According to today's issue of HITS (Health IT Strategist e-newsletter - sign up here), as a group we demonstrate a predilection for negativity (direct from 1.15.08 edition):
Anger issues? A look inside medical blogging
A plethora of healthcare-related blogs have been created, but with the exception of one called the Happy Hospitalist, most medical bloggers seem to have anger issues.
The first one that comes to mind is the The Angry Nurse! In turn, links from that site are positively—or perhaps negatively—splenetic. One is the British blog Angry Medic, which in turn links to Angry Doctor, sponsored by a physician. Keep tapping and you'll eventually find the Angry Pharmacist, who provides "rants from the most trusted profession."
Not every medical blogger has such obvious anger issues. A hospitalist with a blog called Fat Doctor reflects on life at work and home with only "occasional whining."
The intentions and emotions of one particular obstetrician blogger are unclear. The blog bears the name Midwife with a Knife, and it warns that "any resemblence (sic) of anything in this blog to actual patients is entirely coincidental."If awards were given out for the cleverest name in healthcare blogging, a clear favorite would have to be OB/GYN Kenobi, written by a physician who also warns readers not to take her posts as complete works of nonfiction: "All names are changed to protect my licensure. I reserve the right to relate in hyperbolic terms for dramatic effect." -- by Andis Robeznieks / HITS staff writer
Author Robeznieks obviously skimmed the names and disclaimers of some of our brethren medical bloggers, but does Andis come to the correct conclusion?
Are we an angry bunch? Do "most medical bloggers seem to have anger issues?"
Several years ago I attended the inaugural "Writing the Medical Experience" conference and workshop at the Squaw Valley Writers' Community in California (BIDMC's own poet-physician Rafael Campo was a featured author).
Robeznieks' observations remind me of debates the writers had about our tendency to use gallows humor when talking about work, and how we need to make light of death, doom and destruction we see on the job in order to REMAIN on the job.
As a result of those conversations, and many others with medical providers, I think releasing negativity in a blog (as in poetry, fiction, and other creative communications) can be a cathartic, positive force.
I may be biased, however - my senior thesis at SMCM was titled "Poetry Readings: Catharsis for Author and Audience."
We can't assault the frequent flyers (first do no harm), however, in the semi-protected world of bloggers' anonymity (sorry Dr. Flea), we may be able to release vituperative bile that otherwise would affect patient care.
Unfortunately, I can't completely refute Robeznieks' perception as I'm not a 'medical' blogger per say (I didn't blog while working as a Patient Advocate in an ED) - and it would be foolish to discount that there is a drastic difference between protecting your job by blogging as an unnamed doc, nurse, EMT, pharmacist, etc. and writing as a transparent, self-branded healthcare corporate blogger.
Both types of bloggers are actually under tremendous pressures; one group NOT to share anything that might compromise confidentiality and result in a lawsuit or losing a job - the other to relate positive, sunshine-and-puppy-dog-tail "lessons learned" experiences in the field (after all, if we spouted off like Uncle Panda we might not have jobs come next Monday).
That said, is there any positive ROI for blogging in the medical/healthcare/hospital fields?
Really, most of us who believe we are safe behind the wall of relative blogger anonymity and write our op-eds unnamed could be tracked. *Blogger's note: I'm not counting the tech elite among us who cover tracks carefully to prevent being revealed.
Of course there are benefits to medical blogging.
The way we interact in the blogosphere reminds me of a brick and mortar model community - the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO).
At YPO, execs have a forum to converse at a personal level about professional experiences, and hash over challenges in a more casual atmosphere, where they benefit from peer advice.
The wisdom of crowds is harnessed there, as it is here.
Because medbloggers blog, I can experience second-hand some of the procedures and difficulties docs and nurses deal with on a daily basis.
Because medbloggers blog, I have a better idea of what's going on in American healthcare - and what I want to do about it.
Even if not one other person read my blog, or I changed the settings to make my entries private, the online journaling benefit can't be discounted.
Blogging gives me a chance to hash out my personal position on emergent issues such as the great checklist debate.
I find tremendous positive ROI in sharing experiences, news, anecdotes, and other lessons about living and working in the healthcare field. I find it well worth the time spent to generate content.
I hope for all of our sakes, the medbloggers above do as well - the blogosphere provides a place where emotive experiences, frustrations and triumphs, death, grief, pity, and yes, anger, all have a rightful place in the continuing evolution of our American continuum of care.
Does blogging make me a better healthcare worker? I'm not sure, but I do know reading the blogs of others, angry rants included, most definitely does.