Tapping into the collective wisdom of tacit knowledge sharing and asynchronous learning via the #FOAMed community has markedly changed the way I practice. A few years ago, I would jump through the necessary hoops of continuing professional development (CPD) or personal development programmes (PDP) with my College. To be honest, as a rural proceduralist, it was relatively easy to accrue points and meet the necessary number required each triennium (three year cycle).
But the reality is that these points were met by doing the minimum necessary standard ie attending a few of the alphabet courses like EMST/APLS/REST, attending an annual conference, perhaps attending a workshop or local educational session, usually delivered by a metrocentric specialist. Within a year or so I had accrued enough points for the three-yearly triennial cycle. I am sure that there was some learning at these events – but I was not being stretched. Which is kind of odd. It seems that the educational focus of the Colleges is more about training registrars, but not necessarily about ongoing training of Fellows, other than to ensure that a minimum standard is met.
So the involvement in the FOAMed world re-ignited my passion for learning … and for teaching. I wont re-hash the concept of FOAMed here – it’s well-described elsewhere – suffice it to say, it allows asynchronous leaning, tacit knowledge sharing amongst peers and is ideal for discussing mastery or finesse in the craft, rather than the minimum educational requirements or becoming a slave to protocols and guidelines which are not necessarily applicable to the individual patient in front of us (90 yos on statins anyone?).
I started off by reading blogs from fellow rural doctors…then dipping my toes into making a few tentative comments on hypothetical case discussions…then creating my own content to reflect on own activities and perhaps help educate others…then build on this via content creation, collation, curation and communication.
Dipping in and out of FOAMed is another mode of learning, useful for finesse, with ability to access the global medical community hive mind for information.
FOAMed – free, open access medical education – anywhere, anyplace, anytime
But there is a problem with FOAMed or indeed any learning that occurs via social media interactions – this form of learning is not recognised, despite the fact that it offers a more advanced and self-reflective adult learning style (in fact FOAMed moves one into understanding HOW to learn (the concept of heutagogy). Different media – video vodcasts, audio podcasts, links to reevant papers, online discussion fora and ability to interact both online and offline allow asynchronous learning. Moreover this learning is not constrained by geography – interactions occur with colleagues globally – and as if that wasn’t enough, traditional silos break down – I find myself discussing aspects of care with not just fellow rural proceduralists, but with specialists, with academics, with social workers, with paramedics, with students. It’s a true meritocracy.
There was some recent chatter on GPSDownUnder (a closed facebook community) about the concept of accruing CPD points for this sort of activity, with no real answers (although over 154 comments). Interestingly other online platforms (notably the UK’s online community of over 200,000 doctors, Doctors.Net.UK allows accumulation of points for engaging in online debate, and is recognised in the UK’s revalidation programme. I have no doubt that revalidation will, in some form, be imposed on us in Australia – and reflective practice is part of this.
Those who are already active in FOAMed are not just users of content, but are interested in creating it. It would be good to get points for this sort of activity. Of course the irony is that these people already have accrued sufficient points for the triennium and are engaged purely for the love of learning and desire to be ‘better’. To make this sort of learning attractive to others, it needs to have a demonstrable advantage over existing modes of learning. For me the hook is that FOAMed allows me to refine my practice through tacit knowledge sharing and develop finesse….to engage in ‘corridor conversations; with colleagues worldwide and allow me benefit from decades of experience to apply to the patient in front of me, not just blindly follow a guideline. it’s about art as well as science!
What better way to meet requirements than to seek true mastery and finesse in one’s craft, with reflection, by use FOAMed and SoMe?
So I was thrilled to be invited to a breakfast meeting with RACGP educational reps and fellow GP bloggers/twitterati, Drs Karen Price, Ewen McPhee & Tim Senior.
It is clear that having a College control content is contrary to the ethos of free-flowing and cutting edge FOAMed.
We decided that a useful framework for accreditation (ie : collection of points for CPD/PDP activities online) needed to embrace the following concepts
(i) define principles of what is/what is not relevant educational activity
At the minimum, recognition of an activity for points should require that the activity is relevant to practice (might be across domains of clinical, practice admin, ethical etc), requires a degree of interactivity and a degree of reflection
(ii) create a tool to log activity
People have talked about ‘endorsing’ websites or activities, or using loggers to demonstrate time spent in an activity. However as adult learners this is too constraining. there are existing templates (we use one in ACRRM for logging of clinical attachment activities) which would suffice.
Such a template should encompass
- the nature of activity (eg: reading blog, listening to podcast) and the learning objectives thereof,
- a comment on specific learning outcomes
- encouraging comment (reflective practice) on how this is relevant to one’s practice and
- the documentation of these, with supporting evidence if appropriate (eg: screenshot of comments page, link to content etc)
Having a form either online or easily downloadable would allow clinicians to document learning activities outwith the usual College program and apply for points.
Ultimately it is up to the user to define his/her learning and also to be able to defend their activity in case of audit. There is concern of ‘gaming’ the system – I would argue that this happens already, with many educational activities being low quality and gamed to some degree. Negative feedback on low quality educational activity is not always forthcoming, due to the inherent conflict of attendees not wanting to jeopardise their own points by feeding back that an event was crap! Better to accrue the points and move on…
(iii) signpost relevant content to target audience
Each College (ACRRM, RACGP) already has regular newsletters. Using a panel of SoMe and FOAMed enlightened primary care physicians, it would be very easy to collate a regular (fortnightly or monthly) round up of relevant and interesting FOAMed content – the EM crew at lifeinthefastlane.com have been doing this every week for a few years now via their LITFL review. this is a wonderful way to signpost content to clinicians, leading to more interactivity and acceleration of the learning paradigm.
Docere – to teach – innit?
So – there you have it. A proposal for recognition of online FOAMed learning for primary care physicians in Australasia. Start off with links to interesting FOAMed material, disseminated through the Colleges. As time goes on, encourage clinicians to accrue points via interaction in this space. And hopefully such interaction will create more connectivity and community, as well as more content creation.
It would be awesome if both ACRRM and RACGP got on board with this – as this is the space where true learning is occurring. Too often medical education is either about the basics required for Fellowship and the maintenance of a minimum standard, with most research focussed on GP training pathways or recruitment/retention.
I would argue that we should be working together on the finesse to achieve mastery…always seeking to be better.
What do YOU think?