Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Building a CNIA Member Community of Practice

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Volume 3 No 3 Summer 2008

by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c), Editor in Chief


Virtual social networks are professional networks that have expanded phenomenally since the advent of the Internet and other ICTs. “Electronic media do more than just expand access to vast bodies of information. They also serve as a convenient vehicle for building virtual social networks for creating shared knowledge through collaborative learning and problem solving. Cross pollination of ideas through worldwide connectivity can boost creativity synergistically in the co-construction of knowledge” (Bandura, 2002, p. 4). Basically, nursing-related virtual social networks provide a cyberspace for nurses to make contacts, share information and ideas, and build a sense of community.

Social technologies are used to provide a dynamic virtual environment, and often Virtual Social Networks provide communicative capabilities through posting tools like blogs, forums, and wikis; email for sharing ideas on a smaller scale; collaborative areas for interaction, creating and building digital artefacts or planning projects; navigation tools for moving through the virtual network landscape; and profiles to provide a space for each member to disclose personal information with others. Nurses who have to engage in shift-work often find that virtual social networks can provide a sense of connection with other professionals that is available around the clock. Since time is often a factor in any social interchange, virtual communication often offers an alternative for practicing nurses who can access information and interchange at any time of day. With active participation, the interchanges and shared information/ideas of the network can culminate into valuable social and cultural capital, available to all members. Often, nursing virtual social networks are created for the purpose of exchanging ideas on practice issues and best practices; to become more knowledgeable about new trends, research, and innovations in health care; or to participate in advocacy, activist, and educational initiatives.

Of course, nurses must have both technological and social access to reap any benefits from virtual social networks. Technological access includes actual available ICT equipment including “…computers of adequate speed and equipped with appropriate software for a given activity” (Kling, 1998, p.1) which serve as technologies of interaction within the network context. Social access “…refers to know-how, a mix of professional knowledge, economic resources, and technical skills, to use technologies in ways that enhance professional practices and social life” (p.1) and support the development of complex social network relationships with peers within a virtual landscape. Time and life commitments are also important considerations, since participation in virtual social networks does require that time be applied to the process, a commodity that is often at a premium in a nurse’s life. “Expert knowledge sharing includes both proactive and reactive processes. Receiving information on an ongoing basis requires proactively participating in listservs, which requires effective time management for e-mail” (Johnson, 2004, p. 16).

Lamb and Kling (2002) described a multidimensional view of professional participants in virtual social networks that distinguished them as social actors with four central characteristics: affiliations, environments, interactions and identities.

Affiliations referred to dynamic, multi-level, multi-valent, and multi-network social actor relationships shaped by networks of organizational affiliations.

Environments were also dynamic and were contingent on ICT quality and pliability.

Interactions referred to actions taken to communicate in legitimate ways, with ICTs included as part of the interaction process. As well, people perform socially embedded (role-based), highly specified actions within the network.

Finally, identities focused on social actor identities that had an ICT use component and manifested as multi-level identities in the virtual environment. Social actors use ICTS to construct identities and to control perceptions in others.

Sawhney and Lee (2000) described how social actors who create unique virtual social networks using ICTs interact with and “discover the new liberties of action of an emerging communication technology” (p.1) and together with other social actors create a space for people to shape a network focused on a common subject or affiliation. Similar technologies are becoming commonly used in the actual provision of nursing care, in the form of telenursing and e-health networks.

To this end, the CNIA Members Only Community site was developed, using the amazing open source software, Drupal. Drupal provides a community of practice arena that facilitstes interaction, document and information sharing, voting, blogging, forum discussions, announcements, stories, and other resources within a protected, user-friendly environment. The collection of resources within the Community is growing, but the actual interaction has barely begun. It is our intent that this Community will become a frequently visited web site for CNIA members, who find the information and discussions interesting and useful to their daily practice.

The CNIA Members Only Community is located at:,
If you are a CNIA member, you may register a free account – just select your own username and password and submit your
application. We will review it, and approve you if your membership is current.

All the best,

CJNI Editor In Chief,
CNIA President

June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)


Bandura, A. (2002). Growing primacy of human agency in adaptation and change in the electronic era. European Psychologist, 7(1), 2-16.

Johnson, T. (2004). Value of the Internet in achieving and sustaining quality. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 19 (1), 14-17.

Kling, R. (1998). Technological and social access to computing, information and communication technologies. White Paper for the Presidential Advisory Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Technology, and the Next Generation Internet. Retrieved from

Lamb, R. & Kling, R. (2002). From Users to Social Actors: Reconceptualizing socially rich interaction through information and communication technology. CSI Working Paper, No. WP-02-11, Retrieved from

Sawhney, H. & Lee, S. (2000). Arenas of innovation: Fringe groups and discovery of new liberties of action. Center for Social Informatics, Indiana University.

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