Saturday, September 28, 2013

Midwifery: Isn’t there an App for that?


I am facilitating a workshop around midwives' use of social media, on Monday 30th September, at the Australian College of Midwives 2013 conference. My usual program is to talk about the reasons why midwives should engage with social media, and then focus on some of the most popular tools. But this time, I am going to take a slightly different tack.

Over the last year I have observed a shift in Australian midwives' requirements for knowledge, from what tools are best to use, to how we use the tools. I feel there has been a greater engagement with Facebook, and a growing interest in Twitter. But along with the greater use of social media has been an increase in stories of the misuse, both by midwives, and the people they engage with.

So, along with my usual talk about tools, I am going to use the draft Australian College of Midwives' social media guidelines as a framework to explore how to use social media professionally. In particular, I am going to devise some scenarios for the participants to discuss and explore solutions.

What situations have you found yourself in, or observed that would make a good scenario for discussion at a workshop about social media? 

Image: 'What’s on my iPhone'
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why I don't blog much any more - and is there a cure?!

I have been blogging since 2007, and up until this time last year, wrote fairly regular posts, at least three times a week. But looking back at the last year, you can see that there has been a rapid drop off, to the point where I wrote just one post in July and again in August.

You could be forgiven for asking why it matters; after all, it may indicate that I have found a life away from the computer, which has got to be a good thing...hasn't it?!

In a way, that has been true. Since moving to Canberra, especially in the summer months, I have been spending more time outside and enjoying the beautiful warm weather, especially on a Sunday, which is when I typically write my blog posts for the week.

But it does matter that I am not blogging much these days because of the benefits I found when I was doing it regularly, which include:
  • a space for reflection;
  • a permanent record of my work, processes, thinking and development;
  • collaboration with people in the online space
  • development of international networks
  • a reputation as a midwifery/educational blogger
  • opportunities for research and work as a result of my blogging.
Because I am not blogging at the moment, I feel as if my networks and the conversations I have been involved with are slowly drying up. And this is not good for my professional growth in the long term.

So why aren't I blogging at the moment?

Much has to do with my new job.  Because it is a national role, I am extremely wary of what I talk about on social media. So I feel I must only blog about "neutral" topics that aren't going to get me into any kind of trouble, which is a tad tricky at times if I cannot come up with any ideas.

I spend a lot of time working on the Australian College of Midwives' Facebook page and use a lot of emotional energy figuring out what is appropriate to post on that page, and responding to comments there. So by the time I get to my social media platforms, I'm too tired to start again with the process. You have only got to look at my personal Facebook page to see how it has changed from a professional page, to almost completely personal comments and links.

On a personal level, I don't have much time where I am completely alone to spend thinking, or I am too tired, and just want to blob and watch reality TV.  And the studying I am doing isn't inspiring any creative thought.

So how do I get my blogging mojo back? Any suggestions?

I would especially love to hear from people who manage professional social media sites - how do you juggle that work with your own social media needs?

Image: 'The Art of Social Media'
Found on

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saying goodbye to our darling Angel

It's been a sad couple of months.

Six weeks ago I had our darling cat, Blackie put down. She had been with us for nearly 21 years and was a vital part of the family.

If that wasn't enough, I have now just had our dog, Angel, put down today. She was 16 and a half years old, and like Blackie, was an integral part of the family. But also like Blackie, she was very old and her quality of life was suffering.

We got Angel from the SPCA in Gisborne when she was about three months old. She was an absolute terror when she was a puppy, and had quite a few adventures. I lost her once in the bush, about an hour's drive outside Gisborne, when I was visiting a midwifery client. Mark and I went looking for her twice a day for a whole week, and eventually gave up, and broke the sad news to the kids. On the morning of the eighth day we had a call to say that the driver of a logging truck had picked her up. She wasn't half as quick to go wandering off after that.

Angel was a bit of a rascal when it came to chocolate. She loved nothing better than to steal chocolate out of the grocery bags, if I made the mistake of leaving my shopping on the floor.

She loved going down to the beach, which I think was a result of the many hours we spent at the sea side at Gisborne when she was a puppy. We spent many hours trying to teach her to catch sticks or balls, but all she loved to do was run through the waves.

One day I took a friend down to Broad Beach, which is just outside Dunedin,. We took our shoes off and went for a long walk. Suddenly I realized that Angel wasn't with us. And knowing her history for running off, I knew I wouldn't have a chance of finding her in the fields that surround the beach. We spent ages calling and calling her, and eventually I gave up. But when we got back to the pile of shoes, we found her there guarding them, and waiting patiently for us to return.

The other thing that used to make me laugh was the love-hate relationship that Angel and Blackie had. Blackie knew that we would regularly let Angel out into the garden so that she could do her thing. So as soon as Blackie saw us head for the front door, she used to dart into the door entrance and wait for Angel to pass by. As Angel passed by, she would whack Angel with her paw. Then, she would wait for Angel to come back indoors and give her another whack. Poor Angel never worked out a way to get past her without being clobbered.

Angel was so much a part of our lives, and for so long that we took her for granted. But now she is gone, the house is going to feel very empty.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Social media for midwives - work of the devil or best thing since sliced bread?

One of the things I have been aiming to do ever since I started my job as Professional Development Officer at the Australian College of Midwives last August, is write a guidance document for midwives around the use of social media. This has become more relevant and urgent as the Australian midwives' regulatory body, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, is about to release its social media policy which directs midwives back to professional bodies for in-depth advice and guidance.

Consultation on the ACM Draft Social Media Guidance for Midwives 
So here is the ACM Draft Social Media Guidance for Midwives:

I would be delighted to hear what you think of it, and collect any suggestions for how we can improve it.

ACM supports midwives using social media
To be honest, the ACM Guidelines don't really say anything different to what other professional health bodies have said, such as the Royal College of General Practitioners and Royal College of Nursing Australia. We all pretty much say the same thing, and even use the same examples to illustrate a point - the student midwife and the placenta incident in the USA has figured all over the place.
However, what I hope comes over strongly in the ACM Guidelines is that we support social media as a very useful tool to facilitate professional networking and engagement with consumers. But there are professional rules and regulations that midwives have to adhere to.
What do we consider is best practice?
The other thing I wanted to do, was not only present stories of where things have gone wrong, but also to present the other side of the picture, and give examples of best give midwives ideas about how we can use social media constructively. I would love to hear if you have an example of how you have used social media constructively, either to connect with consumers and other health professionals, or for learning and CPD.

Endorsements and social media
The one aspect that I did struggle with is the advice around endorsements. This is because we do not have clear guidance from AHPRA, and this area is one that we are still feeling our way around. So again, any feedback on this area will be gratefully received. What do you think we should regard as an endorsement? How should we manage this when a consumer posts an "endorsement" on our social media sites? If you are a health consumer, what are your views on what constitutes an endorsement? How do you use social media to give feedback to your midwife?

Finally, I'd like to thank Carolyn Hastie who was the co-author of this Guidance paper.

Image: 'flickr and facebook'
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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Third time lucky?

Over 10 years ago I enrolled into a PhD program. Sadly, things didn't work out and eventually I withdrew from the program. After a couple of years of phaffing around, I enrolled into an EdD at Otago University because I felt a more structured approach to my studies would ensure my motivation and completion. However, my move to Australia, and changing jobs from education to industry has made me think that an EdD no longer has relevance to my life. So I have withdrawn from that program.

In the meantime, I have had a very interesting chat with Profs Deborah Davis and Keith Lyons at the University of Canberra. They have suggested that I apply to do a PhD with a thesis by publications. This would entail writing/submitting four papers for publication, and tying them together in a thesis with a literature, introduction and conclusion.

I love this idea because it really is more like a portfolio-approach to a PhD. It will allow me to take all the work I have done over the last six years and bring them together and make sense of the themes, track my learning and growth over the years, and help me work how where to go from here, now that my working context has changed so drastically.

This is my "third time lucky". If I don't get on and complete with this enrolment, then I have to kiss the whole PhD thing goodbye. But I am also a tad embarrassed that I'm still working at it....13 years later!

Does anyone know what the record is for number of enrolments, or time it took to complete a PhD?! I hoping I am not one of the worse!? 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Virtual International Day of the Midwife: Where to from here?

In my last few posts I have been reflecting on the 5th Annual Virtual International Day of the Midwife. In this post I want to take a little time to think about what we still want to achieve.

What objectives have we achieved?
There are a number of objectives that we have articulated over the years which we have achieved, and I am extremely proud of that.
  • Recognition on an international level that this is a credible event, with endorsement by the International Confederation of Midwives.
  • Recognition of the event's credibility by the world's midwifery leaders, with offers from our leading academics, leaders and researchers to be speakers.
  • Have people clamour to be speakers.
  • Build capacity in online facilitators.
  • Have speakers presenting from across the world, resource-poor countries as well as Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand.
  • Have the VIDM screened/accessed in countries such as PNG that have so little communication and external interaction with the rest of the world.
  • Advance our model of virtual communication and collaboration for midwifery CPD.
  • Advance Open Education Resources (OER) and OER practices in midwifery.
However, there are some other objectives that I feel we have yet to reach.
  • Sessions facilitated and presented by non-English speakers.
  • Break into the Asian market, including China, because we hear so little from Chinese midwives.
  • Make the event more "mobile".
  • Completely fill a 200 seat room.
  • Support an ongoing conversation.
The last two objectives will be achieved in the next year or two. However, I am not sure about the first two, or that it is appropriate to try and achieve them. I am very mindful that we do not meet the needs of non-English speakers, and I have angsted about this on more than one occasion - have a look here at my thoughts on this last year.

Free web-conferencing for resource-poor countries?
What I am starting to think about is making a proposal to someone, probably the ICM, that they buy a license to a virtual room that any midwife can use, something like the model that Steve Hargadon used to facilitate a couple of years ago. There would have to be a virtual booking system, and someone would have to be responsible for keeping an eye of things, as well as finding funding for it. However, I think that it might be a more culturally appropriate way to approach online CPD for resource-poor countries, than trying to make them fit into our model.

Keeping the connections going?
As for our last objective, I am not at all sure how we facilitate the connections to continue talking and sharing. We have our Facebook and Twitter page, and we keep that ticking over during the "down-season", however, I am not sure we have the capacity or desire to keep it going at the same level as we do in the six months of the conference. I have also thought about organizing a regular monthly seminar, but, again, don't have the time or energy to do that. So...any other suggestions gratefully received.

What do you think? What aims and goals do you think we should be continuing to strive toward?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Making practice transparent through e-portfolio

I am delighted that at long last my article about how I use social media and social networking processes to reflect on my practice, and develop my e-portfolio, has been published by the Women and Birth journal:

It took a considerable amount of time to get written, and I am truly grateful to Maxine Alterio for mentoring and supporting me in the processes.

I am especially pleased with this work because a. I managed to write this as a sole author, which has boosted my confidence around my ability to write academic papers, and b. there is very little written (if anything) about how to use social media and social networking for personal reflection and e-portfolio, by practitioners once they are out in practice.

Feel free to have a read - I would love your feedback. How practical, relevant or appropriate do you think it is for health professionals to use social media tools for reflection and e-portfolio?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The latest art exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery: Paris to Monaro. Pleasures from the studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas

Bringing in the sheep c. 1936. Hilda Rix Nicholas oil on canvas Bega Valley Art and Craft Society’s Permanent Collection, Bega Valley Regional Gallery

 I had the pleasure on Thursday, of being invited to the opening night of the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, called: Paris to Monaro, which is an exhibition by a local Australia artist, Hilda Rix Nicolas. Since moving to Canberra last year, several institutions have become my favourite places; the War Memorial is one, and the National Portrait Gallery is another. So, needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to attend an opening night of the latest exhibition.

 At this point I have to admit that I am not an art critic. I know nothing about brush stokes, quality of light, and I certainty cannot tell you what the Impressionist movement is! I can barely draw a straight line, although I did win first prize in a painting competition when I was five, at the village fete in Somerset, and won five shillings. However, the event was marred considerably by the fact my parents made me give both of my sisters a shilling each!  So, as far as art goes, I know what I like, and what I don't like, but that is about it.

The opening night of the Hilda Rix Nicholas exhibition got off to a mixed start. I really enjoyed my free glass of bubbles, and was very pleased to actually get to see Robyn Archer in person - I haven't been in Australia very long but I know enough to know that Robyn Archer is famous here - and she opened the exhibition. We were told that there were a number of ambassadors attending, so I had great fun trying to work out who was an ambassador, and what country he/she represented. But, on the down side, my daughter, who had arranged to meet me, turned up with blood pouring all over the place- she had fallen over in the dark and had a really nasty cut on her arm. However, a very nice security officer got out her first aid box and patched Ellen up.

The exhibition is lovely because it captures the imagination on a number of levels, and is definitely worth visiting. Hilda Rix Nicholas is a fascinating woman in her own right.  She was born in Ballarat in 1884, travelled widely overseas between 1907 and 1926, studying and painting in England and France. The story goes that Major George Matson Nicholas, D.S.O., from Melbourne, found and admired her abandoned paintings in France. They met and married, but tragically he was killed in France, in the First World War, only a few months later.

Eventually, Hilda came to Canberra to paint and married Edgar Percy Wright, a grazier, and went to live at Knockalong station, Delegate, in the broad, bleached landscape of the Monaro, New South Wales. Her son Barrie Rix was born when she was 46. She was an extremely successful artist who was not part of any group, movement or set; her art is not assigned to any ‘school’. She is an anomaly amongst Australian women artists of the first half of the twentieth century; combining an artist’s dedication, ambition and relentless self-promotion with a full life as a partner in a grazing and wool enterprise, and utter devotion to the physical, intellectual and aesthetic development of her son. Hilda died in1961.

Ellen and I really enjoyed the exhibition. Ellen particularly connected with the Australian landscapes. She felt the realness of them - the colours and details made her as if she was part of the paintings. I was more drawn to Hilda's charcoal drawings; of the brothers of her husband, and of her son, who she clearly adored. They seemed a lot more authentic to me, compared to the idealised landscapes. However, what this does demonstrate is this exhibition speaks to different people in different ways. If you go, let me know how Hilda's art spoke to you.

Paris to Monaro: pleasures from the studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas is open now, until the 11th August 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2013 - What can we do better?

In my last blog post I talked about some of the highlights of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife, and what I feel we do well. In this post I want to reflect a little more on what we could do better.

Better organisaton?
I think we have our management processes pretty much sorted, especially thanks to our new email system and domain. However, we are not as responsive as I think we should be in the last two or three weeks. This was a challenge for me at times in the run up to the conference because I didn't feel fully updated with progress of facilitator and speaker organisation. This puts the event at risk because if we don't know what was going on, we cannot take action to put things right if they were turning to custard.

(Mind you, I have to admit that I am a control freak and I go into manic/panic mode in the couple of weeks running up to the conference. The VIDM is my life for those two weeks - I live, sleep, breathe the VIDM. I recognise that I have to let go of this, and trust in the process, and trust in the wonderful people that I work with on the organizing committee.)

Eventually, we got ourselves sorted with a shared tracking document which we maintained in Google Docs. To overcome this problem next year, I suggest that:
  • we develop an extensive time line with jobs and have that ready to go, right from day one of our organisation;
  • we integrate the time line into a shared tracking document;
  • we aim to start organisation in December, rather than leaving it until January/February;
  • we start the process of matching facilitators and speakers at least 1 week earlier, and have strictly enforced time lines for what facilitators/speakers should do.
A little more structure to master facilitation
The master facilitators are amazing people who donate a lot of their time to make sure the event runs well on the day. There isn't really much more I would do different except to suggest that we are more proactive about having a "spare" presentation/speaker available in every time zone, just in case some one drops out at the very last minute, or we have technical difficulties.

On the whole everyone did a fantastic job. But there were one or two facilitators and speakers who either found they had committed to something that was too advanced for them, or they didn't quite realise how stressful it is for us when they did not stick to time lines, like send in their presentations to be prepared in the virtual room.

One thing I am going to suggest for next year is that if we have any doubt about people's commitment or ability, especially as facilitators,  that we ask them to attend as a participant in the first year to get an idea of how everything works, before we accept them as facilitators in the following year. We do need to build capacity in facilitators but at the same time, we also want facilitators who can do a professional job. It is very stressful to the master facilitators if the facilitator don't do their job well, before or during the conference. Another idea may be to do a virtual teaching session or two, on how to be a good facilitator, a few weeks/months before the event.

24 hour social media coverage
Another thing I think we need to improve is our social media coverage, making sure that there is someone at the back end of our Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the 24 hours. This will be especially useful when it comes to answering real-time questions and posting up photos of participants.

Did you attend the Virtual International Day of the Midwife this year? What do you think we could do better? 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2013 - My personal reflection

I cannot believe that we have just had our 5th Virtual International Day of the Midwife. It doesn't seem like five minutes ago that we started this initiative - I have just had the best fun reviewing old blog posts and looking at how we have developed over the years.

This year's event was even more successful than ever.  We had an average attendance of 120 seats, and 160+ seats taken in our most popular sessions. But we know far more people than that actually joined us, for example, a group of students in Australia and over 50 midwives in PNG. I will be publishing a full report here over the next few days about the event itself.

Time to go?
I had thought this would be my last year of convening the VIDM because of workload issues. The event takes a lot of time and emotional energy to organize, and facilitate on the day. I have recently moved to a new role that doesn't allow me to spend much time on the event at work, so I was very concerned how I would manage the workload. My problem has been, because this has been my baby for so many years, I have been reluctant to hand over control and jobs, even though I have a wonderful team of people who work with me to organize the event.

However, this year we have made a few changes which have lightened my load, and made my job less onerous. And as I feel there are still a couple of things I want to achieve in this event, I will probably stick around for another year or two, but I'll come back to that.

Amazing organising committee!
Over the last three or four years an amazing group of people have come together to to work with me to facilitate the VIDM - Deborah Davis, Chris Woodhouse, Lorraine Mockford, Linda Wylie, Annette Dalsgaard Vilain, Sarah Bandasak and Mary Sidebotham. These people are truly awesome and donate many hours to this event, year after year. Some of them, like Chris and Lorraine are not even midwives, but are truly committed to the cause because of their love of learning.  

Thank you, guys...couldn't do it without you!

What worked well
This year we have been very mindful about reducing my workload and sharing responsibilities,  building capacity, and thinking about ongoing sustainability, particularly when I leave the organizing committee.
I have also been conscious that I need to become more collaborative as the event has grown in popularity, because with it has grown the responsibility to make the VIDM as successful and professional as possible.

This year we bought a domain and a generic email system, Fastmail. It didn't cost very much, and we were grateful to receive a small amount of funding from the Association of Radical Midwives to do that.

What is the place of sponsorship?
I have always been in two minds about accepting sponsorship. On the one hand, accepting funding to put processes like the email system in place has made our lives so much easier. On the other hand, I have always been very clear that one aspect of the VIDM is about modeling to the wider community what can be achieved using social networking tools and processes, so that midwives with limited means could replicate our work. This is one of the reasons why I have continued to use Wikispaces as our website, as opposed to buying into a more commercial website.

However, having our own domain has made it easier to disseminate information, and it can be used year after year. And the generic email allows the committee to share information and has made the whole organizational processes a lot more transparent. This makes it so much easier to monitor and track progress, and for me to maintain an overview of what was happening.

Another thing that has helped with workload is that our processes are pretty much sorted after all these years of trial and error, especially the information on the wiki. So all I have had to do is re-cycled the information from last year, and just update it where needed. The beauty of the wiki is that we can see the history of  the work from day 1, and do not lose anything. This has been particularly useful in reminding us what we did previously, when and why we did it.

It has taken the committee a couple of years to get their heads around how it works, but this year I noticed a significant increase in the committee's engagement with the wiki. Having said that, although the membership of the wiki has increased over the years, midwives, generally, don't realise how it works, or how they use it to communicate with us.

Developing the program
This year we were much more collaborative about developing the program. Up until this year I had mostly shoulder-tapped people either because I thought they had some interesting things to say, or because they filled a particular time slot. However, this year we had so many EOIs from speakers, we could have nearly filled a 48 hours program.

I am passionate about not turning the VIDM into yet another boring, academic conference. This event has always been about bringing people together, building digital literacy skills, and giving midwives a chance to talk about their work in a way that they might not normally be able to do. At the same time, I do feel a responsibility to develop a program that is of interest and relevance, with a certain professional standard of presentation.

This year I was particularly delighted that we were able to mentor midwives from India into the program as speakers. We had major concerns about their Internet access, which is always problematic in countries such as India. And, language continues to be a barriers at times. However, I was so impressed by the commitment and passion of all the Indian speakers. Both they and their facilitators practiced, practiced and practiced to get things right, and as far as I am concerned, they were the stars of the show. This was in contrast with some other speakers who had a very casual approach, which always makes me nervous about how they'll perform on the day.

Sharing photos
An initiative that we really plugged this year was asking people to share photos of themselves as participants. I tried to get people interested in this on Facebook last year, but it didn't work. This year, we advertised this at every session, and at the end of the event, one of our committee members, Deborah Davis, made the photos into a video show. This was a lovely way to end the day, and also to get a sense of who people were, and see them in their own environment. To my mind, it added a layer of connection to the people who attended the event.

In my next post, I will reflect on what we can do better next year, and discuss some of the objectives that we have yet to achieve.

Did you attend the Virtual International Day of the Midwife this year? What do you think we did well?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Non-profits using social media - taking things to the next level

I had the pleasure, a few days ago, of attending a workshop run by one of my social media heroes, Beth Kanter. I have been following and talking to Beth for some years. She is known for her expertise for using social media in the non-profit sector, and is the author of two books about non-profits and social media.

I had a fabulous time, learned heaps and generally got all excited again about how I can use social media in my job at the Australian College of Midwives. I have seen an exciting increase in the use of the ACM's Facebook Page. But my main reason for attending the workshop was to learn more about how I can use social media to mobilise the ACM membership for volunteer action.

If you're in a similar situation, here are some tips I learned from Beth.

1. Be strategic
At the Australian College of Midwives we're keen to use social media to engage our members and the wider midwifery community, but we're rather hap-hazard about it. There's a number of us who post to our Facebook page, but we have no plan about what we're doing, or how we're doing it. In fact, there are even times when I have no idea what other members of staff post on the page.

Beth believes that you have to develop a strategy for your social media activities, which includes how to engage the support of management and the rest of your staff. Here are some principles to consider, and here is a template that Beth has developed to help us develop a social media strategy: click here for template.

Part of a strategy is the development of a social media policy, which is a framework to underpin staff's use of social media. Here are some notes from Beth and a collection of various organizational policies. I'm keen to develop a policy for the ACM to make our use of social media more consistent across the organisation, and ensure we're more thoughtful about what we do.

2. Develop outcomes that can be measured
Part of developing a strategic plan is coming up with outcomes that you want social media to achieve.  This point really resonated with me because I have a vague idea that I want to use social media to increase engagement with midwives, but I don't really know how that looks. Beth advises that we develop SMART objectives: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely objectives.

It is the ability to measure outcomes that has got me really thinking - what do I want to achieve? I don't think that increasing the amount of "likes" on the ACM Facebook page has any meaning, but, say, increasing our membership because of Facebook is an outcome that we can measure and has importance to our organization.What has struck me is that not only do I need to plan "after" objectives, but I also need to know the state of play before we put our social media policy and strategy into place.

What is tricky to work out is what are reasonable expectations or objectives. How likely is it that the ACM will have an increase in membership because of our engagement with Facebook? What increase in volunteers can we expect? What is a reasonable expectation to have about increased engagement, keeping in mind the 1% rule about online interaction?

3. Plan your activity
I know from my own experience that the more organised I am about my blogging, the more hits, visits and followers I get. What I hadn't thought of before was using an editorial calender, which helps to plan where and when to post content. It allows you to be consistent, relevant and meet the aims of your strategy and objectives.

This leaves me with the question - when is the best time to post comments, posts and tweets, and how frequent/regular should the comments etc be?  The answers to these questions also need to go into your policy for staff to make note of. Here is a great handout of tips that Beth shared that answers a lot of these posting questions: social media posting tips

4. Regular review and evaluation
Need less to say, there is no point is doing all this work if you do not review your strategies, objectives and activities to make sure they are working, and to change tack if they are not effective. If nothing else, I have to be able to demonstrate the gain for the organisation against the time I spend to my boss ie the ROI - return on investment.

There are many tools that you can use to track and measure social media which  Beth recommends. What I am going to do over the next few months is pay more attention to our Facebook "likes", "talking about" and "reach" statistics to work out what resonates with our Facebook readers, and what doesn't do so well

5. Get started and get everyone involved
Before you get started, it's important to find out where your audience is and use the appropriate tools to reach them. It's no good the ACM spending all its resources on Twitter when the majority of midwives can be found on Facebook. Here is a list of tools that Beth has curated: tools.

Below is the slideshow that Beth used at the workshop, and here is the link to the wiki page that she developed for the workshop.

Are you responsible for your organization's social media? Has any of these points resonated with you? Do you have a strategy and policy? How do you measure your social media activity? What difference has social media made to your organization?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The ugly face of Facebook

Most of the time I live in a cloud of social media harmony and love, and for the most part manage to avoid controversies, finding sites like Twitter and Facebook to be very helpful and friendly. But Facebook has its feral side, which I was introduced to, not so very long ago. Even more upsetting was...there was nothing I could do about it.

It started when I saw a really funny image, making fun of Dunedin (where I used to live) on a Facebook page that was obviously trying to launch a satire of Dunedin. I had a look at the site and had a laugh at some of the images. But then I recognised photos of some local characters who have mental health issues. The person behind the site was using images of people with mental health problems and very cruelly making fun of them in an attempt to go "viral". When I complained to the page administrator, I got the usual response - if you don't like it, don't visit our page! What I was very concerned about was that these photos were of people who could not speak for themselves or have a voice to reply.

I complained to Facebook, but the response was that they were not able to confirm that the specific page violated Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

The next step I took was to complain to the Netsafe, which is a New Zealand organization that deals with cyber-bullying and other such issues. But the answer was there was nothing they could do - it was only Facebook that could act.

The irony is that Facebook gets its knickers in a twist about pictures of breastfeeding mothers, yet when real bullying and exploitation happens they do nothing and hide behind a statement that actually is very difficult to enact.

But what saddened me most was the "supportive" comments from people who saw nothing wrong in exploiting vulnerable members of our society for a cheap laugh on Facebook.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Should lecturers become "friends" with students?

When I was a midwifery educator, on the whole, I didn't become "friends" with my students on Facebook. The reason for my reticence was more about protecting the students' privacy than mine. But I was also concerned about issues of power and control (both theirs and mine), and making sure that all students had equal access to me, if they wanted it. To be was very rarely an issue, most of my students had much better things to do than hang out with me on Facebook!

What I have found interesting is that now I am getting an increasing number of requests to be "friends" from midwives who used to be my students and are now out in practice.

One ex-student is really getting her money's worth. She has now enrolled into a postgraduate course, and is using Facebook to ask me and my other ex-teaching colleagues all sorts of questions about academia, study, writing essays at postgraduate level and so on.

It's lovely to be able to support her in this way. And it's fascinating to see how she is incorporating us into her personal learning network.

What do you think about being friends on Facebook with your students or teachers? Is there ever a time when it is OK? Are there other social media tools that better facilitate learning relationships in a more professional way than Facebook?

5 ideas for maximizing free, online professional development

A few weeks ago I was sent this response to one of my posts about free, online professional development.

Jenny said
" I was wondering if you had any other tips/hints as to how to make professional development stuff easier that you could let me know about as I always seem to be so busy!"

I have had a think and here are 5 ideas for how you can maximise professional development opportunities that are available online...and of course, are free!

1. Identify what it is you want to know or learn, and make a plan (your own curriculum) about how you are going to meet that need
If you are very busy and have lots of demands on your time, you are likely to be a lot more efficient in your learning if you are focused in your searches for learning opportunities. We all know how much time we can waste when surfing the net with no particular focus. The other advantage about having a plan is that you can measure the outcomes more readily. This becomes very useful when you are asked to provide evidence about your learning, say, for example, for a professional registration/regulation process. In other words, you can not only show what you learned, but how you applied it to your practice/job/work/activity.

2. Be a self-directed learner
It goes without saying that there are times when you enroll in a formal education course, be it an evening class at your local college to a PhD program in a university. As a formally enrolled student, you have a curriculum to follow and to a large part, your learning and methods of engaging with content is restricted to how the lecturers/educators dictate the program.

As a self-directed learner, you can make up your own curriculum and engage with knowledge in what ever way suits you. This is when Facebook, Slideshare, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter etc all come into their own. These modes of content delivery are as valid as any more traditional modes of delivery such as text books, journal articles or lecture. I mean...have you checked out any of the TED talks yet on YouTube....they are an unbelievably rich source of learning, that would otherwise be unavailable to the majority of us.

If you are using any of these tools and resources for professional CPD, integrate them into your learning plan, keep a track of how many hours you use engaging with them, and record what your learning outcomes were.

3. Build a personal learning network
A personal learning network is a network of people (and resources), usually online, of people you follow and engage with to help you to learn. Typically, social media tools are used to develop and maintain this PLN. In this PLN you will get to know who are the best people to go to if you have a particular learning need or question. For example, if I want to know about how I can use social media in my current role of working with a non-profit, I go to Beth Kanter's blog. If I have a presentation to give, I go to Slideshare to get ideas from what other's have said and presented. Not only does the PLN support you in your knowledge-gathering, but it saves you time by allowing you to be focused...which takes us back to points 1 and 2.

4. Make the most of "free stuff"
It is amazing how many free learning opportunities are now available on the Internet. This ranges from virtual conferences and webinars, such as the Virtual International Day of the Midwife, to MOOCs and online education courses. You do have to put in a little time to hunt around for these opportunities, but your learning network will help to guide you in the right direction.

5. Be open to serendipity
The beauty of social media and personal learning networks is that there are lots of wonderful serendipitous opportunities for learning that crop up. This can be a tad challenging if you are time-poor, and want to remain focused on one particular topic. But if you can take some time to chill out and follow your nose to wherever Twitter...Facebook...YouTube...leads you, it's surprising and exciting where you end up.

What would you recommend as great online learning opportunities or resources? Do you know of any MOOCs or free online courses that you would suggest?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Social media policy for nurses and midwives in Australia - what do you think?

A few months ago there was a real furore amongst social media enthusiasts who have an interest in healthcare.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority sent around its draft social media policy for discussion, as a private document, but it soon got leaked and caused quite a debate about its  restrictive and  punitive nature - here are the thoughts I had about it:

Since then, AHPRA has gone back to the drawing board and come up with a draft policy that is now open for general consultation until the 30th May:

Interestingly, I haven't heard a whisper about it on my social media channels, so I am wondering if people are either unaware of it, or are quite happy with the changes.

What do you think? Are you happy with the policy, or is there anything you would change or add?

Update: here is what Doctor Kruys has to say about the new draft social media policy:


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Midwives and sponsorship

I was digitalizing some old photos the other day and came across this one. I am at the far right of this lovely crowd of very happy, and slightly inebriated midwives. The photo was taken at the Scarborough Royal College of Midwives' conference around about 1992/93. I remember it well because it was my first days away on my own after having my two kids, and when I went home they both had chicken pox!

My question is...what is so horribly wrong about this photo?

The answer is that this evening function is sponsored by Farley's, a formula company.

These days, this form of sponsorship breaches the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and theoretically should not be happening. However, what we find is that sponsorship is a lot more subtle and it can be very difficult for midwives to work out what activities or products should be avoided. For example, there has been a campaign running recently against the sponsorship of Cow and Gate, a formula company, who supports free professional development for midwives. It is intertwined with the British Journal of Midwifery and difficult to spot.

As for midwifery associations, they can find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they are not always well funded and appreciate all the financial help they can get, but on the other hand, they must stay true to midwifery philosophies, as well as ethical and legislative requirements for product placement.  

So...what can you do, as a midwife, to minimize the impact of unethical sponsorship?

The obvious thing to do is boycott companies that use unethical marketing or sponsorship practices, as well as lobby any organization, conference or activity that aligns itself with these companies.

The second thing is to work with your midwifery association or professional body so that it does not need to rely on external funding. Support your professional association by becoming a member, get involved with its activities and governance functions, and attend its conferences and study days. Not only will you have a voice in how the association engages with commercial companies, but your financial and volunteer support will help reduce the association's reliance on outside financial incentives.

What are your thoughts of the sponsorship of professional midwifery organizations and activities? How do you think midwives can best engage with commercial companies?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Saying goodbye to Blackie

Today has been one of the most difficult days of my life because today was the day I had my cat, Blackie, put down. This is the first time I have ever had to do this with a beloved family pet, and those of you who have faced similar decisions know how painful it is.

I know Blackie was only a cat, but she was my first proper (not counting guinea pigs!) family pet. We had her for nearly 21 years, so my kids cannot really remember life without her.

She was practically feral when we got her as a 3 month old kitten. When we got her home, she disappeared and I thought she'd escaped from the house and we'd lost her. But she had managed to find a small crack behind a wall and hid in that for days until eventually she plucked up courage to come out.

She became the most affectionate animal, and I know my husband will really miss her because as soon as he came home from work, she would call him and cling on to him for grim death. As for me, she would curl up with me when I was on night duty and keep me warm when I was sleeping during the day.

Blackie traveled the world with us. She came over to New Zealand when we moved from the UK. It cost more to bring her over than it did the two kids put together! Another fond (but stressful) memory was driving her down from Gisborne to Dunedin in the car, when we moved house. We had the four of us squashed into the car, with Blackie, and Angel the dog, plus I don't know how many suitcases. It took three days to drive down. We didn't have a cat box because there wasn't room, so we kept Blackie on a lead and took her for walks whenever we stopped for a break. In all our moves over the years, she never made a fuss.

 In the last couple of years, she became more frail and didn't move much from her electric blanket. She had occasional fits and I thought she was going to die over a year ago. I think she was trying to reach the world record for longest living cat, which is 24 years - at nearly 21, she almost made it. I also think she had lost a lot of her sight.

Over the last couple of weeks she has got to the stage where she really needed someone to keep an eye on her most the time. Whilst she was happy in herself, she wasn't managing to use her litter box properly, and needed help with finding her food. Sadly, I am now living in Australia and my hubby spends long hours at work, so we felt it was the right time to let her go. However, the decision to have her euthanised was the most difficult decision of my life. My head told me it was the right thing to do, but my heart found it very hard.

In the end, she went very easily - it seemed to me that she was ready to go.

We will all miss Blackie very much - she really was one of the family. She has gone from our lives but not from our hearts.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Media release: Social Media Unites International Midwives - 22/4/2013

Social Media Unites International Midwives - 22/4/2013  Hundreds of midwives from around the world will gather online for the 5th Annual Virtual International Day of the Midwife. This free, and open online conference, lasting 24 hours, will celebrate International Day of the Midwife, starting on 5th May at 10am, New Zealand time. Frances Day-Stirk, President of the International Confederation of Midwives, will be opening the event. This is an opportunity for midwives from around the world to gather and discuss new research, and meet colleagues from different countries and time zones. "This virtual midwifery event is the only one of its kind in the world,” says Sarah Stewart, Facilitator and midwife, Australia. “It is a truly unique experience because it provides people with the opportunity to network, and have around the clock live discussions with midwifery professionals, researchers and educators they might never meet in real life. This makes it very easy and quick to disseminate and share knowledge and research."

Now in its 5th year, this international conference is drawing speakers and participants from countries as diverse as Kenya, Bolivia, Australia, UK, Spain, USA, Denmark, Tanzania, Haiti, Canada, and India."Meeting colleagues from around the world in a virtual environment will allow us to discuss issues such as safe motherhood, and the continued negative discussion around women's choice and homebirth, and also allow us to stay connected and continue conversations in an online world, past the end of the conference" says Stewart. Other discussions will include midwifery in under-resourced countries, preparing fathers for birth, working with women who have been sexually abused, reducing excessive weight gain in pregnancy, and breech (bottom-first) birth.

"There is so much in the press about the harm that social media can do. In this case, we are using social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and blogs and wiki, in a positive way to bring about international collaboration”, remarks Stewart.

This event is open to midwives, students and anyone with an interest in childbirth, labour and midwifery processes. For further information about the 5th Annual Virtual International Day of the Midwife, please visit the website:

Friday, April 12, 2013

WHO and competencies for midwife educators

The World Health Organisation is in the process of developing a set of ‘Core Competencies for Midwifery Educators’. At a global consultation in Geneva in December 2012 a set of draft competencies necessary for all midwifery educators were discussed and further developed. Following this a Technical Review Group was established to further this work.

These competencies are now ready for a wider global consultation.  And so midwives and midwife educators are invited to fill out a brief survey which seeks feedback on the draft competencies:

What I am not sure about is the relationship between these proposed competencies and the ICM work in this area, including the ICM standards for midwifery education:

What do you think should be the core competencies of a midwifery educator/lecturer? 

Image: 'New Delhi Family'
Found on

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What to think about if you are an association or non-profit getting started with social media

The other day I facilitated a discussion for the Australian Associations Forum about how to get started with social media. I am not sure if the audience was disappointed because instead of talking about tools and technology, I took them right back to basics and asked them to think about some basic issues before launching into setting up a Facebook account etc:
  • What is working and not working at the moment? 
  • What do your membership want? 
  • How can you use social media to build your membership? 
  • What needs to change in your organisation to make social networking work?
Here is the presentation I gave.

What other issues do you think associations and non-profits should think about when they start up with social media?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Program confirmed for the 2013 Virtual International Day of the Midwife

I am delighted to be able to say that this year's program for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife is up and running and can be accessed here:

I don't think there is quite the geographical range of speakers that we had last year, but none the less, we have a number of  under-resourced countries and indigenous midwifery programs represented, such as Tanzania, Bolivia and India, which is very exciting. And we also have some real midwifery stars taking part, including Hannah Dahlen, Gloria LeMay and Mavis Kirkham.

The main problem we had this year is that we had too many EOIs, so we had to decline some wonderful speakers and topics. At the same time, we did not quite have enough speakers to run concurrent sessions.

It is really difficult to know what to do. On the one hand, it is fabulous to know that we're getting bigger and more credible in the midwifery world. It may well be that next year we have enough speakers to run concurrent sessions. On the other hand, the bigger we get, the more problems we are likely to have, especially with technology. And, of course, with more speakers comes the challenge of finding more facilitators.

Personally, I would rather offer a well-run event that is limited in numbers, than a bigger event that is riddled with problems and does not provide a quailty experience to participants.

What sessions do you think you will attend?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

How to Bring the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2014 to your Hospital, Facility or Organisation

Here's a few thoughts and tips about how to hook up to the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on 5th May 2014 in the hospital and facility where you work, so that midwives can dip in and out of sessions when it suits them.

Adobe Connect
The conference is being held in Adobe Connect - click here to be taken to the conference room. The meeting room has been kindly donated by the University College Lillebaelt. Here is information about how to set up Adobe Connect and what to do when you join the conference. My advice is to talk to your IT support in plenty of time if you do have problems setting up your computer.

Internet access
Adobe  Connect even runs on dial up internet connection, although it can take longer load up. Here are some instructions on how to set the correct connection for your computer when you are in the conference room.

If there is only one or two of you sitting around a computer, you should be able to hear adequately. But if there is going to be a few people, I would recommend that you plug speakers into your computer so you all can hear the presentations.

If you work in a bigger hospital and have a conference room with a computer linked to the internet, you will be able to get more people to see what's going on if you project the sessions onto the wall or a screen.

If you do not have a microphone, you will be able to hear what's going on, and you will be able to communicate with other participants using the 'chat' text box. However, if you wish to speak and join in with audio, you will need a microphone.

You can buy very cheap headsets with microphones. If you are sharing a computer with a number of people, all you need to do is plug the mic into the computer and share it around when someone wants to speak. But don't plug in the speaker lead of the headset because no one will be able to hear the audio.

Setting up the audio and microphone
Once you are in the meeting room, you will need to check that you can hear and that your microphone works - click here for information on how to use the audio wizard that will walk you though how to set up your audio and mic.

Having a play
My advice is that you have a 'play' and try out Adobe Connect before the 5th May, so you can make sure everything is working beforehand. The VIDM practice room is always open for you to try it out - click here to go to the meeting room. There will be some facilitated practice sessions in the couple of weeks running up the the 5th May, so feel free to join one of those sessions, especially if you have any questions about how to use it.

Advertising the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2014
Here is a link to a poster that you can download, print off and post up around your organisation.

If you have any further queries about how to use Adobe Connect, or would like to meet someone in the meeting room to test things out, please let us know:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Social media and associations

I have been asked to talk to the Australian Associations Forum in Canberra tomorrow about the use of social media by associations - the associations that will be represented in the audience will be anything from the Association of Social Workers to Australian Forest Growers. I will be looking at questions such as:
  • Why associations should have a social media prescence?
  • What should go into a social media policy?
  • How can social media be used effectively, yet professionally?
  • What tools best suit associations? 
Having recently moved from education to working for the Australian College of Midwives which is a non-profit association, I have been reflecting on how my message to associations will be different to the message I used to give teachers about social media in education. The answer I think is fundamentally "no".

The reason for this is however you use social media, the key engaging people be they students, members or customers is that social media is about two-way communication. It's about

So I am thinking that my take-home message is that associations need to make a start with social media by thinking about the way they do business and want to interact with members and community before they launch into technology, and the ins and outs of Facebook. What do you think?

Image: 'in Spire Jump'
Found on

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Moving office

The Australian College of Midwives has just moved office, from one of the Canberra suburbs to right in the middle of the city next to the shopping mall. I am delighted with the move for a couple of reasons.

Breast-feeding space
Firstly, we have made a baby-friendly space in the office which will be available for mums to use as a breast-feeding space when they are out and about shopping. This move also makes us a lot more accessible to women who want to know more about midwifery options  - I hope our new location will make it a lot easier for women to drop in and talk to us.

Drop-in for midwives
I am also hoping that the local midwives will start to see us as a place that they can drop in and have a chat. And maybe, they will start to use us as a place for disseminating information to women about local midwifery services.

Meeting room
We have a fabulous meeting space that can be used as a meeting room cum training room which will be available to small groups to use, such as ante natal classes. I already have my eye on it for a blogging workshop in April.

My own office
I am also enjoying my own personal space in an office I have to myself. And as you can see from the photo, one of the walls is painted a lovely rusty orange colour which is very inspiring. I know there are advantages to working in an open-plan office, but at the same time, it is good to have a space where I can close the door when I want some private time to think, and do more focused writing. I have lots of space where I can "entertain", so if you are ever in Canberra, I'm always open for visitors.
The only snag with this move is that we are now right above a cup-cake shop which provides a daily temptation to me, and is going to be very hard to resist. The up side to that is my gym is only one block away, so if I succumb to temptation, I can go and work off the cup cake in my lunch break!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tips for student midwives on how to use social media and stay out of trouble!

I was delighted to be asked to speak to a group of midwifery students the other day at the University of Canberra about the professional use of social media. It was really fascinating to talk to them about their use of social media, and I must admit I got a couple of surprises.

It came as no surprise that most of them had a Facebook account. But what did surprise me was very few of them used other social media channels, and hardly any of them used social media for professional uses. I thought it would be because of their concerns about privacy etc, but this was not the case. Rather, it was because they felt they got all the support, access to resources and information, and networking that they needed through their university channels. They also said they did not have the time for social media, and they felt very strongly about keeping their personal lives separate from their professional lives.

My response to these concerns is that when students move into practice, they will not have the access to resources and information, or even networking, that they have as students. So it is very important that they work out ways of keeping informed, and staying connected to the profession at all levels; local, national and international, and I believe that social networking can help midwives do that.

Here is the presentation I gave the students - what additional comments or tips would you add?