Brian Park, M3 Drexel School of Medicine
How do you know, with certainty, if anesthesiology is right for you? Some recommend shadowing, attending conferences or simply talking to an anesthesiologist. Lucky students may have a few weeks to rotate through during their third year or may have the freedom to spend time scouring through articles in the field. But who really has time to do all of this?
Wouldn’t it be great to have...
- all of this information distilled down to an easily consumable snippet?
- a glimpse of the highlights of an article and to see what people think about it?
- a curated feed with a user-friendly interface and the ability to discuss the content with others?
One platform that we are all familiar with is known for its succinct 140 character limit. You might be one of @KatyPerry’s nearly billion followers, or just use it to stay up to date with sports. So you may be wondering, “Who uses that anymore?” and “Why should I start using it now?”
Twitter users in the anesthesiology world aren’t vastly different from those outside it – from celebrities and presidents, to enthusiasts and lurkers. Active users in the anesthesiology field may be well-known attendings in a private or academic setting, budding students and established hospitals, organizations, or societies. Tweet content can range from news, opinions and discussions that go beyond our local and institutional boundaries
If you’re like me, there’s a pile of anesthesiology journals in places you had planned to read, like on your desk, coffee table, or in the bathroom. It can be overwhelming to pick up a journal and see the mountains of text sitting amidst the sparse tables and graphs. Sure, we can jump to the figures and read a few sentences of each section, but we would be missing a lot of the content and, more importantly, the nuances that help us fall in love with the field.
On Twitter, journals like Anesthesiology and British Journal of Anaesthesia share the most noteworthy articles on a regular basis, making it easier for you to focus your attention to one article at a time. You can use the volume of retweets and likes to help you decide which articles may be worth reading. The replies can provide a framework of ideas as you read the article. Some users also add images of the article in their retweets, highlighting important points that sparked their interest. It’s kind of like how Harry Potter performed better in his Potions class by following the scribbles written all over his book. Twitter, too, is magical: articles organize themselves in your feed like a dynamic list of journals and conversations based on who you follow.
One of the ways that academic articles are curated is through journal clubs. We’re encouraged to read and discuss an article to enhance our medical education. One limitation of journal club might be its physical location. My medical school held one almost every week, but with the rigorous coursework, it became very easy to miss the meetings. Moreover, if you’re trying to attend one of the department journal clubs, it can be difficult to find out where they meet and fit it into your schedule. If you can make it the department journal clubs, you’ll stand out to the residents and attendings and, more importantly, you might discover that the content sparks interest in your potential future career. Twitter provides a virtual classroom that encourages this kind of learning, while recording it to use as future reference.
Duke’s Anesthesiology program began a Twitter- enhanced journal club back in January 2015. You can join in using #AnesJC or read a case report about it in Anesthesia & Analgesia Case Report (here). The format is usually the same – they publicly link the article, share a few questions and announce the date to join on Twitter. Duke hosts a classroom discussion first, then moderates the Twitter discussion. In case you miss it, there is a post- production bundle packaged into a storyline with curated tweets. In the past two years, they have nearly doubled the users in the discussions while providing a solution to the physical barriers of a traditional journal club.
Another way to find out if anesthesiology is right for you is to read about current events in the field. On Twitter, breakthroughs in the field are curated by leaders and societies, and users with vested interests. Even when you sign up for Twitter, you can mark what topics you’re interested in and get suggestions of users to follow. People also share curated sets of Twitter handles based on topics. Did you miss the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2016 annual meeting this past October? You can easily follow the events of conferences that you might have missed by utilizing simple hashtags.
Check out #ANES2016. Are you interested in particular doctors? Find their Twitter handle and follow them! They tend to retweet topics that they are interested in and doing this research can provide the opportunity to start a dialogue with them. This can be useful if you have zero connections to them, especially if they work at another institution or live in a different state or even country!
As Millennials that are becoming physicians, social media is a familiar space. Twitter, with less bells and whistles than other social platforms, simplifies interactions down to reading, liking, sharing, retweeting, replying. Twitter makes it easier to have live conversations beyond the classroom walls. There are a small but growing number of users in the anesthesiology Twitter-verse, but more and more attendings tweet to engage patients and other professionals. Twitter provides a simple way to explore interests in anesthesiology and to create a network early in our career. So what are you waiting for? @ParkBrianH, signing off.
Don’t forget to check out @ASALifeline, @ASAGrassroots, @AnesthesiaNews, @AnesthesiaHQ.