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Brace yourself — the Net Generation is coming

Posted on July 20, 2016 by Sarah Dinsdale

I had classes on how to type properly with a keyboard before I learnt how to write in cursive. I programmed simple web pages before I knew how to calculate the area of a triangle. And I had spoken with peers on the other side of the world while playing video games online before ever leaving North America.

This upbringing in a digital information age is not only my reality but also that of my peers who are digitally literate, connected, and social. The incoming cohorts of health care professionals currently entering the workforce have navigated childhood online and have come of age while simultaneously interacting within a Web 2.0 matrix — submersed in innovation, collaboration and creative problem solving. This Net Generation (myself included) has never known a time without the Internet.

When I first entered the Nursing Program at Western University, I never could have imagined how my passion for social media and technology would have a potential role in my professional health care career. Prior to starting university, I had only been informed about the inappropriateness of technologies in the classroom and workplace, while being bombarded about the dangers and risks that lurk in the shadows of social media.

Fortunately, through a thought-provoking informatics course delivered by Dr. Richard Booth, I began to conceptualize the benefits of digital health, including the advancement of professional communication on social media platforms, increasing access to information and the ability to empower patients through e-health technology. Subsequently, having the opportunity to speak at the 2015 Canadian Nursing Informatics Association & The Ontario Nursing Informatics Group e-Health Conference in Toronto about my experiences using social media as a nursing student allowed me to connect with many welcoming senior innovators and experts in digital health. I realized that health care in Canada evolves through changes which are led by like-minded organizations in convergence with individual leaders.

What’s more, I believe that the Net Generation will have a lasting impact on digital health. I foresee my peers playing integral roles in digital health organizations, becoming leaders in implementing the sustained use of information technology and electronic communication tools, and advocating for the continued e-shift to facilitate higher quality Canadian health care through developing innovative digital health solutions.

Therefore, as we continue to experience the rapid evolution of digital health, it is imperative to educate and give a voice to the incoming Net Generation. This can be done through not only the guidance of the “shouldn’ts,” “mustn’ts,” and “can’ts” when it come to the use of technology and social media in health care, but also through positive encouragement by validating creativity and innovation in digital health. Empowering health care providers of the Net Generation will foster future transformation of health services and the cultivation of new products from a foundation of knowledge and skills developed over a lifetime.

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Portfolio Sarah DinsdaleSarah Dinsdale

Sarah Dinsdale is in her final year of nursing at the University Western Ontario. Throughout the past few years, she has worked closely with the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN), the Canadian Nursing Informatics Association (CNIA) and Canada Health Infoway as a consultant on various media projects. Simultaneously, with fellow nursing students she has also established an online nursing organization, Nurses for Nurses. It is aimed at raising awareness through social media about issues that impact young health care professionals and supporting innovative healthcare projects. Sarah is also currently employed by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto as a research assistant developing technology-based projects aimed at helping children in pain in Canada and internationally.

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