Social Media as a Format for Nursing Activism

Author(s): Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

Nurses tell your stories! We have a unique perspective, an uncanny ability to simultaneously view the world through both a magnifying glass and a wide-angle lens. This belief is what prompted me to start writing about my nursing specialty, school nursing. I felt compelled to give voice to the scope of my practice in an effort to counteract the false narrative that school nursing was a retirement job.

In July of 2017, I participated in a blogging workshop at the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) annual conference. Blogging was always on my radar but I needed some actionable steps to move forward. I published my first post on NASN’s website in the summer of 2017.

The Relentless School Nurse has grown from a blog about school nursing to a platform for social justice activism. Initially, I shared stories from my health office. The original mission of my blog expanded to include highlighting the work of other school nurses and providing a place for them to share their perspective and voice. I dipped my toe into the waters of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and was quickly converted to a believer in the power of social media.

Social media platforms are the new street corners where news is spread in real time and to a much wider audience. The focus of my work changed after the Parkland school shooting, where my niece was a student. She survived, but seventeen others did not.  My family story is further complicated by an unimaginable tragedy my father experienced in 1949 when his parents and grandmother were murdered along with ten other people in one of the first mass-murders in the country. Both my niece and my father survived by hiding in closets, seventy years apart.

My activism has amplified since the Parkland shootings. I have joined the ranks of healthcare professionals uniting to demand legislation to fund firearm prevention research. Gun violence is a public health emergency and the voice of nursing is needed now more than ever.

Blogging and being present on Twitter has given me an outlet that is professionally gratifying, but also opening doors outside of my nursing comfort zone. Speaking and writing about firearm violence prevention is not a topic that I would have chosen, but it seems to have chosen me. I have no choice but to use my family’s story and my nursing perspective to move this conversation forward.

Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 19th year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. She serves on several national boards including The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a gun violence prevention research non-profit organization and the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN). Robin is the Legislative Chair for the New Jersey State School Nurses Association (NJSSNA). She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor.

She has been recognized in her home state of New Jersey and nationally for her community-based initiative called “The Community Café: A Conversation That Matters.” Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include 2019 National Association of School Nurses (NASN) President’s Award; 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year; 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year; and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty.

Robin writes a weekly blog called The Relentless School Nurse. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RobinCogan.

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