It was during a CAPA Web Committee meeting with CBC Health Reporter turned Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant Maureen Taylor, that I came up with the idea of creating a blog. She had discussed encouraging PA-generated social media content to have the PA voice heard. When you think about it, who dictates what is being said about PA’s right now? Who formulates public opinion? Well of course, the public does, but to an extent – the current Physician Assistant students and practicing Physician Assistants have the potential to influence the public opinion. The news coverage on PAs is an excellent start, but news about PAs in Canada is scant and often hard to come by.
I had this fantastic idea… if we could get more PA’s on social media, we could influence and promote the PA brand to important stakeholders in health care and the PA profession.
So I thought, why not? I enjoy blogging, web and graphic design, as well as the free-flow of information. Best of all, it’s free to do and use – all you need is time, patience and determination.
I’ve started to embark on promoting the profession through this wordpress blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. See the twitter social media kit I’ve put together for PAs for more information on how to use the microblogging site to promote the profession.
Using Social Media to Build a PA Community
Many online patient communities were established using social media groups – on Facebook, and online Forums. It is an excellent source of support from other patients suffering from rare or common disorders. Many patient advocacy groups that are on Twitter today attribute their beginnings to the discussions that took place in these social media groups. So why can’t health care practitioners do the same?
- Express your opinion - Blogging allows for focused written entries on topics that can be discussed in the comments section. You can write about where you stand on various issues affecting you personally or professionally. It’s a chance to be creative, and to put to words what you experience on an ongoing basis.
- Promote awareness about PAs - The interest in Physician Assistants is growing, and PAs and PA students who choose to blog help build awareness around the profession without resorting to expensive media ads that may not reach a focused audience.
- Network - As you continue to grow your blog, you may connect with other individuals who may want to know more information or may want to get to know you. It helps you create visibility. Apart from posting regularly, you can also post Pages, such as “About Me”, or other resources. The “About Me” section gives the reader a little bit of insight on your background and interests – and this page also happens to be my most visited page. I include ongoing projects that I am involved with, and its usually a good discussion starter when readers do get in touch with me – whether over coffee or email.
- Learn – Getting involved with starting a blog isn’t just about consumption of information, you are taking the next step in curating content. This gives you the opportunity to learn and explore topics that don’t necessarily fall under your area of expertise. If your writing is focused, purposeful, backed by evidence, you can learn and develop your own knowledge as you write for others. At the end of the day, YOU also become a better writer too!
- Teach and Inspire – At the end of this entry, I have several links to blogs that are having a positive impact on the PA community (scroll down to see). Teaching is no longer restricted within the confines of a classroom, but clinical experiences and teaching pearls can be passed through blog entries, which are shared through different social networking platforms. Through example, you can have an impact on other PAs, health care professionals and patients. With so few Canadian PA’s in practice, my understanding of what PA’s as a student was actually reading blogs of PA students and practicing PA’s, and this helped influence my decision to pursue the profession.
Are People Interested in Reading about PA’s?
The short answer is yes… and here’s some evidence to back it up:
Interest in PAs in Canada [Google Trends] If you check Google Trends, the interest in Physician Assistant (blue) search terms in Canada did not seem to exist until March 2006, where as the number of times “Nurse Practitioner” (red) has been entered into Google Search is much more.
Interest in PAs in the US [Google Trends] In the US, the interest in Physician Assistants (blue) is almost on par if not entered more often than Nurse Practitioners (red).
Through engaging through blogging, microblogging, etc. with the online community, we can direct where the conversation goes, and what content is created.
Afterall, “…if you want to shape public opinion, you need to be the one creating the narrative.” - D. Clark.
Examples of PA Blogs
- Harrison Reed, blogs about his experiences as a PA student at Yale University http://harrisonreedpa.wordpress.com, and he also has a strong presence in the PA community with AAPA and twitter.
- Eden blogs about her experience as a PA student at University of Winnipeg in Canada. http://eden-pa.blogspot.ca. She is currently in her first year and reflects on her learning experiences as a PA Student.
- Bianca Belcher, blogs at Physician Assistant, finally there. http://biancabelcherpa.blogspot.ca/ She shares excellent resources for continuing medical education, as well as some tidbits about being a PA.
- PAStudentLife. although the last entry was dated for 2010, this student blogs about her journey through pre-PA, PA Student and post-PA life. http://pastudentlife.blogspot.ca/