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Knowledge translation for a new generation

Research findings are turned into a social media and web-based recruitment campaign aimed at presenting more accurate depictions of nursing

Nov 01, 2016, By: Sheri Lynn Price, PhD, RN, Bridget Pierce, MN, RN
Bridget Pierce and Sheri Price looking at a laptop
Riley Smith Photography
Bridget Pierce and Sheri Price at work on the Be a Nurse campaign site.

In her PhD research, Sheri Price explored the experiences of millennial nurses in choosing nursing as a career. She was specifically interested in understanding how this generational cohort came to enter the profession, given the many options available today.

Her findings revealed that early socialization, through interactions with parents, peers and media, had influenced the students’ perceptions and expectations of a nursing career. The students reported that these interactions often reflected stereotypical depictions of nursing.

Price wanted to find an effective knowledge translation method to share the knowledge gained from her research, particularly with those who might be considering a career in nursing, such as junior high, high school and university students. She believed traditional research dissemination methods (publications and presentations) might prove to be ineffective in reaching this younger, more wired generation.

Price applied for research dissemination funds to create a series of recruitment and career choice videos that would highlight the narratives of some of the participants and also address some of the stereotypes that exist about the profession. The key feature of the project would be the use of social media and web-based strategies to launch a reality-based recruitment campaign that would depict a contemporary image of the nursing profession. Understanding the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and blogs with the millennial generation, she recognized that for a recruitment campaign to be most effective, it should link all of these platforms together.

Funding from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF) through a Knowledge Sharing Support Award allowed Price to hire millennial nursing student Bridget Pierce as research coordinator to assist with creation and launch. Having a millennial student as research coordinator was a definite asset; Pierce had the skills and experience in social media use that Price did not possess.

This team created video scripts containing key messages and statements from the research participants that could be portrayed in the videos. In essence, the participants had identified the need for updated, contemporary images of nurses as critical thinkers, leaders and change agents within health care and the community.

Wanting to stay true to the narratives of the participants, the team committed to using direct quotes as much as possible as they wove aspects of the narratives into each script. Excerpts from the transcripts were used to create five distinct career choice vignettes and one overarching recruitment video. The team recruited five millennial nursing students to serve as actors for the project. After reviewing the themes of the vignettes, each student chose the one that most aligned with his or her own journey. The team gave them an opportunity to give feedback to ensure the final products would be perceived as natural and unscripted.

The videos promote messages and images of nursing not often found in popular media: that nurses excel in math and sciences, are globally minded, want to give back to their community and are team oriented.

To ensure the messages would reach the primary target audience, Price and Pierce posted the videos to YouTube and encouraged provincial/territorial and national nursing organizations to promote them. In addition to creating a YouTube channel ( to house the videos, the team launched a website (, a Twitter account and a Facebook page to present content relevant to anyone interested in learning about nursing.


The evaluation of the campaign began during the initial project stages through pilot testing of video and social networking content with three audience groups: academic and professional stakeholders, undergraduate nursing students and employers. Pilot testing helped ensure that the messaging would be accessible to all audiences.

The NSHRF funding also allowed the team to undergo training to learn to track social media results and adjust the material in relation to viewers’ responses (likes, follows and comments). Pierce was responsible for social media content and posting. She evaluated the impact of the project by monitoring social media use through the appropriate methods, such as online community size, social traffic (website access, followers, likes), social impressions (online rating of content) and followup contacts. Within the social media world, a simple like, share or retweet can be an effective dissemination and evaluation tool. To date, the YouTube videos have been viewed more than 16,000 times; the Twitter account has nearly 500 followers.

Lessons learned

In the research community, developing an effective knowledge translation plan for the dissemination of research is an expectation. This initiative demonstrated a significant shift away from peer-reviewed publications and presentations. Using social media for research dissemination requires training and is not as simple as it may first appear. The team learned that to engage followers, messages need to be succinct, timely and frequent. Social media is an iterative process, and persistence is needed to successfully reach a target audience and to obtain additional followers, views and likes. The team also learned the benefit of networking within social media; getting others to retweet your posts can result in further dissemination.

Next steps

The Be a Nurse campaign has achieved much success and continues to evolve to be responsive to recruitment needs and priorities. The videos are being used in universities and high schools, within nursing curriculum and by professional nursing organizations. Other organizations, including Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia, the provincial Health Sector Council and the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, have endorsed this work as well.

Price has presented on this knowledge translation method and on the campaign at several venues nationally, leading to her involvement in other related projects: a new graduate transition video for the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, a video series promoting careers in mental health nursing and a rural recruitment video (in development). Based on the success of the campaign, she was invited to lead a national project (funded by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions) to explore the career needs and expectations of nurses in the early stages and mid-to-late stages of their careers.

Convinced of the effectiveness of using social media to disseminate her research findings, Price ensures a social media component is included in any applications for future funding and in her ongoing projects.

Sheri Lynn Price, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor in the school of nursing at Dalhousie University. Her program of research is focused on health services research with a specific interest in professional socialization and interprofessional collaboration.
Bridget Pierce, MN, RN, is a recent Dalhousie University graduate and is currently working as a quality and patient safety leader at the Nova Scotia Health Authority.