Reflections on AOM2013 Blog Project

Looking back over I am pleased with the short updates that built up to provide one big picture of my overall stay at hospital.

I tried to keep the updates short and light-hearted to avoid it being a moan and for it to remain reflective.

I used tools such as Instagram and tagged the location as ‘Southampton Hospital’ which saw click-throughs and sharing of the hospital food pictures there as well. I also sent all of my posts out to a twitter @DoctorFeedMe as well as my personal social networks to encourage views and clicks. This was also a good place to gauge how effective the blog was. Here are some of the comments I received:

Rebecca Elizabeth Smith good job!! hospital food is so s***! the pic of the spag bol – like, wow! well done!
Kirill Nad You’ll be pleased to hear, it doesn’t look far off the food forced on me in a private hospital shortly after having wisdom teeth pulled out under general. Lucky my mouth was so numb everything just kept falling back out onto the tray, bedding and generally all over the room
Overall the site received 806 views, with days that had posts published on them varying between 22 & 114. I used the content management system and set up a domain on my hosting. I used plugins such as Simply Instagram, to pull in my pictures from there in real-time, ‘Sticky Social Bar’ to encourage sharing which follows the reader’s screen on the left hand side and the powerful ‘Jetpack’ tool which provides the site with stats, uses Photon to load images from the to speed up load time and allows for subscriptions by email among other features. Jetpack can also provide a mobile version of the site, however I did not need this feature as I had looked for a responsive theme so it would available on any device when I set up the blog. In the end I used the free theme Live Wire.
Screen shot 2013-05-18 at 1.49.13 PMI hope that the variety of styles of posts helped to spread out and tell the story in a more interesting way. I used galleries, single picture posts and a video to pick up on different concepts. The video was inspired by the concept of how easy I knew it could be to make some good food, especially as towards the end of the blog the food improved – but only because I was picking it up from the chef myself. I felt that a video was the best way to see this A to B style of story arc, especially as the blog had been mainly static with text and pictures so far. I used the style of Thomas Rees Kaye’s YouTube channel which successfully mixes spoof, quick cuts and longer talking pieces to create medium length YouTube videos, his normally last 6-10 minutes. The reason Thomas’s style worked for this video was because it needed to sustain interest between the more boring parts of the video like the facts and promo’s for the website – The humor and music helped carry the narrative along and keep the viewer watching rather than just skipping to the end for the final product.
My largest disappointment was being unable to get someone from inside the ‘system’ to openly talk to me about hospital food. I spoke to several dietitians and bowel clinical leads and many were pleased a patient was going to try to tackle and expose the issue of poor food. However when asked for statements, help and comment all shied away behind their job and said they were restricted by their contracts and pressure from bosses to not speak out. My criticism from this doesn’t go towards the staff, although it would have been nice to see doctors standing up for their patients in the public domain, but instead towards the system itself which clearly prevents and gags critique. This could be a large part of the reason why hospital food has been bad, and remains so awful, for so log.

Ideas for my Blog Project

Screen shot from BBC Website Operation Hospital Food

My initial idea has come from my experience of Hospital Food. 3 weeks of hospital food is bad enough but knowing I may continue to be in and out, and having been in and out of Hospital for the best part of 3 years, I’m personally at the end of my tether with it.

The last time I was in I began the fight, to improve my meals so that they were, at least hot and edible, the majority of what I was served on the ward did not fit the requirements of my diet. I was in Southampton General Hospital, a specialist Nutrition hospital, and their specialist nutrition diet for those patients who struggle with certain food or the way food is cooked, the intestinal failure diet, is not adequate to its own standards.

Screen shot from BBC Website Operation Hospital FoodThe reason I picked to tackle this subject now is two-fold. Firstly as I have the content, when I was in I took a picture of every meal served to me. Secondly because it is topical; hospital food has always been notoriously bad but recently programmes like ‘Operation Hospital Food’ with James Martin and other celeb chefs and news stories like:

I plan to do a blog that re-creates my time in hospital. At first instance this sounds quite dull, however i intend to focus it on my time in Hospital and the food I got, glazing over any health issues. I know that there is scope in the story as it doesn’t start bad and stay bad, different things, actions and changes I suggested were implemented and did change the quality in meals. I have also since spoke to the dietician since leaving and know that things have since fallen back to old habits without me there shouting about it. I’m hoping she will supply me with another disenfranchised patient who will be able to tell me about her experience too (Who is currently in hospital).

I am concerned about the content mix as this is not a photo journalism project, the pictures were taken on a mobile phone and although good enough quality, are not great quality. It is also not just a blog, which in itself wouldn’t be sufficient enough. I think I may make it more of a multimedia project and use things like short audio slide shows or using Taggstar and Thinglink to add more details to pictures. I’m also wondering whether this might work on a timeline tool, maybe with something like Dipity.

As for what else is out there I did find a blog via the Campaign for better Food site, which is a spin-off from the Sustain Web campaign group. On that blog he discusses his experiences from past and present in his 30 years of experience of being a patient.

After speaking to Jim I think his idea to include wider debates into my story, including processed and horse meat stories would benefit and build the story of the blog.