First things first: I’m not writing this because I profess to be any kind of expert. I’ve been doing it long enough to have a little bit of insight on blogging, but not too long that I can’t remember the aches and pains of getting going. So I hope this proves to be a little bit useful and even help kick start a few more blogs.
Sharing knowledge and experiences
All health professionals have a wealth of knowledge and plethora of experiences from which to draw from (and maybe even a few opinions too!). Blogging is a great platform for sharing, inspiring and learning from one another. Furthermore, if you are an expert in your field, or passionate about a particular topic, your blog can become a go-to resource for that subject. See www.jennythem.wordpress.com for a great example of a midwife who is blogging about her passion: skin-to-skin contact for babies after birth.
Keeping up to date
I started my blog while I was pregnant. I knew that I’d have many months of enjoying being a mum, but was keen not to lose touch with the professional world. I’ve found that blogging, and following other people’s blogs, is a great way of not only keeping up to date with professional issues, but also helps to develop my writing and critical thinking skills.
Reflection is a really important part of any health professional’s ongoing development. Writing a blog entry provides a great space to reflect, irrespective of whether the piece is a reflective piece or not. It can be a bit like a public online journal, if that is what you want. The very nature of deciding what to blog about is an opportunity to reflect.
Where do I start?
The prospect of blogging can be overwhelming. What do I blog about? What if I don’t have time? Will I run out of ideas? Will anyone even be interested in what I have to say? I can’t write! These are all fears I faced before starting my blog. Just over a year into blogging, I can tell you that I’ve still got lots to learn, but it’s worth it.
Decide your blog content
- Who is your audience – lay people or colleagues, or both? For example, Clemmie is a midwife who writes to reveal “all the essential tips to pregnant women and new Mamas” on her blog, gasandairblog.com, whereas Rachel is a midwife whose blog, midwifethinking.com, is aimed to stimulate thinking among her fellow midwives.
- Do you have a particular topic you are interested in writing about, or are you already an expert in your field wanting to share your expertise? If not, we all have ideas, thoughts and experiences as health professionals, which we can write about.
Choose a domain name
A domain name is a name that identifies a website. For example, I blog for Girls’ Globe – their domain name is http://www.girlsglobe.org. You can select a domain name which is your name or a name which reflects the content of your blog. It’s worth thinking about something which is catchy or easy to remember.
Choose a blogging platform
There are plenty of blogging platforms which are free. The most popular ones are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr. Maybe I’m biased, but I would recommend WordPress (WordPress.org or WordPress.com). WordPress has a wide variety of custom features from which to choose and has been described as “the daddy of blogging”. WordPress.com is completely free, although offers a reduced (but still more than satisfactory) range of custom features and provides a xxxx.wordpress.com domain name (e.g. johnbrown.wordpress.com). WordPress.org is also free and although it requires using your own server, it has endless customisable features.
Writing your first blog posts
The great thing about blogging is that it’s completely different from academic writing – don’t think essays or journal papers and hours, days and weeks of carefully crafting your posts. It should be easy(-ish) to do!
- Write in an easy to read style, erring on the informal side. Remember who your target audience is. If you are writing for the general public, avoid using lots of jargon. If you are writing for your peers, maintain an easy-to-read but professional style. Remember that your blog will be publically visible to clients and employers!
- A post does not have to be a long rambling affair – aim for around 500 words (around one A4 page), but a little longer or shorter is fine too.
- Include images (try Flickr Creative Commons), infographics, bullet points, quotes and anything else that will make your post visually appealing and easy to digest. Just remember to be careful about copyright issues and credit any images that you have appropriately used.
- It’s good to reference where appropriate – use hyperlinks (a word or short phrase which is highlighted and links to another web page when clicked on) rather than traditional referencing systems.
Get your blog posts out there!
Use other social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to connect with other health professionals or the interested public and spread the word about your wonderful new blog! This is a handy guide to using social media.
Keep on blogging
This section is “do as I say, don’t do as I do”! In our demanding lives, it can feel easy to think that maintaining a blog is yet another to-do. Set a realistic goal for writing blog posts according to your schedule – whether that’s weekly or monthly. Any less than monthly, and you won’t leave your readers coming back for more. If you feel stuck for ideas, get inspiration by writing up a summary of a piece of recent research or a document that is relevant to your blog and of interest to readers.
Remember to work within professional boundaries when blogging or using other social media.
Here’s some advice from the NMC and GMC, plus a helpful article.
This is by no means an exhaustive guide. Here are a few other useful sites:
Are you are a blogging health professional? What are your thoughts about how to get started with blogging?
Featured photo: Thomas Hawk, Flickr Creative Commons