#severn2014 – is #FOAMed entering the mainstream?

In February 2013 the EMJ published an analysis of the effect of social media at the ICEM conference in Dublin. For many this represented a tipping point in the use of social media for EM education. Prior to ICEM 2012 many perceived online learning to be a hobby, a little risque and certainly something quite subversive and potentially dangerous. Whilst that may still be true in some eyes much has changed since those three Guinness fueled days on the Emerald Isle. Social media in emergency medicine/critical care, now commonly referred to as #FOAMed (a term coined on the banks of the Liffey at ICEM), is increasingly attractiing the attention of the mainstream.

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In 2013 the use of social media was debated at conferences across the world. Concerns were raised about the utility, quality and scope of learning in what some perceive as an uncontrolled and anarchic fashion. Questions have been raised about quality, review, safety, time, access, confidentiality etc. but interest remains with an ever increasing number of blogs and online participants. Obviously, we are biased in our opinions, but we believe the debates have been won, or if not the pace of progress is such that social media as a learning tool can no longer be ignored.

So what does 2014 offer us? Has the debate been won and is #FOAMed about to become mainstream? Looking at plans in the UK for 2014 we think so. Conferences across the UK will be looking to not just debate social media, but also to promote and teach the basics.

First up in January was the Severn deanery social media conference held in Bristol and involving trainees and consultants from across the region. For the believers in #FOAMed (honestly it feels like evangalism somedays) this is fantastic. Whilst a core of emergency physicians are using social media for learning they are still arguably the minority, albeit a rather vocal and noisy one. We could perhaps draw analogies with other aspects of teaching and learning for our trainees. We already spend time enabling them to teach and learn effectively and think nothing of approving of educational courses, and indeed the majority of UK trainees will have attended a life support instructors course at some point in their training.

Should we be training our juniors (and seniors) in how to use social media? The more enlightened training program directors seem to be recognising this and so we saw @LMunroDavies ask @MaxiRebecca & @tmit2 to put together a program looking at..

  • Getting onto Twitter
  • 10 blogs to start off with (EMJ of course 😉 )
  • 10 podcasts to listen to
  • Staying out of trouble
  • Beyond the basics (screencasts, Google+, writing your own blog)
Andy Neill speaks at #severn2014

This is enlightend thinking from the senior clinicans. Training programs should equip emergency physicians to be the trainers and learners of the future and in 2014 this means being social media literate.

Cliff Mann, current president of CEM, spoke at the conference on the benefits of social media. Afer initial scepticism it is now an essential tool for the Pres,  but as he pointed out, there are 4500 members and fellows of the college, yet he has just 1500 followers on twitter. There are dangers in listening to a vocal minority and whilst twitter is a great communication tool for the college it’s not really representative of everyone just yet. There is no turning back for Cliff. Social media as a tool for communication, influence and learning is here to stay and if the president’s on twitter then you should be too.

If you’re in the UK then there is more to come in 2014. Trainees in the North East have social media integrated into their annual meeting later this month and most UK meetings will have some #FOAMed bubbling up somewhere.

Of course, this is free and open access so if you want to know more then visit the conference website here, and the hashtag #severn2014.

It looks as though 2014 is the probably going to be the year that #FOAMed and SoMe hits the mainstream. For those about to join…..we welcome you.

Tom Mitchell

Rebecca Maxwell

Andy Neill

Simon Carley




Conflict of interest. Simon Carley and Andy Neill received travel and accommodation expenses to attend the conference.

Simon Carley runs the not for profit stemlynsblog.org blog

Andy Neill runs the not for profit emergencymedicineireland.com blog

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