Archive | February, 2013

A year of blogging – my little secret (part 1)

23 Feb

Top secret

In January, I marked the end of my first year on Twitter so now I’m marking my first anniversary of blogging. My little secret is that it’s a bit of a fake anniversary. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, I really don’t “write” blog posts so I don’t feel I can call myself a blogger. Second, until November, I kept this blog a secret – so hardly anyone has actually read it. In this first part, I write about the secrets of my awesome writing technique (!) and how that might help you if you’re thinking you might want to start writing your own blog.


I wrote in my first blog post, “I joined Twitter in January 2012 [and] set up this blog account 6 weeks later because I thought that sometimes I’d want to say something that would take more than 140 characters.” So I just sort of saved the name, just in case, then left the blog alone and wrote nothing. The blog was dormant.

For a long time, I was happy tweeting and connecting with others using Twitter’s 140 character limit. If I had a lot to say, I’d send a series of tweets. Planning and writing seemed impossible, but tweeting as a stream of consciousness helped me to process and develop ideas. It still does. I had no need to use a blog.

In April, Nurse with Glasses (@Nurse_w_glasses) tweeted her awesome 20 commandments for mental health workers. I retweeted them then badgered her to start a blog and give her commandments a home of their own. So I blogged about that. Or rather, I listed her 20 commandments with a few words of my own added on. Then she set up her blog. So I blogged about that. Or rather, I wrote one sentence, with a link to her new blog. I’d started my blogging journey … just.

At the same time, I was invited by Ella Shaw (of what was then called the Diagnosis LOB blog now Trying My Patients) to contribute a mini guest blog to a piece she was writing. So I wrestled with writing the piece for two weeks and ended up with 17 pages! I wrote too much, rambled on and couldn’t seem to edit it down to a decent length. I eventually came up with 800 words I was pleased with and Ella promptly chopped it in half. But I was finally published online in her blog.

However, the struggle I’d  had writing the post had shown me very clearly that writing was not for me! So I went back to tweeting.

Then in August I discovered Storify. This enabled me to save strings of tweets – mine and the responses of others – as Twitter conversations. To date, I’ve saved 101 stories in Storify. Very occasionally I’d tweet a link to one of my Storify stories and then, in September, I started to post some blog posts which consisted of a paragraph plus a link to a Storify story. And that’s how I started to blog more regularly – by posting Storify stories.

In November, Mark Brown of One in Four magazine saw a series tweets I’d sent and asked me to use them as the basis for an article for his magazine. Ed Miliband (leader of the opposition Labour party) had made a speech on Monday 29th October at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in which he announced the establishment of a new mental health task force. I’d started with this tweet:

Dear @Ed_Miliband, good start, but remember there’s much more to good mental health than the NHS, drugs & treatment.

After the difficulty I’d had writing the mini guest blog back in April, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to write a whole magazine article. So Mark suggested I just put what I’d tweeted into an email. So that’s what I did. I saved the tweets into a Storify story, then copied and pasted the words into a document. It wasn’t quite as straightforward as that as the story did still take me quite a bit of effort to turn it into an article and I needed help from Mark with editing. However, it did make it into the winter edition of the magazine, which means I’m now a published (and paid) writer. Woo hoo!

Writing that article helped me to find the technique which forms the foundation of all my blog posts, ie:

  • Tweet – if there’s a subject that grabs my attention, I write a series of tweets, just as they pop into my mind; there’s no planning or drafting; it’s just a stream of consciousness
  • Storify – if the tweet rant turns out to make some sort of sense, I save it in a Storify story for later
  • Copy and paste – I copy the text of the tweets and paste it  into a Word document, so the words of the tweets are saved
  • Edit – I try not to get too bogged down in editing as I find that difficult, but some refining is usually needed
  • Blog – post it in a blog with a couple of cheerful pictures

And that’s it. The advantage for me in using this method to blog is that I am still tweeting – rather than having to try to concentrate on writing a long post. The blog post writes itself from my tweets.

A disadvantage I suppose is that there’s no plan about what goes in the blog. It just consists of whatever has grabbed my attention on any given day and what I’ve had time to put into a Storify story. If there’s a topic on the news or in my life that moves me to a stream of tweets (a Twitter rant) then, sure enough, it becomes a Storify story and, if I have time, a blog post. So far I’ve saved 101 Storify stories but have written only 42 blog posts.

Why am I sharing this? Because, simple as the technique seems, it has enabled me to collate my thoughts and share them with others in the form of a blog, despite not having much of an ability to plan, focus or concentrate. There are lots of blogs out there where people have clearly been working on drafts for a while and include literary, musical and historical references. But there is room for all sorts of blogs – even those by people who, like me, can’t really write. I suppose I’m saying that, if I can do it, anyone can.

I’ve gradually found a way to write, despite my restrictions. Over time, I’ve stumbled across things (like Storify) that have helped me. I’ve had the encouragement and assistance of other kind tweeps. And that’s helped me find my voice. So I’m also saying don’t think you need to write perfect 600 word posts from the outset. Over time, you too may find other ways to enable you to express yourself that work for you. Why not give it a go and set up your own blog?


web links 5.




Mental health nurse & patient tweet chat: what do newbies need to know?

11 Feb

Psychiatric Nurse - Garrison - Book cover

Update small..

The tweet chat took place on Thursday 20th February 2014 with We Nurses – catch up with the discussion by taking a look at the full transcript!


I’m planning my first one hour tweet chat in a couple of weeks (date to be announced). (Check out my quick guide to tweet chats for more on what they are – this and other helpful links are below). Here’s what I have in mind, for an inpatient mental health nursing tweet chat:

  • Patients: Are you a patient who’s experienced inpatient mental health nursing? What would you like the newbies to know – the student nurses about to start a placement or the newly qualified mental health nurse. What things that nurses did – good or bad – made a difference to your experience on ward?
  • Students: Are you about to qualify as a mental health nurse? Are you a student nurse about to start your mental health placement?  What is the balance between fear and excitement? What would you like to know? What practical concerns do you have? What do you want help with to make your first days on ward a success?
  • Nurses: Are you a qualified mental health nurse? Are you a student nurse who has completed your mental health placement? What tips would you like to pass on to newbies about to qualify or about to undertake a placement? What are those little insider tips that really helped? What would you have liked to know when you were a newbie?

I’d like to be able to share some really useful tips to help new mental health nurses and nursing students make their best start on ward, because that benefits both staff and patients. Here are some example questions I’ve thought up that students might want to know the answer to:

“How can I prepare for my placement so I get the most from it?”

How can I put the knowledge I’ve learned at university into practice on the ward?”

“How can I settle in as quickly as possible so I fit in with my nursing team and ward life?”

“How can I switch off after a shift?”

“What should I do if I see another nurse doing treating a patient unkindly?”

Here are some examples of useful tips to pass on:

The Bic 4-colour pens are really useful for filling in your paperwork.”

“Remember to always respect the patient as an individual and see past the diagnosis.”

“Don’t make assumptions or have preconceived ideas based on what you’ve been told before. Remain open-minded and make your own judgments based on your own personal experiences.”

As I’m not a nurse and haven’t run a tweet chat before, I’ve invited @MHnursechat – associated with the awesome We Nurses website and tweet chats – to run a joint tweet chat with me. We’re going to be discussing how this will work and, hopefully, setting a date. Very exciting!

In preparation for the tweet chat, I’m asking you to please share your tips and questions. That will help set the agenda to be followed and the areas we’ll focus on in the tweet chat – so it covers the most burning questions and drills down to the most useful tips. It may be that there will be more than one tweet chat on this topic – perhaps one covering what nurses need to know in their first few days, and another for when they’ve been there a few weeks. We’ll see. A tweet chat needs to have enough of a focus to engage people without overwhelming them, but at the same time enough breadth so it doesn’t peter out prematurely! If there are other topics you think would be good for tweet chats then please let me know!

You can comment below or tweet me (please don’t try to pack more than one query or tip into each tweet ) @Sectioned_ (please remember the underscore). It’s helpful if you could say whether you’re offering your comment from your experience as a patient, nurse or student. Look forward to hearing from you!

Why a tweet chat? I’m often interested in discovering what other tweeps think about topics and then sharing those insights. So, quite a few times, I’ve tweeted questions then collated the responses into a Storify story which I’ve sometimes turned into a blog. (I was rather excited to learn that this is called “crowd sourcing” and “curating the chat”.) This time I thought I’d try making it a bit more organised & involve more people: I’m beginning to learn just how valuable Twitter is as a way to bring together groups of people to share views openly in a way they might not otherwise do. (I’m told this is called “disruption” – disrupting the natural order of things and mixing it up, like mental health peeps and staff learning together.) (Thanks to Victoria Betton for all the cool jargon!)

Why this topic? After all, I’m not a nurse. As a child, however, I remember being taken to one of the big long-stay psychiatric hospitals of the sort portrayed in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I remember the high ceilings, big windows and long corridors. Happily I wasn’t being booked in myself. I was visiting family friends who worked there as psychiatric nurses. Members of my family also worked on psychiatric wards and in nursing.  When I was sectioned a couple of years ago, my inpatient experience fell far short of the care I would hope all psychiatric nurses aim to deliver. You could say that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But, as I’ve been around nurses my whole life, I know that the image and practice of mental health nursing has come a very long way since the fearsomely controlling figure portrayed by Nurse Ratched. For me, nurses are (or should be) an essential part of the team that helps get me well. So I’m all for sharing tips and best practice to help nurses be their best. I’m hoping this tweet chat will be one small way to do that.



web links 5

  • Guide to tweet chats – all you need to know to join in your first tweet chat or get more from them
  • Mental health jargon buster and acronym buster – please send yours in! We’ll try to avoid jargon during the tweet chat itself, but if the jargon’s in the jargon buster, I can just tweet a copy of that by way of explanation

For the nurses and student nurses amongst you, here’s some nurse-focussed content:



The Francis report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust enquiry

6 Feb

Stafford general hospital

Today, Richard Francis QC (pictured below right) published his second and final report on the Stafford Hospital enquiry. Between 400 and 1,200 patients are believed to have died between January 2005 and March 2009 as a result of poor care caused by systemic failure. Here you’ll find resources related to the report – the background, recommendations & reactions – which I’ll update as I come across them or as people send them to me to be added.

I put these resources together to I can try to keep up with an important breaking news story, especially a long running one where I don’t know all the background. Hopefully it’s helpful to others too.

As Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said earlier:

“Although today’s report focuses on care of patients in the acute sector, its findings and recommendations are just as important for mental health patients.”

Lessons to be learned from the terrible failings at Stafford hospital are equally applicable to psychiatric hospitals. Hopefully that will lead to improvements in mental health care too. A focus on care, patient satisfaction and outcomes rather than processes has to be a better way.Robert Francis QC



 .web links 5




Summaries & overviews:


The Francis report (the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry):


Patient organisations and campaigners:


Healthcare organisations:




Other organisations, commentators & blogs:


Press and media coverage:


Mental health organisations:



Hot baths & how I relax

4 Feb

The new cover for The Bell JarIMG-20130124-00982

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” So wrote poet Sylvia Plath in her novel The Bell Jar, whose central character has clinical depression. Hot baths are certainly a remedy I turn to when feeling out of sorts. There’s a reason my Twitter avatar is a bath filled with hot water.

Last weekend, I was with a group who took turns to share one thing they did to nurture themselves, as a pick-me-up, to relax. Naturally I  mentioned my favourite cure all, the hot bath. One woman, when asked what she did to nurture herself, burst into tears and said she never had any time for herself. Then she remembered she’d recently had her nails done, and her nails were indeed a glorious deep berry colour. And, as we went round the group, we all learned new ways we could try out to relax ourselves.

I was really inspired by some of the suggestions, so thought I’d share them with the lovely Twitter people and at the same time ask them for their tips. If you can’t think of some way to nurture yourself, or are looking for some inspiration from things that work for others, take a look at the suggestions below and in the linked Storify story of tweets where there are many more.

I’m pretty sure there’s something for everyone! And if you have a tip of your own to share, please feel free to comment below or tweet me to be added to the Storify story of tweets.


Here are some things the women in the group said they did to relax, to nurture themselves, to care for themselves:

“I sit in a coffee shop & watch people.”

“On Sunday, when I go for my long run, I take off my watch, leave my phone behind & just go.”

“I read gossip magazines like Okay. It feels good to focus on something completely superficial.”

“I put on my snuggly dressing gown. Whatever I’m doing, it’s really comforting.”

“One Sunday a month, I turn everything electrical off for the whole day.”

“Walking in nature” & “Walking my dogs.”

“On summer afternoons, I lie on the trampoline in the garden in the sunshine. In winter, I watch TV series.”

“I go to a spa or get a pedicure” & “I paint my nails”.

“I try on clothes in expensive shops!”

“I sit on my prayer mat & imagine it’s a magic carpet transporting me somewhere calm.”

“I spray my favourite perfume in the air” & “I use aromatherapy oils”.


Here are some suggestions from the lovely Twitter people when I asked the following:

What helps you to nurture yourself when you’re feeling out of sorts? What says “me time” to you? What do you to relax? What are your tips? #howIrelax

  • I bake, put radio 4 on and create yummy food … lifts my spirits always (Fibrogirl @fibro_girl)
  • I always watch police programmes – watch someone else get into trouble for a change! (Petrolhead999 @Petrolhead999)
  • My garden, birdwatching, long hot bubble baths, my cats and music (I make ‘rescue’ cds/playlists) for when things are bleak (Liz (@redliz)
  • Do something you enjoy: baking, reading, dancing, seeing friends/family, walking, running, painting. Put a hole in your stress bucket. (LYPFT Library @lypftlib)
  • Hot bath,relaxing music, undersea nature documentary, drawing/painting/collage, writing poetry and masturbation (Michael Brown @brownie1983)
  • Long hot bubble bath seconded. (Stroppy Ambo Woman @Stroppyambo)
  • Watching my pets, baking, knitting, youtubing animals. (Just another one @priorynutter)
  • With mental health specifically: just stopping & forgetting any responsibility I feel to “work through” the feelings of anxiety & depression. (Coffee Zombie @xcoffeezombiex)
  • I play the keyboard. When low it brings me out of myself, when high it burns off rocket fuel safely (Polarbearcub @megandoodah)
  • Knitting, as it helps to keep my mind and my body occupied. I also essential oils as smell is an easy distraction technique. (Bexatron @DuckBeaki)
  • Bath, music, horlicks, clean sheets. oh, and crochet! (Ceri Jones @liberatedwomble)
  • People watching is great. Listen to music. (ForeverMorrissey @Mozgirl71)
  • I take a nice long hot bubble bath, light some incense and candles and play calming music (Sarah @sarahxXx1990)
  • I tend to put headphones on to block out the world with music or a marathon of a favorite tv show. (Roiben @roiben)
  • I’ve always been helped by music, both listening and playing, can relax, elate, or show you’re not on your own (Shaun Blezard @cluttermusic)
  • I watch the sunrise, and sunset! (Rokayah415 @Rokayah415)
  • Read novels, swim, workout at the gym, pat my cat, go shopping (not food), watch movies (Anna Butterfly @aButterfly123)
  • As a nerd I play computer games to purge my mind of the insanity of my day. Nothing like wiping out Alien hordes to destress (Notjarvis @notjarvis)
  • Has to be the relax cd by Paul McKenna for me with benzoin aromatherapy oil! (Michelle @oldtrouty)
  • Favourite music, lush baths & clouds. Oh … and Twitter – for good virtual support from good people. (Kimbohud @Kimbohud)


If you have any suggestions of your own, please comment below, or tweet me to be added to the Storify story (check it out – there are many more helpful suggestions here too).



web links 5

  • Storify story “How I relax” of my tweets & those of others. (Last week I learned from Victoria Betton (@VictoriaBetton) that asking people to contribute in this way is called “crowd sourcing”!)
  • Another good way (backed up by science) for reducing stress and anxiety is to look at images of nature & other cute stuff – so I also have a page of cute stuff that I update as I come across new material.
  • Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar was in the news last week when a new 50th anniversary edition was issued with a controversial “chick lit” cover (pictured above) – eg “The Bell Jar’s new cover derided for branding Sylvia Plath novel as chick lit” (Guardian, 1st February 2013)