The In/Visibility of Nurses in Cyberculture

• Intro • Stories • Dialogue • Design • Authors • Community • Image





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Why is Dialogue Important?

"From the beginning until almost the present, all human cultures have developed fundamentally in the form of monologues, that is, people talked only with those who thought as they themselves did--or should! Now humanity is beginning to move out of that "Age of Monologue" into the dawning "Age of Dialogue" wherein people are beginning truly to encounter the Other -- in dialogue, in Deep-Dialogue."
(Global Dialogue Institute, 1999).
Online dialogue is a discursive practice that is comprised of using text as a communicative vehicle. To analyze or even witness dialogue in cyberspace, one must view the text within the social context it springs from. Dialogue includes the usual back and forth exchange of ideas and views common in any two way (or multiple way) communication. But the use of text also allows the participant to engage in reflective writing since "the electronic medium allows opportunities for reflection and refining thought before making words public" (Dudfield, 1999). Regular participation in a dialogue environment also enhances a sense of community, a feeling that one belongs to an online social group, in whatever context the group sees fit, whether social, personal, professional, and so on.

According to French sociologist, Pierre Levy, four vital characteristics exist within cyberculture. These include:
  • Mutual interconnection of users in real time
  • The emergence of virtual communities
  • Individuals roaming the landscape of knowledge
  • Collective intelligence (Havell, 1999).
Havell went on to distinguish differences between oral and written dialogue.
"In face-to-face oral communication the interlocutors share their spatio-temporal environment, live in the same historical time, and usually belong to the same culture. They may use the advantage of direct dialogue for clarification and even for the generation of new ideas. On the other hand, written messages are detached from the situation in which they were written and may be received in different time, different place and read by recipients entirely unknown to the sender. This requires much more clarity and stability of meaning in written texts. At the same time, writing enables communication across space and time and allows large-scale storing and sharing of knowledge. Cyberculture combines the advantages of oral and written communication. Its impact on society may be comparable to the impact caused by the advent of writing several millennia ago."

Online dialogue affords an opportunity to find a common ground, and to find ways to work collaboratively for both action and change. "Dialogue leaders speak often about ‘moving from talk to action,’ but this phrase is deceptive, since dialogue is a quite significant action in itself, and since action, if it is to be impactful and sustainable, needs to include dialogue" (Heierbacher & Fluke, 2001).

Quantum physicist, David Bohm, along with Donald Factor and Peter Garrett wrote extensively about the use of dialogue to address the many crises of our times. "It creates the opportunity for each participant to examine the preconceptions, prejudices and the characteristic patterns that lie behind his or her thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings, along with the roles he or she tends habitually to play. And it offers an opportunity to share these insights. The word "dialogue" derives from two roots: "dia" which means "through" and "logos" which means "the word", or more particularly, "the meaning of the word." The image it gives is of a river of meaning flowing around and through the participants (Bohm, Factor & Garrett, 1991).

For nursing professionals, the Internet provides a mechanism where the world's 5.5 million nurses can communicate and share knowledge with the goals of dialoguing about the provision of quality patient care worldwide and uniting as a strong political force. Through resources such as forums and chat rooms, nurses can actualize these goals and more. Through communication modalities such as bulletin boards, chat rooms, and email discussion groups as well as speedy access to clinical, education, political, legal, and ethical information pertaining to nursing and healthcare, nurses around the world use the Internet to educate one another, conduct research, and form personal relationships. This not only results in the personal and professional growth of individuals utilizing such services, but also promotes the growth of the nursing profession itself.


Nurse Recruiter - A bulletin board for nurse managers, clinical nurse specialists, directors, and nurses seeking recruitment. The tone of the voices used on this board range from the matter of fact to the deeply personal. One almost cynical poster mused, "It is amazing to me that there is a healthcare shortage in nusing, yet I seem to be unable to find a job after taking the last few years off to get myself well from cancer. An interesting twist to an extremely self defeating profession. My profession has yet to live up to its objectives."
Virtual Nurse Discussion Forums -This site offers a variety of forums for nurses but only one showed any sort of traffic (18 messages). Possible topics for discussion include: a) General Nursing Discussion b) Retention/Recruitment: Do You Have Answers? c) Are We Prepared: Terrorism and Nursing? d) The Nurse Activist: Politics at the Bedside e) LPN vs RN: Do We Need This War? f) Nursing News.
Patient Advocacy Forum - The Million Nurse March site offers this potentially dynamic forum which currently has 563 registered members but only 208 Posts regarding 75 potential discussion threads. The forum offers dialogue related to the nursing shortage, understaffing of hospitals and other nursing environments, and patient safety and care within this oppressive context. The "voices" most commonly seen on this forum are ones that show both frustration and anger, with a determination that things "have to change!"
Nurse Zone Bulletin Boards - A variety of pertinent nursing topics are the focus of these forums. Some have very few entries while others seem more popular with visitors to this site. Forums include: a) General Nursing Discussions (618 entries), b) Nursing Issues / Concerns and how they affect the patient (60 entries), c) Nurses in Transition (72 entries), Nursing Specialties - d) Critical Care Nursing (28 entries), e) Maternal Child Health (21 entries), f) Perioperative (12 entries), g) Psychiatricc (12 entries), h) Emergency (28 entries), i) Medical/Surgical Nursing (22 entries), j) Nursing Management/Educators (8 entries), k) Home Heatlh (14 entries), l) Pediatric Nursing (13 entries), m) Telemetry/Progressive Care (8 entries), Careers - n) Travel Nursing (88 entries) o) Alternative Nursing Careers (25 entries) p) Career Advice (39 entries) q) Student Nurse Center (69 entries) For Life - r) Relationships (31 entries), s) Mind, Body, Beauty (11 entries), t) For Parents (23 entries) u) Time for You - Hobbies & Interests (17 entries)
Minority Nurse Discussion Forum - This forum, intended to provide an online voice and dialogue between nurses from various minority groups could use a few members. Only a small amount of posts have been entered despite several interesting and crucial topics. The forum topics include: a) General Discussion - 16 subtopics, b) Mentoring - 2 subtopics, 14 responses, c) Career Questions and Advice 19 subsections, d) Recruiting Minority Nurses 9 subsections, e) Minority Health Issues and Research 7 subsections, f) Educational Issues 13 subsections and g) Speakers and Consultants with 5 subections. The voices shared on this forum tend to be frank, concrete and troubled - with an issue that needs addressing and/or support related to discrimination, employability, language, and so on. - Several forums related to the concerns and issues felt by many nurses are quite actively frequented by a variety of nurses. The main themes of the forum include a) On the Job - 594 posts, b) Career Talk - 773 posts, c) Off Topic - 126 posts, d) Issues in Nursing Activism & Politics - 365 posts, and e) Nursing Students - 510 posts. Most of the entries are brief and to the point, often asking a question or raising an issue for further elaboration. One member posted this brief entry: "I am a new grad in a busy NICU who is looking into transferring to L&D. I would like to hear from L&D nurses the pros and cons of L&D and maybe some advice for a new grad nurse starting in the unit." Another rather matter of fact post that was coloured by a certain sense of disbelief and frustration, "Has anyone else ever been terminated from a job? I was a model employee and was terminated to teach everyone a lesson. Can anyone tell me where to go from here?" Even though 83 viewers read this cry for help, no one had responded after a month had passed since the original posting.
Student Nurse - This forum provided on the Nursing Life site, is intended specifically for student nurses. Discussion is minimal at best, but some of it seems very heartfelt, for instance one student's post about attempted suicide. Forum topics include: a) Announcements - 96 posts, b) Discuss anything - 43 posts, c) NCLEX exam - 11 posts, and d) Taking Tests - 5 posts.


Student Nurse Chat Room - This chat room, specifically for nursing students is provided by continuing education specialists, Medi-Smart. Scheduled chats focus on career topics such as Homework Help/Tutoring, Career Advising, Nursing School Q&A and Student Connections.
Virtual Nurse Chat - Virtual Nurse also offers three nursing specific chat rooms, entitled: Orca Lair * Nursing Students * and Cri-Du-Chat. Their slogan: Nurses Helping Nurses in the 21st Century.
Cyber Nurse Chat - This chatroom is our "Central Nurse's Station"...the place where everyone arrives, leaves and meets! We are pleased to announce that the Cyber-Nurse's Station has turned out to be an incredible success so far!! There are almost constantly people coming and going from this chat, and if they find someone to chat with they stay and really enjoy themselves!
All Nurses Chat - Open to any topic of concern to nurses - career, practice, continuing education, humor, literature, concerns, issues, experiences.
Nursing Spectrum Career Chat - Career Fitness Online site. is open all the time, every single day. We also feature "Guest Chats", with nurse authors, lecturers and other nurse leaders. Here are the details for our upcoming Guest Chats: April 30, 2003 - Writing for Publication; May 28, 2003 - Inserting IV Catheters Painlessly; June 11, 2003 - The Psychological Impact of Infertility; June 25, 2003 - Legal Nurse Consulting; August 20, 2003 - Women in Prison and Infectious Diseases in Prison; September 17, 2003 - Brent's Law.
School Nurse Chat - A Site Created By A School Nurse For School Nurses. Where school nurses from across the country can finally get together and share vital information. At this new coming site you can discuss with others about health questions, salaries, and any other general information under the field of School Nursing.
Virtual Critical Care Nurses ICQ List - A safe and focused ICQ member list for instant message contact with other Critical Care Nurses. Offers member list, information page for each (optional) language spoken, ICQ number, name or nickname and comments area. Also, links to other related ICQ groups.


Bell, D. (2001). An introduction to cybercultures. New York: Routledge.

Bohm, S., Factor, D. & Garrett, P. (1991). Dialogue - A proposal

Dudfield, A. (1999). Literacy and Cyberculture.

Global Dialogue Institute. (1999). The Power and promise of Deep - Dialogue

Havell, I. M. (1999). The advent of cyberculture

Heierbacher, S. & Fluke, A. (2001). How & Why Dialogue Leads to Action The Dialogue to Action Initiative - a professional development initiative © 2000 - 2003