Last week I did an interview with Molly Gamble of Becker’s Orthopedic & Spine Review, and the article appeared online last night. Gamble questioned me about my experiences as someone new to blogging. We discussed how a personal healthcare blog fits in with the goals and guidelines of a larger healthcare institution, and I offered tips for potential healthcare bloggers. The interview made me take a step back and look at my first six weeks and the successes and failures I’ve experienced.

If you’re passionate about a topic, write about it.
This might be my most important piece of advice for any would-be blogger. I’m not going to pretend that my blog was or is only an attempt to write about sports medicine. It is one component of a larger strategy to increase my personal exposure, develop a presence in the media, and ultimately gain patients. That said, one of my best qualities as a physician has always been my ability to communicate with patients. My hope was to translate that skill over to my blog to provide you – my follower – with helpful sports injury information.

I feel like there is a large disconnect between technical medical knowledge and what an athlete, his or her family and friends, and coaches understand about an injury. I try to explain an injury or surgery in simple terms that an athlete can understand. For example, in only six weeks, I have already had several people tell me that they have gone to the Sports Injury Locator section to read about high ankle sprains. It’s a really good feeling to hear people tell me, “Hey now I actually understand what that means!”

And the bottom line is that I really enjoy sports medicine. I went into this field to help people get back to sports and activities that they want to play. There is no better feeling than when they come back and tell me that they were able to achieve that goal. It’s why I do what I do. The blog is a natural extension of that passion.

Be willing to invest a lot of time.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with my thoughts about passion. If you truly are interested in the topic, your blog will become less of an obligation and more of an opportunity. I have been really surprised over the last six weeks that on days when I’m absolutely worn out from an entire day of surgery, I’m still excited to open my laptop and write about a topic that I’ve been thinking about throughout the day. I won’t deny that some times blogging is actually more enjoyable than some clinics or surgeries (or especially, hours of meetings). If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find a way to make time.

However, I am no different than most other physicians and other healthcare workers in that I put 60 to 80 hours a week into my day-to-day work activities. A blog is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. You can’t just do it every now and then. Despite our hectic schedules, the blogger has to invest the time writing posts and responding to questions and comments. If the latest post is months old, very few people will follow it.

Find an appropriate audience.
This is a key that I think is responsible for a lot of the success of blogs about any number of topics, not just healthcare. Yes, you should write about a topic about which you are passionate, but the audience has to be there, or at least there has to be a chance that audience will develop. Some topics in health care are much more likely to generate conversation and a base of followers. Charleston is an active community, in the sense that most of the population runs, or lifts weights, or plays recreational sports, almost everyone here is an “athlete” and hopefully will find some benefit in my blog.

Follow all healthcare and institutional guidelines.
There isn’t much to say about this one other than you have to do it. I checked with Public Relations and Marketing at MUSC before I got started to make sure that I was allowed to start a personal sports medicine blog. I read all of the social media guidelines for the institution and adhered to them completely. I checked with Public Relations regarding patient confidentiality and other legal issues and listed all necessary disclaimers. Believe me, it saves a lot of headaches if you look into these issues on the front end.

Expect the unexpected.
I’m borrowing a common phrase from a popular TV reality show only because it perfectly captures experiences, both good and bad, that I’ve encountered in the first six weeks. For starters, I’ve had hundreds of positive reactions both within MUSC and locally, and also across the country. But I have had a few critics of the blog as well. Despite that fact, I feel that the blog reflects extremely well on me professionally and MUSC as an institution…

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the blog has opened a number of exciting opportunities. As I mentioned, it has help me develop more of a media presence, which has always been one of my goals professionally. I currently sit on the Public Relations committee for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine – mainly because I enjoy explaining injuries in the media just like I do with patients. I have recently been offered the opportunity to write a monthly blog post for the STOP Sports Injuries national campaign as well as write a monthly column for a local magazine. These opportunities would not have come about without the blog. And keep your eyes and ears open, as there has been a HUGE opportunity that has presented itself to me. I’m extremely excited, and believe me, I will blog all about it.

Lastly, thank you for your support and for listening. Please join me in the discussion.

Please read Molly Gamble’s article, 5 Ways Orthopedic Surgeons Can Improve Their Social Media Presence.