Journal of Nursing Education

Syllabus Selections: Innovative Learning Activities Free

Using Social Media to Engage Nurse Practitioner Students in Complex Health Care Topics

Kelley Stallworth, DNP, WHNP-BC; Nancy Wingo, PhD

When developing curriculum, educators in advanced practice nursing programs often struggle to find innovative methods to build competencies outlined by the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF, 2017a, 2017b) and introduce Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Essentials (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2006). Topics such as health policy and informatics can be particularly difficult to incorporate in learning activities. Faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing grappled with ideas to present various complex topics while keeping students engaged in a women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) track.

To improve student learning and enhance engagement, we developed a project using social media outlets to allow students to apply their knowledge in real-world settings. The learning objectives for this assignment were to promote awareness related to the chosen topic, explore quality improvement initiatives that could be implemented to improve gaps in health care settings, and promote community education regarding these sensitive issues.

Because a WHNP may be a woman's sole provider, WHNPs must be able to recognize difficult, often life-threatening situations, such as domestic violence or human trafficking. Providers need to be armed with resources and possible solutions to help patients affected by these issues.

During their first clinical course, WHNP students were divided into teams of four and asked to identify an issue affecting women today, either on their own or from a list that included health policies such as contraception, domestic violence, sex trafficking, and transgender care. Chosen topics were required to be broad enough to have regional, national, and global significance. The goal was for students to educate others about these complex health topics using evidence-based research.

To maximize access to information by a wide audience, students were required to create a web page specific to their topic on a social media outlet of their choice. Most of the students chose to create a page on Facebook® simply because most of their group members already were frequent users of the site.

Each week throughout three semesters, students posted a minimum of one scholarly article providing education and possible resources available to their community of interest. For example, one group that focused on workplace bullying built a group page titled, “Bully Busters: Recognizing Workplace Bullying and Ways to Prevent It.” The page included articles highlighting legislation that needed to be enacted to protect employees, as well as strategies various companies have used to combat the issue within their own working environment. Another group created “Enough is Enough: Putting an End to Domestic Violence,” which outlined various tools being used in medical clinics to identify and provide resources to those patients affected.

Many groups designed techniques, such as reminder alerts in the electronic medical record, to apprise providers of possible at-risk patients. Students also provided possible quality improvement initiatives to bridge gaps in health care. Faculty monitored each group's web site weekly to ensure information posted met assignment criteria. At the end of each semester, students presented their research and web page to the class via online conference. The group with the most “likes” received a gift card at the end of the semester.

We received excellent feedback from students in response to this assignment. The students enjoyed managing their social media sites and were able to use qualitative data they gathered on social media in their poster presentation and manuscript, which were due at the completion of the project.

Many of the students became passionate about their topic after immersing themselves in it at so many levels. In fact, some of the groups have continued to maintain their site since they graduated, with one group, “Voice for Human Rights: Stop Sex Trafficking,” having more than 180 followers after 2 years of continuous activity. Although some faculty were hesitant about social media in general, they agreed that using it in this project helped students understand complex health topics in ways that they can apply in advanced practice settings.

Kelley Stallworth, DNP, WHNP-BC

Nancy Wingo, PhD
University of Alabama at Birmingham



The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.


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