Digital nursing

Consultant uses social media, the Web to share expertise

In 35 years as a clinical care nurse, Barbara McLean has never lost her focus on improving bedside nursing. Thanks to Internet technology and social media, McLean’s bedside reach is now global.

“I always wanted to mentor and inspire others to higher levels of practice,” said McLean, MN, RN, CCRN, CCNS, CRNP, FCCM.

At 58, this independent critical care practice consultant uses an interactive website, podcasts, Facebook and Twitter to inform and educate a worldwide nursing audience.

“I saw, early in my career, that hospitals didn’t always have the experts they needed in house to take practice to a higher level,” McLean said. “I was fortunate to have a gift for public speaking and to possess the ability to put complex issues in a form that people can understand.”

In 1985, she began her consulting practice by teaching in hospitals, publishing her research and lecturing at conferences. She’s given more than 2,000 national and international presentations on evidence-based, critical-care topics such as patient safety, quality care, sepsis, ventilation and tissue oxygenation.

Her work with Piedmont Health System’s staff to reduce mortality in sepsis patients resulted in the award-winning McLean Piedmont Stop Sepsis algorithm. The project reduced sepsis mortality in the Piedmont System by 30 percent starting in 2008, and has been adopted by other hospitals.

About eight years ago, McLean developed a website to deliver continuing education to nurses through webinars and podcasts. Her goal was to create a library with lectures on best practices that nurses can download and instantly put to use.

Keeping up with best practices “is just one of the reasons that nurses need to stay at least minimally abreast of all that’s happening with virtual technology,” McLean said. “These are powerful tools we can use.”

McLean also puts in face time with members of the Nursing Journal Club, where nurses meet to discuss the latest research, with the goals of increasing their scientific knowledge.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than for nurses at the bedside to see something wrong with a patient, but not be able to communicate exactly what it is,” McLean said. “Nurses need to know how to communicate what they know with physicians and others on their teams.”

She also uses Facebook and Twitter to gain support for her many volunteer nursing activities around the globe. When news broke in January 2010 about the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, McLean surfed the Net to find American clinicians who were going to help.

“Within three days, I was providing triage care to earthquake victims with Project Medishare,” McLean said. She has returned to Haiti 11 times since.

“I use Facebook as a way to let people know about my mission trips to Haiti and Africa, and when I’m in-country, I use Twitter to tell everyone what’s going on,” McLean said. “I’ve been able to deliver sheets, baby clothes and toiletry products for hospitalized Haitians that people have sent me from all over the country because they saw it on my Facebook page.”

Recently, she was able to help fly a 12-year-old Haitian girl with Guillain-Barr syndrome from Haiti to Charlotte for treatment. She used her clinical connections to find an American doctor and hospital that would treat her. People donated a ventilator, $4,000 in medical supplies and transportation on a private jet after reading about the young girl.

“None of that would have happened if I had not been on Facebook,” she said.

She’s also raising money to bring Haitian intensive care nurses to work at Grady Memorial Hospital so they can improve their skills and be ready when Haiti takes total control of Bernard Mev Hospital in Port-au-Prince. McLean works part time at Grady as an internist and clinical nurse specialist to keep her skills sharp.

“I knew that I would always need to stay at the bedside to know what’s going on,” she said.

McLean has inspired others to use technology to spread their knowledge. One of those is Evan Klein, RN, BSN, CCRN, an ICU staff nurse at Atlanta Medical Center. A member of the journal club, he created his own website and has begun making podcasts for other nurses.

“It takes a lot of hours to do a podcast — there’s the research, writing the script and doing the videotaping,” said Klein, RN, BSN, CCRN. “It’s both tedious and exciting, but then the product can go out everywhere to inspire other nurses, which is what I want to do. The Internet is a huge resource for nurses. We all should develop a passion for finding new opportunities to use it.”

McLean agrees, seeing the Web and social media as ways to connect and empower nurses.

“There are so many ways to communicate about practice initiatives and methods, if you’re willing to share your expertise,” she said.

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