Taking on the role of “blogger” is a big step, especially for physicians or other staff members who already have demanding work schedules. Often, the time and energy needed to write thoughtful and pertinent posts can seem overwhelming. And, as a client of ours recently wondered, “How do I know that I even have anything interesting to say?”
To those considering this next big step with similar concerns about time and content, I say: Relax. You have all the tools you need. Your daily human experience and professional expertise provide a wealth of ideas. Believe it or not, your blog writing may even become something you look forward to—it’s thrilling to participate in a community conversation! However, for those of you for whom my optimistic outlook doesn’t quite cut it, I have a great example for you to follow.
Introducing…Seattle Mama Doc, one of the best examples of healthcare blogging I’ve seen. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic in Mill Creek, Washington; on the medical staff at Seattle Children’s; and a clinical instructor at the University of Washington’s Department of Pediatrics. She generally writes a post every two to four days and, since I’m a mother of two young girls, I read every single one and very often share them with friends or re-tweet them. Put simply, Swanson is an excellent healthcare blogger because she adheres to several of Hive’s core values: (1) inform and educate; (2) be real; and (3) simplify.
As a pediatrician, Dr. Swanson witnesses the desire of parents to make informed decisions about their children’s health. She also, being a mother herself, understands the inherent insecurity most parents feel about their abilities and efforts. One of her best attributes is her skill at disseminating medical advice clearly and simply, while also reassuring parents that they are the experts on their children. She manages to maintain a peaceful balance between her cut-and-dry professional skills and her lived experience. Her ability to explain medical questions in understandable terms helps form trust, but what keeps readers coming back is her honesty and openness about her real life as a woman trying to balance her career and her family.
As an illustration of that point, many of Dr. Swanson’s posts address strictly medical questions (“Iron for Babies and Toddlers,” “A Spoonful of Bacteria for Baby,” “Crack the Code on Pediatric Flu Shot Recommendations”), while many of them fall in the murkier area of parenting and culture (“Pacifier Free,” “Killing the TV Won’t Cut It,” “Little Boy = Violent Play?”), and still others reach into the almost purely personal realm (“Wellness: 5 Words That Need to Be Spoken,” “Only One Decision” “The Working Mom Wonders ‘What Am I Doing?’”).
A key point here is that Dr. Swanson has drawn ideas for her blog posts from several different influences. Many of them come from current research published and discussed in her field (an article in the American Journal of Public Health about children and dogs, for example). Other blogs are fueled by hot topics of the day (mandatory flu shots!). And yet others are prompted by interactions with her family, friends, and patients (a troubled teenager worried about weight, toddler safety while moving, her mother’s chemotherapy). What is exciting about this breadth of inspiration is that it shows just how rich our daily experience is. While routines can often feel second-nature and hum-drum to a blog writer, this is not the case with his or her audience. A birthing center supervisor may see several babies born a day, but the stories involved are new to her expectant mothers. An oncologist deals with cancer on a daily basis, but each diagnosis brings a new patient just entering its often overwhelming sphere. By paying attention to the details of her life, professionally and personally, Dr. Swanson never lacks for a subject that is compelling.
In summary, Dr. Swanson has managed to take the pediatrician/parent relationship (which often takes place in stressful circumstances without enough time for questions and follow-up) and infuse it with trust, informed advice, support, and even love—all through a blog. As a parent, I have been grateful for the research, the thoughtfulness, and the insight (I often end up a little teary-eyed after reading). As a professional working in the social media realm, I admire the conversation she has instigated between her hospital and its patients. She has shown that healthcare is not all about admitting and discharging, but about daily interactions between people who all have their share of stories. The more we can address questions and converse together, the more engaged we are, the better.