...and if the answer was yes, she'd pick me up in 30 minutes.

So after a mad scramble to put all the food back in the freezer that I was de-frosting and trying to dry my England shirt in the tumble dryer, I got picked up and whisked off to the game.

So...big thanks to my fairy godmother, Brita.

Who said Facebook was a waste of time?!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What is acceptable language from health professionals online?

I have been following a fascinating discussion led by GP Anne-Marie Cunningham entitled "Social media, black humour and professionals..." which has been exploring what is acceptable use of language online by health professionals.

What is humour and what is offensive language?
The first I heard about this story was when I saw that a health professional had refered to labour ward (delivery suite) as "labia ward" and "birthing sheds" on Twitter. Anne-Marie blogged about the conversation because she felt the terminology the health professional was using could be offensive to patients and her post was also discussed further on Facebook: The Medical Registrar. The ongoing conversations on Anne-Marie's blog and Facebook have been really interesting, and included some very passionate ideas...and to be honest...some abusive responses.

How much does language reflect a health professional's attitude and practice?
I am all for having a laugh...letting off steam...and seeing humour in my work. I recognise health professionals have various coping mechanisms for the stress in their lives, and I love a non-PC joke as much as the next man.

What concerns me....does this language reflect an uncaring and disrespectful attitude to patients (and colleagues) that is carried over into the face-to-face workplace? The other thing that concerns me is the role modeling that is happening in public spaces...what message is being passed on to students about how they talk about patients...especially using social media?

Personally, I would feel very concerned if my daughter was being cared for by a health professional who spoke about their patients in this way. How can I be reassured that this attitude is not carried into the health professional's face-to-face interactions? How can I be reassured that he or she would not see my daughter as nothing more than a "labia"? And how could I trust that this health professional wouldn't be blabbing about her on Twitter, Facebook etc especially if he found some "humour" in his interactions with her?

Is Twitter the equivalent of the local pub?
The bottom line is...posting a comment or Facebook is not like having a yarn and giggle down the local pub with mates. Unless conversations are held in closed groups, they can be seen by everyone. As a general rule you should only say online what you'd be prepared to see in headlines in your local newspaper. Personally, I believe this sort of conversation in a public place and the resulting abuse that has followed is unprofessional and reflects very poorly on health professionals.

What do you think? Is this a case of health professionals letting off steam and should be ignored as a bit of fun? Or is it a more insidious indication of how health professionals dehumanize patients? Is this whole discussion political correctness gone berserk or should health professionals be disciplined for talking about patients in this way in social media?

Other commentaries on this discussion:

Paul Levy: A storm brews across the pond
Clare OT: Social Media and the Medical Profession

Image: 'Panama Health Care - Surgery 1'

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wanted: videos that can be used to support reflective teaching and learning practice

I have been managing a research project in conjunction with Ako Aotearea. The project is called "Mind the gap: Developing a digital repository of resources to support reflective teaching and learning".

What we're aiming to do is develop a wiki that will become a repository for videos and links to videos that can be used to support teaching and learning practice in tertiary institutions. In other words, we are looking for videos that teachers can use to inform their practice and help them to reflect on how they teach adult students.

If you have a video, or know the link of an online video that you think would be useful to teachers in higher education, please feel free to add it to the project wiki:

If you have any questions about the project, please let me know.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loving Dunedin's new stadium...hating England's new black strip

I went to Dunedin's new stadium on Saturday for the first time, for the England vs Argentina game.

The bad news is I am going to be paying for it, as a rate payer, for the next 40 years.

On the positive side, the stadium is amazing. It was warm, dry and the atmosphere was stunning. Having survived many occasions at Carisbrook where I came that close to being hospitalised for hypothermia, it was wonderful to be watching rugby without taking half of my bedding to the game.

The only downside of the game was the new colour of the England strip. Why they have ditched white and red, and changed to black is beyond me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

No time for Google+

A few months ago Google brought out an application called Google +. This application aims to integrate all of Google's other features into a social network that rivals Facebook. But rather than having one blanket "friend" like Facebook, it has circles with different focuses. So I can have a "family" circle..."friends" circle..."work" circle..."teachers"..."midwives"...and so on.

Some of the feedback I have seen has been very positive about aspect. For example, midwife Jan Tritten has vowed to move from Facebook to Google + because it gives her much more control over her she shares it and with whom. However, Facebook has recently responded so that now you can choose to make your status private or public.

As for me, I have requests every day to join people on Google + but as yet have not had time to explore it. I am really entrenched in Facebook so it will take a lot to move me from there completely. The only people who have talked to me about Google + are my geeky friends - people I follow on Facebook, like my kids, are totally unaware of it.

I am not a social media expert so I have no idea if Google + is going to make the grade. But as for me, there has to be really compelling reasons why I should invest time in yet another application, especially when I already use one that does a reasonably good job.

Are you using Google +? How are you getting on with it?

Friday, September 2, 2011

New international campaign promoting normal birth

There is a new campaign and website being launched currently to raise awareness about birth called:

What I love about this video that launches the campiagn is it has so many of my midwifery heroes talking...Lesley Page, Soo Downe, Denis Walsh, Mary Newburn, Sally Tracey to name but a few. All these people has published wonderfully inspiring research and's great to see what they look like in the flesh.