How social media can help your future medical career

Claire BromleyClaire Bromley is a fourth year MBChB Medicine student. Here, she explains the benefits of using social media and additional online learning resources for aspiring medics…

When doctors think back to their medical school training, watching a simulated patient being extricated from a car in front of 2,500 people in Berlin probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Yet amazingly, this is an experience that I and 25 other healthcare students from around the world were lucky enough to have in June at the Social Media And Critical Care (SMACC) conference in Berlin.

Perhaps even more strangely, the opportunity for students to get involved came about via Twitter.

Many people my age would now find it difficult to imagine a life without social media, and whilst the majority of people still use Twitter for keeping up with friends and celebrities, there is an incredibly strong and ever-increasing number of medical professionals using it to unite and contribute to the FOAMEd (Free Online Access Medical Education) movement.

FOAMEd is described by Life in The Fast Lane as “a collection of resources, a community and an ethos” that is “independent of platform or media — it includes blogs, podcasts, tweets, Google hangouts, online videos, text documents, photographs, Facebook groups, and a whole lot more”.

Examples of these include the MRI’s very own St Emlyn’s blog and New York’s critical care-focused EMCrit website.

These have become so popular and the communities surrounding them so strong that conferences have grown from it – traditionally, medical conferences haven’t always been the most welcoming places for students, and the idea that SMACC was born from the FOAMEd movement (and therefore encourages cohesion and promotes inclusivity) was an important selling point when I decided to go.

The benefits of using Twitter in this way and being involved with the FOAMEd community as a student have become increasingly clear to me over the last few months – especially when I was lucky enough to be picked to go to SMACC. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider using Twitter as part of your medical training journey.

Make connections

SMACC conference
SMACC conference

Without a shadow of a doubt, the main benefit of getting involved with FOAMEd is the people you meet along the way.

Ahead of the conference, I imagined it would, like Twitter, be a fantastic way to continue connecting with other students and clinicians passionate about the areas of medicine that fascinate me most. I wasn’t wrong. There really are an incredible number of clinicians on Twitter who are genuinely interested in education and involving juniors, and because of this there are countless people there to offer both written and practical support (hint: elective!).

Boost your CV

The opportunities that often arise from connecting with clinicians worldwide can really improve a CV. Whilst this doesn’t always feel like a priority in medical school, getting involved in things which bulk up your CV in your areas of interest can not only lead to more opportunities as a student, but can give you an advantage when applying to competitive specialties.

Explore outside your curriculum

Whilst FOAMEd is an incredible way to learn about specific areas of interest, it also provides a way to explore cutting-edge and controversial areas of all of medicine that aren’t always covered in the curriculum. Beyond just the scientific information available, though, the doctors I have met through FOAMEd so far have inspired me to continue learning, pushing boundaries and enjoying seeing how far medicine can take me.

This support, and clearer idea of the different paths medicine can offer, has been especially useful during more challenging parts of the course. 

Although it might seem strange at first to be using social media for medical learning (especially considering how we’re warned so frequently about the risks of social media use as a medical student), it really is worth the effort – you never know what opportunities will come up until you give it a go. Get tweeting!

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