A JOURNEY THROUGH
We are all academics. Even if you work in a 4 bed ED, 1000 parsecs from civilization. Attendings, residents, nurses, mid-level providers, medical students. Healthcare fundamentally requires adherence to lifelong learning. Therefore, we are all academics. Maybe not in the “publishpublishpublish” sense of the word, but we are, collectively, inquisitive, curious, dedicated and always slightly unhappy with our knowledge base. And therefore we expand it by continuing to learn.
Learning during residency, though, is especially hard. As I’ve found out over the past 12 months. Aside from, you know, the actual time spent in the hospital, there are lectures, simulation sessions, teaching opportunities and, lest you forget, that laundry basket that has been crying mercy for about 2 weeks now. Of course I learn while I’m on shift. But there’s so much more out there than what even a hoard of patients can give us.
When it came to my education, I often found myself left to my own devices. Electronic devices.
I joined Twitter back in college. Mostly to follow my favorite sports writers and personalities. Not until maybe 3rd year of medical school did it ever dawn on me that there might actually be **smart people** on the internet. Smart people who could teach me something.
Twitter is the epitome of asynchronous. The best threads are instigated by momentary streams of consciousness. Trending hashtags change by the minute. There is no spaced repetition. The only standard is a 140 character limit, but even that can be circumvented if need be. It is the etch-a-sketch of the learning modalities: whether there is a flash of brilliance or muddled garbage on the screen, you just have to shake the screen to make something completely new to appear.
Twitter is the epitome of asynchronous, therefore it is an acquired taste. It takes some effort to dive in, but, with a little time and the right attitude, it will put incredibly rare and useful resources literally at your fingertips.
Take the great Amal Mattu for example. Self proclaimed ECG nerd. Of all EM physicians, he is the Lord Commander of ECGs. EM:RAP, ALiEM, ECG Weekly, EMCast, ECG Video of the Week. The resume is impressive. And yeah, he’s on twitter. He posts pictures of whiteboards the size of 4K TVs that are plastered with knowledge that he drops on his shift. And yeah, it’s not a substitute for actually seeing patient’s with him, but you can be sure I have studied more than a few of his whiteboards to get a glimpse of what goes on in that wonderful brain of his.
Take Seth Trueger. The True(th), as I like to call him (In my own head). Maybe your palate craves a health policy flavor with a hint of snark? Check. Medical education, done with Star Wars references? His profile background is an X-wing fighter. He could likely write a dissertation on health policy. That maybe 15 doctors would read. Instead, he has 14+ thousand followers and he dispenses the knowledge in doses of a few words, mixed in with a lot of pictures and memes.
Take Katren Tyler. The Queen of the Retweet. She has perhaps single handedly reminded me that medicine is an international sport. She disperses knowledge from clinicians who practice in Australia and all over Europe. When she’s not making everyone else feel like a fatty for sitting on the couch all day, she’s busy connecting her followers with the goings on in Geriatric EM, health policy and the UC Davis EM residency program. Which, yes, means that she is the assistant program director of my residency program. So, yes, there is a bit of bias here. But hey, I gatta keep gettin’ them checks.
Take #EMConf. Yes, I used a hashtag in a space where the “#” does not automatically create a clickable hyperlink. But, if you type “EMConf” (which is a shortened version of Emergency Medicine Conference) into the Twitter search bar almost any day of the week, you’ll have more than a few educational pearls to thumb through from academic institutions all over the country.
Perhaps Twitter hasn’t strengthened my grasp on the fundamentals of my specialty. It may not directly help me pass board exams. It did not teach me the importance of doing a full neurological exam on every patient that presents with a headache. I’ve used things I’ve seen on Twitter to teach while I’m on shift. I’ve learned invaluable lessons from the people I interact with, the stories I hear. It has expanded my horizons beyond the day-to-day grind of residency. It allows me to share ridiculous snippets about late night pages I’ve received. It allows me to try to go toe-to-toe with Amal Mattu’s whiteboard game. It’s part of my wellness. It has, without question, made me a better resident. A better doctor. Therefore, you should try it to.
By Jaymin Patel
Harnessing the power of technology to teach the next generation of physicians and health professionals.