TRENDER: Lifespan’s Social Media Guru Nancy Cawley Jean

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


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GoLocalProv recently introduced an ongoing series of glimpses of the people you most want to know on the scene. Today we're featuring Nancy (Cawley) Jean, a senior media relations officer for Lifespan who is focused on national media relations for research at Rhode Island Hospital and its Hasbro Children's Hospital. She manages social media for the hospitals within the Lifespan health system.

Homegrown factor: Lifelong Rhode Islander. Lives in Pawtucket with husband, a fellow Rhode Islander, and an adorably spoiled rescue dog. Attended St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, earned bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College.

1. Where did you get your start in your field?

While I’d like to say this is all part of a grand scheme of mine, it’s really all accidental! I started working in health care as a part-time administrative assistant while in college. Through the years, I’ve remained in the health care industry on the communications side. I was fortunate to have some incredible mentors, and I was able to learn and assume different roles. A couple years ago, I was approached about moving into a newly developed position to begin to launch social media. I started researching it on my own, and then I was hooked. Now, after all these years (and I won’t say how many!), I think I’ve finally found what I really love doing–social media. At least my English lit major has been put to use through the years.

2. What role do you see social media playing in the future in regards to healthcare?

The statistics on how many people turn to the web for medical information is growing by the day. People want access to information when they want it, and where it’s most convenient. In health care, we are traditionally a conservative industry, but we have recognized the need to move with the times. Social media allows us to talk to people on a personal level, provide information on critical events, be able to respond to comments (both positive and negative) about our organization and help people with questions. I believe the health care industry as a whole will continue to rely on this continuinally changing technology to meet people where they want to be and help them in their overall health care needs. That might mean developing more mobile apps that will help people managing chronic diseases, speaking directly with physicians without seeing them in person, participating in web chats or tweet chats to talk about certain topics and answer questions, and many other things we haven’t even imagined yet. The biggest thing about social media is being able to personally interact with individuals, and social media is going to take a much larger role in health care as it continues to evolve.

3. What’s the greatest advantage to using social media in your field?

To me, it’s been really amazing to be able to meet people through Twitter or Facebook and really feel like I’ve gotten to know them. There are some people who regularly interact with our Facebook pages. Some share their personal stories, some thank the hospital for saving their life, or their child’s life. It makes me feel very proud to work for an organization who has made such a difference in people’s lives, and to serve as a representative for the hospitals through social media really is an honor to me. The best part, though, is when you get to help someone. I recently was able to connect a patient at one of our hospitals with a patient advocate to work on a payment plan because he was facing some hard times and having trouble paying his bills. I met him through Twitter. Last year, we were able to extend an invitation through our Facebook page to a family who for some reason didn’t receive an invitation for a private evening at Roger Williams Zoo for families of children with special needs. The mom was so grateful and appreciative. Being able to do things like that can really make you feel good about what you do and you realize the power that social media can have in connecting with people.

4. What's the biggest challenge about working in Rhode Island? The greatest reward?

Working in Rhode Island is a wonderful experience. There are so many smart, talented people in this state, and it’s easy to get to know them because of our size. Of course, social media makes that even easier. From the viewpoint of the health care industry, though, working in Rhode Island can be so frustrating. I have had the opportunity to meet some of the country’s foremost doctors working right here in Rhode Island, developing new treatments and making groundbreaking discoveries. Yet for some reason, our community seems to think that you need to leave the state to get good care. It’s maddening!


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