By Hannah Ames, Adult Nurse Lecture at The University of Plymouth and Critical Care Nurse
& Laura Hunt, Critical Care Education Sister at Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust
Brief Synopsis of the project
We started a Nurse’s Journal Club after identifying a need to engage our nursing staff in up-to-date and relevant Critical Care research. Constrained to only 30 minutes to present and discuss research papers we were looking for a quick and effective way to disseminate the main research finding. Through engagement in the social media platform Twitter, we discovered the work of Andrew Ibrahim who visually summarises and shares key points from a research study in the form of a “Visual Abstract” (#VisualAbstract). For this blog, we have included examples of one type of Visual Abstract that we have produced and shared.
What did you do?
We wanted to encourage our nurses to engage in discussing and questioning research studies related to our practice to facilitate evidence informed decision-making.
Andrew Ibrahim the Creative Director at Annals of Surgery is currently leading the concept of ‘Visual Abstracts’ and has been working to produce novel and innovative strategies to disseminate research. They provide a visual summary of the key findings typically found in the abstract of a research article allowing the reader to quickly determine if the article is relevant to them.
A typical visual abstract would
- Summarise the key question being addressed
- Summarise the outcomes
- Cite the author, citation and year of publication
- State outcome comparison
- Visually display the outcome along with numerical data
Once we had created our own visual abstract, as seen above we would then display it during the discussion element of our Journal Club further emphasising the research outcome. The abstracts are then shared on Twitter and a staff educational Facebook page (N-STAR) along with a URL link giving full access to the journal article.
What worked well?
We need to get nursing staff actively engaged and discussing research. Visual Abstracts provide a platform for deeper engagement and facilitate a discussion about the articles findings. There visual format allow for them to be easily viewed on social media and grab the attention of the reader. Once shared on Social Media we also provide the full text link so the complete article can be accessed. This allows staff to look at it in their own time enhancing and contributing to their own professional development. This specifically benefits those nurses who were unable to attend the Journal Club. Leading to an increase in staff awareness and has encouraged nurses to question aspects of their own practice.
Historically many nurses have shied away from reading or accessing lengthy Journal Articles. In our opinion, the Visual Abstract has broken down this barrier and has led to an increase in Nurses engaging in reading, understanding and questioning clinical research.
Unexpectantly after sharing our #VisualAbstracts on Twitter, we also received direct and constructive feedback from Andrew Ibrahim on their quality and format giving us ideas of how to improve them further. Allowing this work to be shared and critiqued on Social Media highlights one of the fundamental ways in which Twitter has transformed professional and working relationships across the globe.
Due to copyright laws we are finding it increasingly difficult and time consuming to find suitable free infographic images. We have also found that only certain types of research studies i.e. Quantitative research lends itself to being presented in the visual abstract format. For example, multiple outcomes or opinions have been difficult to summarise.
One of the potential pitfalls of Visual Abstracts that has been highlighted includes oversimplifying the paper and distorting the reader about the implications of the findings (Ibrahim, 2017). Consequently, this is an area of practice, which we would like to evaluate and audit in the future. It is essential that staff still access the full article and critically analyse the research outcomes and do not take the results displayed in the visual abstract at face value.
What was missing?
The main component of the #VisualAbstract is to improve research dissemination through Social Media. Unfortunately, a large proportion of Band 5 Clinical Nurses within our department do not use a professional Twitter account. Therefore, many Nurses do not have access to the opportunities that Twitter can provide.
The use of Visual Abstracts in the UK remains in its infancy and there is currently no research to suggest that they have been adopted as part of research dissemination within UK published Journals despite its growing popularity demonstrated within the USA.
What was the impact?
Visual Abstracts continue to grow and are now adopted in over 30 American Journals. Recent studies by Ibrahim (2017) showed that when research was presented in a #VisualAbstract format on Twitter the media engagement related to that research article increased by 2.7 fold and article retweets by 8.4 fold.
One of the first Visual Abstracts that we produced and published on Twitter still gained a large amount of Social Media attention (as seen above). This demonstrates its potential scope in disseminating research to healthcare professionals.
We recognised that not all of our nurses used Twitter consequently we needed to use other Social Media platforms to improve the engagement and knowledge of #VisualAbstracts such as our educational page N-STAR on Facebook.
Impact beyond Social Media evidence into practice
I think we can both say that using the Visual Abstracts has significantly influenced clinical practice. In one particular study the HEAT Trial, being able to display the control and intervention results side by side increased the impact factor of the results. It generated a lot of discussion around practice and as a result, nurses began to question and challenge medical staff on their routine practice of administering and prescribing of paracetamol for fever in critically ill patients.
We need to be looking at new creative ways to support post-registration learning and development and we need to be realistic about what is achievable in the demanding clinical environment. Visual Abstracts are key to providing a quick and graphical representation of research, which can be easily disseminated through social media platforms to staff allowing us to improve the care we provide for our patients.
We recommend that the next stages of development in this field include,
- Raising awareness of the use and production of Visuals Abstracts in the UK.
- Working with social media and research professionals to develop the concept of Visual Abstracts and there implementation.
- Encouraging more nurses to engage in using Social media platforms to facilitate learning.
- Evaluating the impact of Visual Abstracts specifically related to Nursing research dissemination and engagement.
- Highlight the awareness of Visual Abstracts with other members of the Multidisciplinary team and encourage further adoption.
How might this be taken forward?
It would be fantastic to see this adopted within practice around the UK. We hope that HARTS can help us to demonstrate the impact of Visual Abstracts helping to increase awareness and support its dissemination into practice.
Ibrahim AM, Lillemoe KD, Klingensmith ME, Dimick JB.(2017) “Visual Abstracts to Disseminate Research on Social Media: a prospective, case-control crossover study” Annals of Surgery. Apr 26.
Ibrahim A.M. (2017) “Seeing is Believing: Using Visual Abstracts to Disseminate Scientific Research.” American Journal Gastroenterol. Sep 19