To mark the recent World Evidence-based Healthcare Day, Registered Nurse Penny Blunden (BN, MNursAP) spoke to her 21,000 followers on @Sick.Happens in an Instagram Live about Cochrane work and the importance of good quality evidence. This chat was aimed about parents interested in health evidence – we caught up with her to ask her more.
Hi Penny, thanks for speaking with us. It’s great to see so many healthcare professionals on social media. What’s your background?
I am a Paediatric Registered Nurse with a Masters of Nursing. I have always had a passion for working with children, but since becoming a Mum myself, I realised how much ongoing support and education parents need when raising little humans.
Your handle on Instagram is @Sick.Happens. Can you tell us more about that? Why did you start Sick Happens?
I started Sick Happens after realising that parents don’t have this ongoing support and education. The only access they had to evidence-based health education surrounding the illnesses in children were in a time-restricted GP appointment, a chaotic Emergency visit or in a first-aid course. Although these services are critical, they don’t provide the education surrounding the somewhat inevitable bouts of sickness. The fevers, vomiting, breathing colds & flu’s, poo questions — the list is endless. So I founded Sick Happens to fill this gap.
Not everyone is convinced that social media is a great way to disseminate health evidence because it’s a ‘serious and complex’ topic. Why do you think Instagram an important platform for parents?
Instagram is critical in delivering health education because this is where parents are hanging out. This is where parents retreat to when they have 5 minutes spare from parenting. This is also where they are choosing to find advice and inspiration, whether it be home organisation, exercise, relationships or fashion. So I felt it was absolutely necessary to make sure practical, evidence-based education was intermingled within all of this information so that it is easily accessible.
We see that you are often sharing Cochrane evidence and talking about systematic reviews with your audience. How do you know about Cochrane? How do you use it?
I learnt about Cochrane when I was an undergraduate studying Nursing. We were taught about the importance of systematic reviews, and how to undertake effective research. Now I use Cochrane as my first starting point whenever I want to research a new topic. Why would you not go to the highest level of evidence available at the beginning of your researching journey?!
It's great that you are sharing that with your audience too. Do you think evidence-based medicine and related concepts is something that should be shared with parents?
Absolutely! Not everyone understands how to analyse and interpret data. Critically analysing evidence, and understanding how this evidence is applied to everyday decisions is a learnt skill — a skill that takes time and practice. This is why it is important to help parents learn how to research effectively, and learn how this evidence can impact their decisions.
You recently spoke to a representative from Cochrane on your Instagram Live. What do you think parents get from these over your more static content?
It was great to talk to someone from Cochrane in a casual way over a live chat. This format gives parents the opportunity to:
- See the conversation play out in real time
- Join in on the conversation
- Think about a topic before it is sprung on them
- Watch it back and ask questions later
- Plus, they can pop their headphones in and listen whilst driving to work, feeding a baby, cleaning the house or going for a walk.
We’ll include the video below of your Instagram Live Chat. what things did you cover?
A lot in such a short chat! I was so lucky to talk to a representative from the Cochrane to help parents understand how to research effectively, how evidence impacts healthcare, and how to differentiate high quality evidence from opinion. We chatted about what Cochrane does, what are systematic reviews, how Cochrane works with patients and carers directly, and how to distinguish high quality evidence, and some of their resources, such as Cochrane Evidence Essentials. It was a lovely, casual chat and feedback from the parents was positive – they felt the Cochrane evidence was assessable and something they could use.
- Learn more about Sick Happens by visiting the website or following on Instagram
- Browse or search Cochrane’s Plain Language Summaries
- View Cochrane Evidence Essentials, a free online resource offering an introduction to health evidence, and how to use it to make informed health choices.