Crossing Boundaries

Twitter and online Communities of Practice for Nursing Students


  • Michael Brian Haslam University of Central Lancashire
  • Emma Grady Edge Hill University



Nursing, Nurse Education, Networks, Virtual Communities of Practice, Online Communities of Practice


Nurse education in the United Kingdom is undergoing its biggest transformation in decades.  Widening participation has presented challenges for Higher Education Institutions, increasing numbers of Nursing Students from a diverse range of backgrounds. Changes also to the new NMC standards mean that those nurses qualifying from 2020, will need to be better prepared to deliver care to people with increasingly complex needs, thus requiring a wider range of skills, proficiency in those skills and a breadth of knowledge to support their practice.

Social media (SocMe) has the potential to enhance the delivery of Nurse education, providing increasing opportunities to engage Nursing Students whilst also contributing to the development of student knowledge and skills.  Online Communities of Practice (OCoPs), via platforms such as Twitter, support the creation and exchange of knowledge through an active engagement and a shared discourse with expert clinicians and Academics in the field. This paper considers the benefits of OCoPs in the education of Nursing Students. Whilst formal practices of engaging Students using SocMe currently vary from institution to institution, increasingly undergraduate Nursing Students are engaging with OCoPs, contributing both to the development of their online professional identities and to their socialisation into the nursing role.  A recent student-led conference at a University in the north of England is used to illustrate how Twitter as an OCoP, has the potential to benefit Nursing Students, contributing to an increase in their social capital and the development of professional identities.

Despite potential reservations around the use of SocMe, such as the blurring of social boundaries, this paper argues that both Students and Academics, alike may benefit from its innovative use and that further research is needed to establish how SocMe may be incorporated into new pre-registration Nursing programmes.