Blogging: What do you write when you have nothing to say?

The SoMeGP team was presenting about social media and blogging at the recent GP Education & Training conference (GPET13) in Perth, when this great question came from the audience: “What do you write when you have nothing to say?”

It is a common problem and the fear of every writer and blogger: not knowing where to start. Yet, the medical profession is full of topics to write about. In fact, most doctors, especially GP supervisors, have enough experience to explain a range of topics to patients, registrars, students and staff. It’s just a matter of putting these words in writing.

If you can email, you can blog. But the great thing of online media is that there are many ways to present information: traditional blogs, videos, podcasts, slide shows etc.

Take time to figure out what you want to do with your blog before you begin. Here are some tips to get started:

#1: Write for patients

Debunking myths is always a hit, and (de-identified) questions from our patients are a great place to start: Does hypertension always cause a headache? Is tonsillitis contagious? Can the flu shot cause influenza? Are antibiotics effective against sinusitis? Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Should I have an annual cancer test? Blog about smoking cessation, healthy foods tips, how to perform CPR, etc

#2: Write for colleagues

Most doctors have a passion or field of interest, and sharing this knowledge or skills is fun and much appreciated by many colleagues. GP supervisors could help registrars by blogging about exam preparation, study tips, or asking & answering questions in blogs and online forums, like FOAM4GP.

#3: Write about the profession

Never a dull moment in health care. We have got a wonderful profession, but the ever-changing rules, ‘good ideas’ and intentions by policy makers and the flood of bureaucracy and red tape need to be reviewed and discussed, and blogging is a very effective way to do this. Work-life balance is another ongoing challenge. If you are passionate about a topic, do your research and share it with the world – we want to hear from you!

It sometimes helps to write things down during the day or use one of the many free apps, like Evernote, to collect and organise your thoughts and ideas. The advantage of Evernote is that it captures anything, can be accessed from mobile devices and computers and syncs between them.

And remember, a good blog post doesn’t have to be long: 300-500 words fine. Still in need of inspiration? Have a look at my number 1 blogging tip you should always keep in mind.

Doctors, this is why you should be blogging

Most people today google their health problems. Unfortunately, not all information Doctor Google throws at us is correct. Sometimes online information is downright misleading.

Providing accurate information through blogs and social media platforms is a good way to respond to incorrect online health messages.

Doctors are in a unique position to educate. By sharing knowledge online the public, the health care system and the doctor, will all benefit.

The two reasons why doctors should be blogging are:

  1. Debunking myths: Clarifying the common misunderstandings about health issues.
  2. Sharing information about health, disease and its management.

Advantages 

UK GP Dr Anne Marie Cunningham has a great blog called Wishful thinking in medical education. In this post she mentioned two things she enjoys about blogging:

  • To learn from others via the comments she receives on her blog.
  • To help develop her thought process and “get some way to understanding what has been perplexing me”.

US cardiac electrophysiologist Dr John Mandrola gives another six reasons in his blog:

  • Doctors are passionate about what they do and blogging is a way of sharing this.
  • To educate; both the student and the teacher can learn from a blog.
  • To help others help themselves.
  • To give a look behind the medical scene.
  • To archive useful thoughts and notes.
  • To show that doctors are humans too. He writes: “Though doctors seek perfection, we tire, become frustrated, make mistakes, and harbor regrets. We are you. We are human.”

If you can email you can blog

A common question patients ask me is whether the influenza vaccine can bring on an infection with the viral disease – so I wrote a post about why the flu shot cannot cause flu. To answer questions about bulk billing I wrote this post. I refer patients actively to my blog.

Most doctors are experts in discussing health concerns and educating their patients in a one-on-one situation. There are many health messages doctors share with their patients. All that is needed is to write these down, just like writing an email, and post the information on the web in blog format.

Setting up a blog takes 20 minutes. Not sure how to start? Here are some of my tips summarised in a slide show.