Exploring a Nursing Community Online: A Breadth of Topics and a Depth of Understanding

Exploring a Nursing Community Online: A Breadth of Topics and a Depth of Understanding

Rebekah Fox (Department of Communication Studies, Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, TX, USA), Kathleen Abrahamson (Department of Public Health, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY, USA) and James G. Anderson (Department of Medical Sociology and Health Communication, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/ijrqeh.2013010105
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Abstract

Online forums offer researchers opportunities to investigate communities in unobtrusive ways to understand better the experiences, concerns, and stories of those who contribute. In this exploratory study, the authors analyze content from one online nursing community to highlight the breadth of topics being discussed outside of the nursing workplace but within the nursing community (e.g. topics, that when taken together, begin to structure a collective narrative for this on-line community). Then, the authors explore one specific topic being discussed by this nursing community, nurse bullying, in an effort to better understand how the current nursing literature’s coverage of the topic compares with the discussion emerging from this on-line community. Finally, suggestions for using on-line forums as research sites are discussed.
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Introduction

Researchers from a variety of fields are mining the content of on-line forums as a way to learn how specific on-line communities discuss shared interests. Within health services research, these types of forums have been used to study on-line social support for patients with breast cancer (Sharf, 1997), individuals with disabilities (Braithwaite et al., 1999), and smoking cessation (Schneider et al., 1990), to name a few. Additionally, researchers interested in understanding the phenomena of community building and maintenance among health care providers are also turning to on-line forums (Fox, 2008).

Although exactly how they are used may differ between online communities, these types of forums typically allow multiple participants to contribute information and/or respond to comments in an asynchronous manner. (For additional coverage of the benefits and drawbacks of social support in on-line communities, see White & Dorman, 2001.) As such, nursing focused online forums are potentially a rich source of information regarding the experiences, concerns, stories, and work-worlds of practicing nurses. Existing empirical research addressing nursing and internet use has focused on issues such as the internet as a teaching tool for students (Boulos, Miramba & Wheeler, 2006), internet communication of health information from provider to patient (Solomon, Wagner, & Goes, 2012), health communication using mixed samples of physicians, nurses, and consumers (Miller & Pole, 2010) and the privacy risks of on-line forum use (Lagu, Kaufman, Asch, & Armstrong, 2008). Research into how nursing professionals themselves use on-line forums as a means to create community, share narrative, and exchange knowledge within their professional domain is growing (Fox, 2008).

Scholars interested in the formation of communities have recognized the importance of communication and narrative in shaping community. More specifically, in recent decades scholars have explored how narratives emerge as a collective as opposed to an individual activity and therefore as part and parcel of community development (Mumby, 1987; Smircish & Calas, 1987; Boje, 1991; Clair, 1993; Taylor, 2003; Frank, 2005). In this current work we seek to better understand the relationship between nurse discourse and community building through the examination of threaded discourse of one on-line nursing forum.

The goals of this study are twofold. First, we analyze the content of threads within a nursing focused online forum to better understand the breath of topics being discussed outside of the nursing workplace but within the nursing community (e.g. topics, that when taken together, begin to structure a collective narrative for this on-line community). Then, we explore one specific topic being discussed by this nursing community, nurse bullying, in an effort to better understand how the current nursing literature’s coverage of the topic compares with the discussion emerging from this on-line community.

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