5 months ago if someone would’ve told me that I would be networking and using Twitter in my job, I would have laughed. Not only did I think that Twitter was a silly social networking site for following what the latest Hollywood stars were doing, but I actually had no idea how it worked.
5 months later and a not too steep learning curve has landed me with an invaluable resource.
For those of you who don’t know what Twitter involves, it is a networking tool to connect to others around the globe. How it differs from Facebook is that you connect to people you don’t necessarily know but would like to connect to for reasons of common, professional or personal interest. The “connecting” involves being able to read the posts or “Tweets” that those persons you follow put out there in the Twitter stream.
What that looks like is a constant moving stream of “posts” from people you’ve chosen to “follow”. Posts can be links to learning articles, pictures, links to blogs, almost anything. So, your Twitter stream is personalized to your choices of people to follow.
Those who know me would not be surprised to hear that I have no stars on my list of people I am connected to on Twitter (or Tweeps as they are sometimes called). What I do have is a list of professionals in all branches of healthcare, education, politics and various other disciplines who provide me with a constantly changing source of learning.
There are days where I take a couple of minutes to check my Twitter feed and I stumble upon an article that answers just the question I’ve been rattling around with. Other times a post has me thinking in a way that I would never have ventured into.
So, Twitter has become a learning network for me as well as a resource for my practice. I am, in an instant, in contact with others not only in pharmacy, but in medicine, palliative care, cardiology, continuing education, etc. Here’s an example of how Twitter has been invaluable in my job.
I was filling in at a rural pharmacy one afternoon when I had a patient bring me a prescription for a new drug. When I checked the patient records I saw he was also on an anti-arrhythmia drug (for an abnormal heartbeat). Something bothered me about the prescription but nothing was flagging on my computer. I searched all my usual references and could come up with no reason for my uncomfortable feeling. I decided to give the very ill patient only a few tablets and planned to call him in a few hours to see how he was doing. A few minutes later I grabbed my lunch and pulled up my Twitter
feed to peruse. There in front of me, posted by 2 connections, was the FDA warning about the drug possibly making a certain type of arrhythmia worse. The warning had just come out the day before, but in the US not Canada. I called the patient’s doctor and discovered that the patient indeed had that type of arrhythmia so I was able to contact him and stop him from taking the medication.
Twitter has also provided me with valuable overseas connections. Last week I received a call about a child receiving a potential overdose with a medication only found in the United Kingdom. After futilely searching references and the internet, and not finding the information I needed, I sent a Direct Message over Twitter to two pharmacists in the U.K. and in a matter of minutes they sent me all the information I needed.
It has taken time to develop the relationships I have made on Twitter but I have come to value them and depend on them in some cases. I know that if I need to bounce a professional question off a colleague they are right there, just a click away.
And have I changed my profile and added a few stars to vicariously follow? Afraid not. Well, unless you count Rick Mercer as a Star. Who says you can’t also have a few laughs?