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Interview with Kim McAllister, Author of the Emergiblog
The latest nursing news and information brought to you by the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future – This is Nursing Notes Live.
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This month’s issue of Nursing Notes is the Digital Issue, with a focus on helpful social media tools and applications that nurses, nursing students and nurse educators can utilize to continue their professional development. The Campaign recently traveled to the BlogWorld & New Media Expo Conference in Las Vegas and met up with key nurse bloggers, like Kim McAllister of Emergiblog, Cora Vizcarra of Infusion Nurse and Lorry Schoenly of Correctional Nurse.
Today, on Nursing Notes Live, we’ll be talking to Kim McAllister of Emergiblog about her experience as an emergency department nurse and blogger. Kim was featured in the October issue of Nursing Notes as our Get to Know Nurse.
Kim is an ER nurse in northern California, author of one of the most popular nursing blogs at emergiblog.com and one of the regular hosts of the “Insights in Nursing Podcast” that you can find at insightsinnursing.com. Let’s jump on over that interview with Kim recorded earlier this month prior to our trip to BlogWorld and the New Media Expo.
Jamie: I’m here speaking with Kim McAllister, author of the Emergiblog and we’re going to find out a little bit from Kim about how she became a nurse and what interested her to become a nurse blogger. Hi, Kim, great to have you on the show.
Kim McAllister: Hi, Jamie, thanks. Good to be here.
Jamie: Let’s start off with how Kim became a nurse. What brought you into the nursing field?
Kim: Cherry Ames brought me in to the nursing field. I was nine years old. It was my ninth birthday actually. My great grandmother had bought me “Cherry Ames Student Nurse” and “Cherry Ames Senior Nurse.” I was sitting on her front porch and I got maybe four or five chapters into the first book and decided, “This is what I’m going to be.” It wasn’t so much because I fell in love with nursing but I fell in love with the nursing uniform and the cap. Decided at nine that it was worth going to nursing school just to be able to wear that cap and ten years later, I was actually in nursing school and never deviated from wanting to do it. Obviously I learned more about the profession as I got older and it was about more than just wearing Cherry’s cap. Never deviated and started school when I was 18, graduated when I was 20 from Associate degree program. Basically, I’m almost nursing my whole life.
Jamie: Wow, that’s a new one. I’ve heard lots of different ways people became nurses but never from the Cherry Ames’ books. That’s interesting.
Kim: Yes. It was pretty funny when I tell people. It wasn’t like, “Well, I respected the nursing profession,” which I do, but I was nine years old. It was like a light went on and it was like, “This is what I’m meant to do,” and I did it. I can credit my great-grandmother for my career.
Jamie: What areas of nursing? I know you’re in emergency nursing now but I know that you haven’t always been an emergency room nurse. What other areas of nursing have you worked in?
Kim: For seven years, I worked strictly coronary care, branched out into intensive care. One day, while I was working, the boss said, “Hey, census is down and they’re willing to cross-train you so you can go down and help in ER if they’re busy. Would you like to do that?” I said, “Sure.” It kind of opened my eyes to emergency. I’ve been doing that since ’91. Every now and then when I think I need a break, I have tried some other areas. I worked 2 ½ years in Psych and I also worked about a year in pediatric telephone advice. Between intensive care, E.R. and some clinic work, I’ve had a pretty expensive experience.
Jamie: That sounds like it. Now, when did you first get the idea to become a blogger?
Kim: I wanted to blog a couple of years before I actually started. I listened to Hugh Hewitt, who’s a top radio host during the day. He was huge on blogs. I thought blogs had to be political or military blogs. I read a lot of mil blogs. I read a lot of political viewpoint blogs. I thought that’s what blogs were – all about politics or military. It never occurred to me that they would be about anything else. I didn’t know of any med blogs, nothing. Then I started reading another blogger called—whose name is Jame Lilecs at lileks.com—he would just write about everyday things. He would write about taking his daughter to Target and I would be – have tears running down my eyes—I was laughing so hard. I realized reading James that, “You know, your everyday life can be interesting.” Then as I’m sitting in the ER on one of those dead nights with no patients, I’m thinking, “What do I know enough to blog about.” Believe me, I sat there and thought for 30 minutes before I realized, “Oh, my god. I can write about being an emergency department nurse.” Right there, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ER, Emergiblog was born. Went over to the computer, grabbed the Blogspot – back then the blogspot.com domain – and it took me a couple of weeks before the first post went up. Once it did, I got some attention from – oh, maybe one of the first three or four I had written. I would look and – “Oh, my gosh. Fifty people read my blog today.” Well, I don’t have 50 family members so I figured it had to be someone else that found the blog and it just kind of blossomed from there. Then I found other medical blogs. Learned what a “BlogWorld” was. Learned what a “carnival” was. Started submitting to Grand Rounds and it kind of just very – I would say very slowly but very gradually and consistently has just grown over the last five years.
Jamie: What’s one of the things that you get the most satisfaction from when you are writing a blog post? Do you purposefully try to be controversial or do you just write about what’s going on at the moment and don’t expect any kind of major response back from everyone?
Kim: When I was started, it was strictly from, “Oh, hey. Here I am. I’m a nurse and, gosh, isn’t this interesting or isn’t this a pain in the neck,” just basically talking about being a nurse in general from my viewpoint. That was the whole idea was “Here’s what it’s like to be a nurse from a nurse.” Trust me. I don’t ever, ever start out to be controversial. It’s only happened twice. I wasn’t happy either time it happened. For the most part, I just kind of twitted out there and see what people think. My biggest post was one on “Nurse Jackie.” I wasn’t well-pleased about what I thought the portrayal was going to be. It hadn’t come on TV. I was watching the previews. I got slammed for that for not necessarily thinking it was a good show. There’s been some controversial topics but, for the most part, it’s just my view of what I see going on in healthcare.
Jamie: There are going to be a lot of nurses listening to this and hearing about your blogging career as it were, what would you say to one of them that might be thinking, “I could share something on a blog about my nursing practice, my nursing career, my beliefs about patient care and nursing care.”
Kim: I would say, honestly, “Start. Start.” Once the first post goes up—you look at blogs and you see, “Oh, they got some advertising and banners and badges and blog rolls and things like that.” You think, “Gosh, I don’t know how to do any of that.” Well, the most important thing about a blog is the content. The window dressing doesn’t matter and really all that other stuff is sort of window dressing. Content matters. If you want to start a blog, it’s very simple. You go to blogger.com. You go to typepad.com. You can go to wordpress.com. Very simple templates and very easy to start, you just pick a title. Don’t even pick a title just start writing your first post whatever it is. Then, once it’s there, think of a title. Think of a name for your blog and hit “publish.” Remember that your voice, no one else sees nursing or has the same experiences that you had. Your voice is unique. It will contribute to the general conversation about the nursing profession. Once you start and you start to get involved in the blogosphere, you’ll find that you get more and more inspiration and it just keeps going. Some people are afraid, they’re like, “Well, what if I get in trouble for blogging?” You really can’t get in trouble for giving an opinion as long as you’re very safe with the HIPAA rules. You don’t put any recognizable facts about any patient or situation. Just talk about nursing in general or your feelings in general and roll with it. Realize that you have a unique contribution to the nursing blogosphere and to the nursing profession.
Jamie: We were talking earlier, we’ve known each other for a while, talking about that there aren’t as many nurse bloggers as there are other members in other healthcare profession. Doctors are very active bloggers. There are a lot of EMS, emergency medical services, bloggers in other places but why do you think nurse bloggers haven’t really – there aren’t that many of them out there?
Kim: I don’t know. I’m seeing less. A lot of the ones that were blogging when I came along have either stopped blogging totally or have slowed down dramatically. I don’t know if it’s because of just life gets involved or they just got tired of blogging or they have other responsibilities. I know a few bloggers, nurse bloggers, who started having a family and didn’t really have time to give to the blog that they had before they had those responsibilities. I’m not sure. Even male nurse bloggers don’t seem to be very—there’s not very many of them either. I don’t know. I wish there were more. Whereas I see doctors who’ve been blogging for the last seven years, I see more and more, new ones coming in all the time. Nursing seems to be much slower. Maybe that’s just the period of time but I’ve been doing it for five years and I can kind of see that some come, some go, some slow down. It’s interesting. I don’t really know what the issue is.
Jamie: Well, we have to maybe talk to some of the other nurses about that. I know we’re going to be at BlogWorld. You’re coming up in a couple of days after this interview is recorded. You’re going to be seeing a lot of different things about social media in general, not just blogs. I know you’re on Twitter on occasion and on Facebook. What do you see about some of the new platforms coming out? What do they bring to the table that maybe a blog doesn’t necessarily do very well?
Kim: It’s interesting. There are pros and cons. I use Twitter and Facebook. When I write a blog post, I will tweet it and I’ll put it up on Facebook. Those go to a limited audience because there are people who are already following me on Twitter or who are already friends with me on Facebook. I’ll put what I made a post with a link back to my post but the cons of these new networking what I’m seeing is that people are blogging less. Some people call it “microblogging.” The difference that I can see is blogs, like I mentioned before, it’s all about content, writing deep content. The content is what drives the blog. In social networking, it’s about communication and quick and sort of down and dirty, a single idea, not a lot of space to develop it. In that, I do think that it takes some time away from blogging. I use them differently. My blog is my blog. Facebook – I’ll tell you what it has done – it has made my blog more strictly nursing. That used to be my place where I would shoot the bull on occasion about Notre Dame football, the NFL, NASCAR. I would just throw one of those posts in to the middle of my nursing posts. Whereas now it’s Facebook, I have kind of a place to do my sort of social interaction and then I have my blog which is now pretty strictly nursing. It’s interesting. I’m not sure. That’s what the panel and moderating in BlogWorld is going to be discussing. What is the effect of social networking on the medical blogosphere? I don’t see social networking even remotely competing in the same arena as blogging except for the time issue. That could be because I’m just really enthusiastic and pro-blogging. Whereas there’s blogging and then there’s all these other stuff that you can do. Sometimes they interact with each other but, for the most part, they don’t. It will be interesting to see what the panel says on that.
Jamie: Kim, what about social media and how it interacts with healthcare? Obviously, we see social media being part of many aspects of people’s lives but does healthcare have a place with social media? Is there a way that social media can actually affect how nurses provide care for their patients or how patients get care for themselves?
Kim: Oh, absolutely. It affects it. If patients who can find support through social media for people that – when you have chronic disease or you were dealing with the problem even in acute disease. In the past, you had basically your doctor to go to for information. You didn’t have a lot of abilities to contact other people going through the same thing you are. Now, with the rise of blogging and social media, there is a huge online support system for just about any condition or situation that you can think of. There’s a way of getting support and a way of feeling like you’re not alone, at least from a patient or a healthcare consumer viewpoint. The key, of course, is sifting through all the information that’s on the internet or trying to figure out what’s legitimate and what isn’t necessarily legitimate. Yes, there’s a huge—and I think that’s already been demonstrated—a huge ability to connect for social support on the internet. In terms of nursing, at least what I found doing it, is I learned so much about the patient experience that I didn’t necessarily know before. I had been a patient on occasion, but there was so much about how patients felt that they were being perceived. It led to a larger understanding of what the patient experience was. It also leads to understanding what I called “the other.” I learn more about working with doctors, how doctors think, and – while you’re a medic also – so the same thing with the EMS group. It leads to a much better understanding of the healthcare environment. I know with nursing, I was stunned to find out that things that I was dealing with as a nurse were the same all the world over. It didn’t matter if you were in the UK or Australia or Italy or Japan – nurses worldwide all were dealing with the same issues. It leads to a dialog where everybody can be equal. You have your opinion, you have your experience, you put it out there. Your voice helps other people and your voice actually is worth something. Whereas before you might have felt isolated. Now that’s assuming you have access to online. There’s going to be a whole group of people who don’t have computer access. Sometimes I worry about a discrepancy or disparity between those who have access to social media and the information and the support that they can get and those who don’t.
Jamie: I think that that’s an ongoing issue, just connectivity in general is a problem. I think there are many people that could be better connected with the world and with the country depending on wherever you are. If you had some internet access, it brings rural areas and provides resources that they might not ordinarily have whether it’s consultational resources for a primary care provider both nurses and physicians in remote nurses, giving them the ability to consult with specialists very easily using those types of resources. That starts with internet connectivity and with social media and all the things that we bring to the table.
Jamie: Well, Kim, it’s been great talking with you and sharing your thoughts here with the audience here at Nursing Notes and helping other nurses and nursing students to understand about blogging. Where they can find your blog?
Kim: I am at www.emergiblog.com and on Twitter, I am under the Emergiblog handle there too, and on Facebook, I’m /emergiblogger.
Jamie: Great. Well, I know that a lot of the listeners here are going to want to check out your blog. I’m looking forward to many more great posts and articles from you. Also I know you link to other great bloggers out there as well. It’s a great starting place for somebody that wants to find out about nurse blogging.
Kim: Yes. I have a huge blog roll and I try to keep it very much up-to-date. If there are nurse bloggers out there who I’m not linking to, certainly drop me a line and I will put you on the blog roll for sure.
You can find links to Kim’s blog as well as starting points of your own for exploring the health aspects of social media over at nursingnoteslive.com. Check out the October 2010 edition of the Nursing Notes email newsletter brought to you by Johnson & Johnson’s campaign for Nursing’s Future. You also find links to subscribe with this podcast via iTunes or your favorite RSS reader and don’t miss our other episodes from this month featuring a collection of short interviews with nurse and healthcare bloggers recorded in the Social Health track at this year’s BlogWorld at New Media Expo. I’m your host, Jamie Davis, for Nursing Notes Live. Don’t forget, when you’re taking of your patients, take care of yourself too.
10/31/10 9:12 PM