CPD points for #FOAMed & SoMe?

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.

Dr Ewen McPhee, Dr Tim Senior. Dr Tim Leeuwenburg. Ms Helen Barry (RACGP) & Dr Karen Price [photo by Dr Marlene Pearce]
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?




Graduate Paramedics – In Safe Hands

I never used to have much to do with paramedics as a junior doctor. It was only when working in the ED as a registrar that I was exposed to them…probably a good 3-4 years into my postgraduate medical career. Even then, I had little idea of the challenges they faced, despite being in the same business of managing trauma, critical illness. But of course with the usual pressures in ED (access block, running at 120% capacity, begging for appropriate consults and dealing with all the usual stresses of staffing and supervision) it was easy to just bemoan the fact that patients were dropped off covered in gravel from the roadside and possibly some time after the incident.

In short, as an ED reg starting off, I had little idea of the challenges posed by the prehospital paramedics. And it was easy to criticise. If that was my mindset, just think of that of the rest of the hospital!  Nothing could be further from the truth. Fastwind forward a decade. I’ve spent a lot of time in medical education, instructing (and directing) on the international ‘advanced trauma life support’ aka ATLS (EMST in Australasia). In fact the full name of this course is “ATLS Course for Doctors” – it remains medico-centric and is a product of the College of Surgeons it is no secret that I am a critic of this course- it fulfils a need for entry-level, but doesn’t really deliver modern trauma care, hence the proliferation of other course such as ATACC and ETMcourse.

The usual stereotypes of (shudder) just ambulance drivers no doubt predominate in some medics mind when I trained … and I suspect this attitude still exists, as some of my paramedic mates refer to themselves (self-deprecatingly) as ‘just an ambulance driver’. So along my postgraduate career and in time as a medical educator, I have tried really hard to do the following :

  • to understand and explain to doctors who I train about the valuable skills of paramedics/prehospital
  • to seek to break down traditional silos between different providers, such as paramedics and medics
  • to use simulation training to improve delivery of care in resus

My mission continues – part of the reason I am rotating through medSTAR is to pick up pearls from prehospital care, simulation and standardisation of training, as well as case audit and governance. Even as a seasoned doctor, I make an effort to go on other courses relevant to resus – some of which are geared specifically towards the prehospital environment (eg; STAR). But it is still rare for medics to cross train with paramedics and see how they do it.

Enter the Sim Environment…,

Restricted area

So I was delighted to be offered the chance to attend some of the sim training for graduate paramedics commencing their internship. This program is an intense three week course of lectures and scenario testing for the intern intake, designed to help equip term before “hitting the road”.

I was only able to make it for one day – but can report that I was blown away with both the quality of simulation delivered AND the clinical skills of the paramedic interns. My host was former nurse and current paramedic educator, Michael Borrowdale.


Michael proudly showed me around the SA ambulance training facility (refurbished office spaces) which were cleverly kitted out on a shoestring budget to mimic indoor environments including patient homes, nursing home, resus room and crew room/stock cupboard. Furniture was sourced from donations and clever use of curtains to change wall appearance allowed the same room to function as a bedroom or a resus, bay, a bathroom or a lounge room. Cheap video cameras from DickSmithElectronics allowed recording of the scenarios to linked PC, for under $100


Pre-painted furniture on the back wall can be concealed by a curtain printed with resus room paraphrenalia, rapidly converting the room format


Attention to the little details adds to the fidelity of simulation – having webster packs, ID cards and the like adds valuable clinical information (organ donor, medications). And for immersive sim, use of sight, sounds, and even smell contributes hugely.

Photo ID


Live actor, realistic faeces, overpowering smell from ‘liquid ass’ spray creates realistic immersive sim … in a cramped bathroom space

I watched four different sims, each run in ‘real time’, requiring the candidates to manage the condition from arrival to disposition, with varying levels of complexity. Use of a mix of live patients and mannikins, along with students role-playing relatives, nursing staff or police officers added to the realism and encouraged skills in scene management and situational awareness.

I was impressed that candidates had to manage the scenario from arrival and initial assessment, maintaining communications with HQ, instituting immediate management, calling for backup, dealing with distressed relatives, environmental concerns, extricating the patient, dealing with unexpected crises (sudden desaturation), loading patient, transporting via ambulance and handover to ED.

Debriefing – I am not a fan of Pendelton’s ‘shit sandwich’ approach, preferring instead the Plus/delta approach (what went well?, what would you change?).The SHARP tool seems reasonable too…although candidates tend to focus on what went badly when asked “How did it go?”

Each scenario ran for about 30-45 minutes and was expertly debriefed by experienced facilitators with plenty of roadcraft experience. Crews were split and sim continued even after patient departed, with remaining crew having to clean up, deal with relatives/media/police and both teams write up case cards.


"Commotio cordis" paediatric VF arrest - unfortunate incident with a cricket ball
“Commotio cordis” paediatric VF arrest – unfortunate incident with a cricket ball
Standard ACLS in the park ...
Standard ACLS in the park …
#NOF, hypothermia and melena on the bathroom floor
#NOF, hypothermia and melena on the bathroom floor
Paediatric suicide attempt - deliberate jump from 10m, have to deal with distraught mother before can begin to assess patient
Paediatric suicide attempt – deliberate jump from 10m, have to deal with distraught mother before can begin to assess patient

The realistic prehospital scenarios, carrying a significant cognitive load  in not just clinical management but scene awareness lead to a degree of stress inoculation.

SAPOL rellatives
Involvement of patient relatives and outside agencies such as police, mean that prehospital workers have to develop excellent situational awareness and scene management, on top of clinical management priorities

Despite being involved in running trauma sims via ATLS/EMST, running my own ‘guerilla sim’ and attending other courses in resus/prehospital care here in SA and interstate, I can say that I have NEVER seen such a high level of immersive simulation. Sight, smell, sound and sheer cognitive overload from various players (distraught relatives, police, press, carers and assorted players created a level of sim I’ve never experienced before)

Throughout this, the paramedic interns displayed effective clinical skills and excellent crisis resource management.

“To put it bluntly, I have never seen this level of immersive simulation in ANY of my medical career, despite running and attending sessions focussing on resus training. Nor have I been privileged to witness the level of clinical skill displayed by the paramedic interns at such a junior level”


After witnessing this sim training, I am fully confident in the skills of the paramedic interns – as they progress through the ranks, skills will be further fine-honed. I hope that other prehospital workers, whether career crews in metro or volunteer crews in rural, will be able to undertake the same exposure of sim training.

I could not help but reflect that I wish that doctors had access to the same level of immersive sim – in fact, one could argue that even established senior doctors would benefit from participating in such well-organised, immersive and stressful simulations – rather than the usual token ‘stop-start’ sim. This applies whether preparing for prehospital work or for ongoing training in hospital-based work.

Recommendations for the future?

People may not be aware, but the number of graduate paramedics churning out of university each year vastly exceeds the number of available spaces. Unemployment is a real possibility for these graduates. Even the interns who do get a spot are only secure for a year – they are not guaranteed a longterm position and many seek work interstate, overseas or in other industries (mining, oil rigs etc). Meanwhile rural areas are mostly dependent on (unpaid) volunteers, trained to a Cert IV level but lacking skills such as cannulation etc. Not an easy balance between affordability, case load and number of graduates to positions.

I don;t have an answer for this!

But if we are serious about clinical training, I think we need to get away from tokenistic, task-trainer focussed sim or ‘tick box’ annual ACLS updates, moving instead towards highly immersive sim delivered in real time, using realistic scenarios backed up by actors, and use usual equipment. An ideal training facility would be co-located with emergency services, allow cross-training with other agencies (paramedics, medics, retrieval, fire service, SES etc). Ability to deliver sim to outlying sites would be useful.

But ultimately, Michael Borrowdale and colleagues prove that one can run highly effective, fully immersive simulation on a shoestring budget, with fully realistic sound, smell, touch and the cognitive stressors of scene management including dealing with highly distressed relatives, environmental concerns (rain, cold, sun) and from scene arrival to patient delivery.




Review – Auckland HEMS app

My friends over at Auckland HEMS have just released an app for both iOS and Android (see link at “test pilots wanted - HEMS app goes live“). I was lucky enough to score a pre-release download and play with it over the past week. It’s now been released live and available to all for feedback.

I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Auckland HEMS site – along with a few other retrieval services, they’ve made a commitment to having a web-presence (good for promotion, recruitment and also promoting information sharing via feedback). Their sim resource section is one I am watching closely, as there is great scope to share sim scenarios using the in-built function of the online community functionality of the iSimulate package

Other services, notably the collective UK HEMS, Sydney HEMS, RFDS have lead the way in sharing some of their resources in open-access format, to help others to learn and develop own procedures, as below :

Putting procedures and information up on the web is one thing…but the ultimate functionality for a retrievalist would be to have all of this information available even without immediate web access. Given the space constraints of a flight suit, and the ubiquity (and of course practicality) of a smartphone, it makes sense to develop retrieval apps that can be used on the primary communication device (iOS or Android phone).

Having a smartphone allows access to not just phone calls, but messaging, web access (if in range), ability to view documents, access apps etc. Smart app developers may also take advanatage of in-built functions such as torch/vibrate/sounds to enable visual, haptic & audio prompts. Inter-app integration for access to weather and map/GPS functions is achieveable. And the new iPhone reportedly has a barometer…opening the possibility of a retrieval app that helps flight planning and working out O2 requirements.

It’s probably worth reflecting on what the ideal retrieval app would allow a user to do. My opinion is that the ultimate app would allow

  • cross-platform functionality (iOS, Android) and usable on both phone and tablet screens
  • ease of use in sunlight and at night, with clear easy to navigate buttons
  • large buttons/tab/checkboxes, so that can be used even when wearing gloves
  • capability to record day-to-day activities within a service, eg: daily kit checks, viewing of approved rosters, navigation to useful contact numbers. Daily checklists should be exportable for audit purposes.
  • ability to record case details including case times (from activation through arrival/depart scene, dropoff at destination and return-to0base for audit purposes), record mode of transport, locations, patient demographics and coding of disease, with ability to easily export such data to databases such as Air Maestro or common office-based spreadsheets (Excel, Numbers), thus avoiding the duplication of data entry across multiple sources (ie case notes-apps-database). Naturally such recording should be password protected and HIPAA compliant.
  • ability to record scene photos or videos, protected as above, to communicate scene situation (useful particularly in a major incident) as well as to facilitate audit and training
  • integration with maps functionality, with ability to record GPS points and drop pins on location
  • access to marine & weather info
  • use of barometer function on newer smartphones for use in-flight
  • access to service-based standard operating procedures (SOPs), preferably with documents in an interactive iBook-type format to optimise viewability, rather than the difficulties of navigating PDFs on a small smartphone screen
  • access to service-approved short videos demonstrating procedures for training
  • access to relevant FOAMed links inc available podcasts/vodcasts (on the outward leg, especially via fixed wing in rural Australia, it would be hard to go wrong with the audio & video content from intensivecarenetwork.com, smacc.net.au, emcrit.org, prehopsitalmed.com etc)
  • ability to log any issues eg: equipment failure or hot debrief for the team
  • ability to record all data and export as appropriate to both service audit and governance needs, as well as record cases/procedures for clinicians requiring for logbook purposes
  • app available for moderate fee, and sharing of content between services where appropriate ie : where benefits of open-access information offer advantages (the obvious example being developing standardisation of SOPs, equipment between a retrieval service and the rural hospitals it services eg: infusion regimens etc)

So far no such app exists…but there have been some rapid developments in this area in recent times. The Auckland HEMS app is interesting, in that the authors (Robert Gooch, Chris Denny under IT tutelage of Scott Orman) have used the iBuildapp web-based service to create the content, thus saving a huge investment of $$$ on an app developer. As they say “if you can create a powerpoint presentation, you can create an app”. What I like is the commitment to evolve the app and update in real time.

The app starts with a simple splashscreen, then once loaded moves to a very easy to navigate interface, reminiscent of the UKHEMS SOP database web-interface.

Auckland HEMS app is loading…

The initial screen has large, friendly coloured buttons that are easy to select even when wearing gloves, allowing access to each of :

  • emergency checklists
  • normal operations checklists
  • shift duties
  • major incident prompts (METHANE, NATO phonetic alphabet etc)
  • resources (including web links to FOAMed)
  • calendar
  • SOPs (standard operating procedures)
  • comms
Easy navigation to selected content

Drilling down, the content is easily displayed and large – this is a plus, as small text is both hard to read and hard to select (especially in gloves). However I was disappointed to see that checklists did not actually allow ‘checking’. This is a shame – for a daily kit check, ability to select actions completed and then archive the actions (eg: CSV export via email) would be useful.

Ventilated patient – accidental disconnect checklist

For a crisis checklist, the ability to check items or even build in audio-haptic-visual alerts using smartphone alarm-vibrate-torch functions can be very useful in a crisis, especially when time critical. The obvious example is that of RSI – and for a masterclass in how a checklist can be made part of workflow, see the excellent iRSI app, reviewed elsewhere.


The ‘hot debrief’ function accessed from the bottom navigation file was useful – easy to access wherever you are in the app, this allows quick notation of mission details such as nature of mission, team members, timings and also commentary on any issues with kit, at the hospital or in transport. Again, ability to capture this data and export it to a spreadsheet for audit or training purposes would be invaluable.

photo 2

photo 1

I was pleased to see the inclusion of some FOAMed material, including Scott’s cric-con concept for emergency surgical airway. I couldn’t find mention of the Vortex approach, but as time goes on I think this and other resources will be incorporated both into the app and into common practice. Links to relevant sites are included…





Integration of marine and weather bulletins was a nice touch…



…along with calendar and contact info for operational purposes



Ultimately it is hard to demonstrate all functions with screenshots. My advice – get in quick, download the app and give your feedback. It is available from http://aucklandhems.com/2014/09/21/test-pilots-wanted-auckland-hems-app-goes-live/

I am fully confident of rapid improvements with subsequent iterations. To my mind, the scope for making an open-access app with broad-brush functionality according to the list above is achievable. The question, of course, is how much content should remain in-house (mindful of the considerable investment in time, money and intellectual copyright of content) and how much can usefully be shared.

Whether making one’s SOPs and resources open access is worth it remains unanswered. For blokes like me, trying to do best for rural patients, there are clear advantages in keeping up-to-date with current practice and especially in aiming to use the same kit and infusion regimens as the retrieval service. I appreciate however that there may be concerns in making one’s protocols available for all to share.

For the present, I am grateful for the availability of online resources such as those from Emergency Medical Retrieval Scotland, SydneyHEMS and UKHEMS

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.30.58 pm
EMRS includes a ‘meet the team’ with bios of registrars and regular staff as well s access to clinical, equipment & organisational SOPs
Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.28.52 pm
Sydney HEMS website is a rich repository of procedures, sim, clinical governance, review articles, videos and FOAMed links. These guys know how to make connectivity work for them!
Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.27.59 pm
UKHEMS.co.uk site offers access to SOPs, Emergency Drills and downloadable crash cards (useful in ED, ICU too)



FOAMed – a Primer for Physicians

So this week I am giving a talk to a bunch of physicians at the Internal Medicine Society of Australia & New Zealand. In true FOAMed spirit, I’m making the talk available online prior to the session (as a nod to the concept of a ‘flipped classroom’) and putting up some useful links for those who decide to explore the FOAMed world a little closer.

Big thanks to Chris Nickson for the inspiration of using Star Wars stormtroopers as a metaphor for ‘taking the world by storm’…and of course to Joe Lex for both the oft-quoted phrase “if you want to know how we practiced medicine…” as well as introducing me to the terms of pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy.

They say that an audience will only take away THREE things from any talk. The concepts I wanted to get across were :

  • half of what we learn is wrong; FOAMed is a tool to help narrow the knowledge translation gap and keep up-to-date
  • we live in an age of information overload, likened to ‘drinking from a firehose’. Social Media tools allow filters to help drill down to the information that is relevant to your needs
  • using the tools of FOAMed and social media, we can make a commitment to lifelong learning much easier. Moreover, with such accelerated learning comes the potential for metacognition – specifically to understand HOW we learn and make decisions as clinicians. This is important as our diagnostic acumen is subject to bias and may fool us, regardless of our knowledge base.

So, here’s the talk as a narrated slideshow hosted on vimeo :


The slides can be downloaded by clicking HERE as a PDF file and HERE as a powerpoint inc embedded video


The introductory video (FOAMed – taking the world by storm) is below :


What is FOAMed and why should I use it?

I like to think of FOAMed as a global sharing of information. We are all involved in clinical educators  we get up at journal clubs, grand rounds or conferences and deliver talks. But the reach of those talks is confined to those who attend…unless you take the bold step of creating online content – basically, putting up your ideas, talks, slides etc online in a form where ANYONE can access them. This might be in the form of a blog (reading commentary or analysis), a podcast (eg : listening to a discussion on a contentious topic) or a video (watching how to perform a procedure).

Good FOAMed sites collate information, curate it and disseminate it – with information made available for free (although attribution is expected).

It is hard to go beyond the summary of FOAMed origins and uses from the lifeinthefastlane.com crew

Chris Nickson talks about “Why FOAMed – facts fallacies and foibles”

Andy Neill’s pecha kucha talk is here “Effective Use of Social Media to Keep Up-to-Date

Richard Body talks on why FOAMed is essential for emergency clinicians (from #CEMExeter14 conference)


David Marcus has a great set of slides here : FOAMed primer and other talks at EM IM blog

Some great examples of collated & curated FOAMed sites include :










BroomeDocs.com & KIDocs.org

and so on…

There are MANY MANY more – mostly emergency and critical care, but increasingly other specialties are coming on line – urologists (eg uroJC twitter journal club), general practitioners (FOAM4GP.com) etc.

The maxim is for :

content creation – with collation, curation … and communication

The list of available FOAMed resources is growing exponentially (over 400 blogs for EM/CC alone).

The sites above reflects MY bias and learning needs – it may not reflect yours!

So – dive on in and explore the FOAMed world (Google FOAMed)…and if you cannot find any relevant content on an area in which you have expertise or passion, then GET BUSY and CREATE YOUR OWN! The more quality content that is out there, the better for everyone…


The best medical conference – ever!

For an example of how an excellent medical conference should be run, it’s hard to top smacc. Cadogan commented that whilst FOAMed was conceived in a Dublin bar in 2012, FOAMed was conceived at smacc2013 in Sydney. A year later smaccGOLD built on that success, with many different ‘tribes’ involved in critical care and emergency medicine coming together to share stories and learn from each other. Next year we are off to Chicago for smaccUS…check it out & register at smacc.net.au

There is also an iTunes feed for downloadable podcasts - https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/smacc/id648203376?mt=2

Of course the collated videos of smacc talks are available on Vimeo via vimeo.com/smacc

Here’s some feedback on smacc from assorted bloggers

“Lessons learned from smacc – bye bye dogma, – hello best practice”

“You’ve gotta have love”

“Social media & critical care”

“smaccGOLD – it hurts”

“Where do you start with something like smacc?”


How to use tools of Social Media to help filter and signpost FOAMed

Social media (SoMe) is useful to disseminate and discuss clinical topics. By now you will be aware that there is a vast repository of useful educational resources “out there” on the net – blogs, podcast, videos etc. But how to filter them?

The easiest thing to do is just to read blogs on topics you are interested in or authored by people who you feel have something to offer. One of the nice things about the FOAMed community is that people share good content willingly and will signpost links to interesting content. Good sites collate quality FOAMed material, curate it and disseminate it. They may have a ‘search’ function on the site…failing that, there is always GoogleFOAM.com to search for good stuff.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.37.05 am

RSS feeds are ideal – if you see this symbol on a website, click it to ensure that new content is delivered to your email, RSS aggregator or iTunes download queue. This makes it much easier to target FOAMed content that you are interested in – rather than have to trawl through blogs looking for updates, new content is streamed to you. By only clicking on feeds that are of interest to you, one can filter the FOAMed content, to a degree.



I am a big fan of using RSS aggregators to collate input from twitter, blogs, google+ etc into an app – I use one called Feedly, which displays my content in a magazine style format


Twitter. Really?

I was a sceptic initially, but now find that twitter is a great way to keep in touch, ask questions of colleagues, discuss concepts and also signpost relevant journal articles or FOAMed resources.

Twitter is essentially a microblogging platform – once you’ve registered, set up a user ID and a brief description of self/interests, then you are free to either follow like-minded people or start opening up your own conversations. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so it is very difficult to have a nuanced conversation, Hashtags are common for conferences eg #IMSANZ14 and can also be used to collate information eg : #FOAMed #resus would delineate tweets with these items as search terms.


The Twitter app is free for download on mobile and PC/OS platforms. Afficiandos may decide to use an app like TweetDeck or TweetBot to allow collation of different content and even schedule tweets (I was involved in an on stage debate at #smaccGOLD on the use of checklists in airway management, and managed to wow the audience by talking and having simultaneous twitter feed broadcast to the audience both in the hall and worldwide, to broaden the reach of my delivery)

Learn how to get started with Twitter from these excellent videos from Rob Rogers and colleagues at theteachingcourse.com - expect more from them



Life Long Learning & Metacognition

More than anything else, FOAMed makes one think about HOW we learn in medicine. Osler nailed this “medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability”. We like to think that we are astute diagnosticians – but we are constrained by our inherent cognitive bias.

Understanding HOW we make decisions is particularly important in critical care medicine – making decisions based on limited information, under pressure.

I recommend :

Simon Carley talks on ‘Guess or Gestalt’ regarding decision-making in EM (from #CEMExeter14 conference)


Chris Nickson on why ‘All Doctors are Jackasses’ (from #smacc2013 conference)


Joe Lex on why FOAMed is essential to medical education (includes discussion of pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy)

as well as Lex on ‘from Hippcrates to Osler to FOAM’

…and Chris Edwards’ excellent talk on ‘May the FOAMed Be With You’

There are a few more videos on decision-making & education here :

Damian Roland on ‘Evaluating Education’

Victoria Brazil on ‘Evidence based education’

Cliff Reid on ‘Resuscitation Dogmalysis’

Simon Carley (again) on ‘Do Risk Factors Factor?’

…and yet again, Carley delivers ‘Wrestling with Risk’

…and again on ‘educational Leadership & Subversion’


Where to from here?

If you are inspired to create some GOOD medical education content and host as FOAMed, we’d love to hear from you

This post on blogging and blog basics is useful


Dive on in – the FOAMed is lovely!


ATACC Manual – Quality FOAMed

For those of you have been reading KIDocs over the past year or so will know that I am a harsh critic of the ATLS course (EMST in Australia). Not because I think it’s pants – it’s not. It does what it says on the tin, namely it teaches a basic approach to trauma management for the single responder in a community hospital. The A-B-C-D-E approach is easily taught and easy to recall under times of stress. I have no doubt that the ATLS course has done a world of good in bringing structure to trauma care worldwide.

I’ve been teaching on ATLS-EMST since 2006 and a course Director here in Australia for the past few years. In recent times I’ve seen how quickly FOAMed can narrow the ‘knowledge translation’ gap from concept to practice – and become increasingly frustrated that the ATLS-EMST manual doesn’t really address nuances of modern trauma care.

It should be borne in mind that the ATLS-EMST course is considered mandatory for credentialling in many hospitals. Like many other courses (APLS, ELS, ALSO, ALS) I think this is fine when setting a minimum standard. However it frustrates me that experienced clinicians are expected to repeat these ‘alphabet’ courses every few years.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that experienced clinicians don’t need regular updates and ‘benchmarking’ – but it would be good if the content of the course built upon the basics, not just repeated the entry-level content. I have heard that post-Fellowship emergency physicians in the UK have been required to complete an ATLS course as part of revalidation – when the skills that they apply in their day-to-day job far outstrip those taught on ATLS.

And of course, successful trauma management isn;t just about knowledge and procedural skill. It requires an understanding of how a trauma team functions. We’ve all seen dysfunctional trauma teams, despite the individual excellence of the clinicians, dysfunction arises because of a complex interplay including human factors.

Last year the Australians kicked off the Emergency Trauma Management course (ETMcourse), which is aimed not to replace ATLS-EMST, but to offer content that includes cutting edge FOAMed good ness as well as apply principles of teamwork (clearly human factors are important in how a trauma team functions – or fails). You can read a review of the ETMcourse here.

Other courses such as the anaesthetists EMAC and the retrievalists STAR courses also explore some of these aspects, as well as more challenging scenarios – details on available courses here.


Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 5.05.24 pm

Introducing the Anaesthesia, Trauma & Critical Care Course (ATACC)

But there is another course – the ATACC course. I’d heard about this via doctors.net.uk and been in touch with the course organisers with a view to trying to get a course ‘down under’….which might be difficult! ATACC has an excellent reputation in the trauma world, for teaching real life scenarios in multi-disciplinary team. I am busting to attend one of these courses if I can get back to the UK

The ATACC Faculty include not just clinicians, but also luminaries of extrication such as Ian Dunbar (of the Holmatro extrication techniques app and book fame). Similarly the course is open to all – doctors, nurses, paramedics, physicians assistants, operating department practitioners – anyone who is involved in trauma. A far cry from the College of Surgeon’s ‘Advanced Trauma Life Support Course – for doctors’.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 5.13.36 pm


ATACC Faculty includes Ian Dunbar (@Dunbarian) author of the excellent extrication manual sponsored by Holmatro – also available as a truly interactive app/iBook – worth every penny for anyone interested in prehospital care


ATACC Manual Available as FOAMed – PDF or iBook versions


So mega-kudos to the ATACC mob for launching their course manual as FOAMed – I’ve just got my hands on a copy and I can attest that it is thoroughly excellent.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 5.01.13 pm

The PDF copy is available here


or in iBook format via iTunes here


I cannot begin to tell you how good this manual is – it covers modern trauma management, is interactive and authoritative. It covers the usual trauma stuff, but is packed with some extra nuggets – I am a big fan of the MARCH approach and was pleased to see this included, along with some other adjuncts to haemorrhage control including haemostatic agents, clamps and the like. Up to date controversies (#dogmalysis) on topics such as cervical spine immobilisation are also covered – and my understanding is that content will be regularly updated.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 5.17.56 pm
The ITclamp for haemostasis
The MARCH approach to roadside trauma
The MARCH approach to roadside trauma

One of the strengths of the manual is that it covers trauma from the roadside, through retrieval, the ED and to ICU. It’s trauma run by traumatologists (did I just say that? Bah!) – not by surgeons. As such I recommend it to anyone involved in trauma care – prehospital clinicians & retrievalists, rural docs, EM types, anaesthetists, doctors, nurses, paramedics…

Everything is Awesome When You Are Part of A (Trauma) Team

That the authors have made it freely available as FOAMed is truly humbling! I remember that it was only a couple of years ago that ATLS made their course manual available for non-attendees…and they still charge a packet for the hardcopy. There is an ATLS app – but the less said about that, the better.

The ATACC manual is true FOAMed – quality medical education, up-to-date and freely available because the ATACC mob believe in what they do.

Kudos to you. Seriously.

Loving the section on cervical collars - mentions the Brisbane protocol, decision-making rules, clearance in ICU etc
Loving the section on cervical collars – mentions the Brisbane protocol, decision-making rules, clearance in ICU etc

I’ll let you know if I ever get to an ATACC course in the UK and review it online. From what I’ve heard and seen of the manual, the three day intensive course must be orders of magnitude of awesomeness!

Meanwhile, I will leave you with this thought on the 9th edition of ATLS-EMST (attribution unknown, apologies)

...seriously - does EVERY trauma patient need a rectal exam? ATLS dogma still says YES (except on courses I direct)
…seriously – does EVERY trauma patient need a rectal exam? ATLS dogma still says YES (except on courses I direct)

IMSANZ 2014 – ‘FOAMed Taking Life Long Learning by Storm’

I have been asked to speak at the Internal Medicine Society of Australia & NZ annual scientific conference, which will be  held in Adelaide this September.

The idea is to introduce physicians to the concept of #FOAMed. I reckon this could be a tough gig….there are only a few physicians active on SoMe in Aus/NZ and I am not sure how well the anarchic, free-form and rapidly moving concept of #FOAMed will be embraced by them.

Whilst emergency and critical care physicians have been the main early adopters of FOAMed, I reckon that physicians lie somewhere towards the right of the ‘innovation adoption lifecycle model’.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 8.45.49 pm

So my cunning plan is to try and entice as many of the audience in, by playing a short video during the one hour lunch break before the scheduled afternoon session.

I am in a concurrent, going up against local cardiologist Julian Vaule talking on NOACs (“novel oral anti-coagulants”) – or, as I prefer to call them “evil Big Pharma meds that aren’t all they are supposed to be and unlike rat poison cannot be reversed“.

Now I dont know about you guys, but I have sat through a load of lectures on NOACs…but I don’t reckon I ever sat through a lecture on tools for lifelong learning, on metacognition, on use of Social Media to filter educational content for self-development.

The video borrows from the meme of ‘taking life ling learning’ by storm(trooper) – a concept I first saw in a FOAMed lecture from Chris Nickson of LITFL fame, then taken up by others such as Andy Neill from emergencymedicineireland.

The video allows the inclusion of stormtroopers twerking and shufflin’  - what’s not to like? It struck me that these talks plus the video could be used by others when preparing an audience for FOAMed…(since originally posting, was contacted by Simon Carley of StEmlyns.org and asked if could use the video to introduce FOAMed at the 2014 College of Emergency Medicine conference in Exeter, UK this week. Nice to share)

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.01.13 am

I’ll bung up a slideshow of the IMSANZ on the day it is to be delivered – 19th Sept – as an example of a ‘flipped classroom’. Wish me luck! Gonna be a tough audience….


Chris Nickson’s talk is here “Why FOAMed? Facts, Fallacies & Foibles

Andy Neill’s pecha kucha talk is here “Effective Use of Social Media to Keep Up-to-Date

…and if you like Stormtroopers doing silly things

Stormtrooper images for slides – from JDHancock

Stormtrooper twerk – via ScottDW youtube channel

Stormtrooper shuffle – via MattLundeStudios on youtube


Resus Room Feng Shui

It’s been a pleasure to present at the biannual EMSA2014 (Emergency Medicine South Australia 2014) in Adelaide, South Australia.

Like smaccGOLD (social media & critical care conference, Gold Coast 2014), the audience was an nice mix of clinicians – grizzled old rural doctors, hardcore emergency physicians, vastly experienced emergency nurses and paramedics…as well as a nice smattering of students.

As always, I suffer from a degree of ‘imposter syndrome’ – what can a rural doctor possibly have to say of interest to this sort of audience?

Spot the Imposter
Spot the Imposter

Unlike smaccGOLD, many of the audience were naive to the concept of #FOAMed (free open access medical education) – so I opted to tell a personal story of how my practice as a rural clinician has changed in the past 2 years, shaped by the mentors in the photo above

“as a rural clinician, FOAMed means there is no longer an excuse for my lack of knowledge to be the weak link in patient care”

In order to close the loop, I’ve made a commitment to put my slides and relative links up on the blog for new FOAMed acolytes to explore.

This whole talk is of course based around the concept of managing oneself, the team, the environment as well as the patient – a concept taken from Cliff Reid’s excellent ‘Making Things Happen’ talk from smacc2013 in Sydney. Worth watching this talk as well as many of the other talks from the smacc conferences past, present…and future.

FOAMed weblinks


RAGE podcast (resuscitationists awesome guide to everything)



Intensive Care Network


smacc podcast on iTunes



Levitan & Weingart on apnoeic diffusion oxygenation

Emergency Trauma Management course

We’ve ALL got great talks, great slides, great ideas which we share in tutorials, at rounds, at conferences – the ethos of FOAMed is to share this educational content with colleagues around the world.

The concept has been enthusiastically taken on by clinicians in emergency medicine and critical care, who recognise the value of a means of rapidly disseminating information to discuss cutting edge concepts.

Of course once still needs didactic teaching, to read textbooks and to peruse journals as the foundation of medical education – but once one has achieved a degree of competency in the field and is looking to keep abreast of new ideas, FOAMed opens up a world of self-directed learning. It’s for finesse and mastery, not the basics.

Added to this are the advantages of learning asynchronously – listening to a podcast on the morning commute or at the gym…watching a video to reinforce the details of a practical procedure or to watch a conference talk…or even reading clinical conundrums posed on the myriad of EM and CC blogs out there.

As one explores the global FOAMed community, discussions are had with colleagues around the globe, allowing informal ‘corridor conversations’ with like-minded colleagues. Not only that, but experts in various fields give freely of their time and experience – it’s nice to be able to tap into (and even discuss) ideas with people like Karim Brohi, Scott Weingart and so on…

Finally FOAMed helps break down tribalism – we’re all interested in patient care and advancing clinical knowledge (whether our own, or the global sum). Some of the best contributors come not from ‘eminence-based’ medics…but from other arenas. I’ve learned a helluva lot from my colleagues in prehospital care, with many lessons applicable to rural, Ed and ICU environments. Ditto the involvement of nurses, paramedics, students, social workers, administrators – people with a different spin on the work we do.

So – don’t be scared – dive in, explore the FOAMed (free open access medical education).

Gar Pask – Anaesthetic Hero

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about life-jackets after spending a few hours bobbing around in a heated pool during last week’s HUET (helicopter underwater escape training) course.

Whilst practicing in a pool is one thing, I did wonder how well one would cope if ditching in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean wearing a switlik & flight suit or immersion suit. Probably quite well – modern safety equipment has come a long, long way from it’s origins (the first description dates back to 870 B.C., with a stone carving showing Assur-Nassur-Pals’ army crossing a river wearing inflated animal skins as flotation devices).

“the bravest man in the RAF never to fly an aeroplane”

The development of modern lifejackets includes a vital contribution by British anaesthetist, Edgar ‘Gar’ Pask. His story is fascinating, not least for the fact that, like true eccentrics, he performed experiments using himself as a test subject.


Pask in flotation device

Pask is famous for having been asleep whilst completing most of the research for his thesis

In essence, Pask made three vital contributions, spurned on in part by necessary developments during WWII.

(i) the problem of ‘downed & drowned’ aircrew

Most of us are familiar with the “Mae West” – a US lifejacket considered the cutting edge in the war years. Whilst it did a great job of keeping downed aircrew afloat, sadly many airmen were found in a face down position. They survived bailing out of their aircraft, but drowned despite being kept afloat.

Edgar Pask was a British anaesthetist, seconded to the Physiological Laboratory in the RAR Research Station at Farnborough, UK under the encouragement of another anaesthetic great, Professor Macintosh. Pask’s doctoral thesis is infamous for being performed with the author mostly asleep – the reason being that Pask used himself as a test subject. He was anaesthetised and placed, unconscious, in a swimming pool whilst on a breathing circuit. By simulating an unconscious airman, Pask and colleagues were able to test a variety of different lifejackets, refining techniques such that modern lifejackets ensure the victim floats face up, rather than risk ending up face down in the Mae West lifejacket.

The video footage of this research is fascinating – a short clip is shown below. The experimental subject is Pask, intubated and breathing ether on a double-lumen, corrugated anaesthetic circuit, the tubing of which was weighted to neutral buoyancy. Essentially a Mapelson D circuit. He was then unceremoniously dunked in the pool, whereby he promptly sank.

(ii) the efficiency of different artificial respiration techniques

If downed aircrew were recovered, many expired when pulled form the water. The real problem here was actually cold water immersion syndrome – the redistribution of blood volume in a weightless water environment meant that cardiac output dropped markedly when aircrew were pulled (usually vertical) from the water. Attempts at artifical respiration were employed – in the 1940s, the Schafer method was most popular.

The second part of the above video shows an anaesthetised Pask undergoing various methods of artificial respiration whilst paralysed (at the 9:08 mark). They demonstrate Silvester’s method, Schafer’s method & Eve’s rocking method. Not currently approved by the Resus Council!

Silvester's Method
Silvester’s Method
Schafer's Method
Schafer’s Method
Eve's Rocking Method
Eve’s Rocking Method

These experiments are remarkable (and a little unsettling) – Pask was paralysed and then underwent two hours of artificial respiration, during which time measurements were made of ventilation rate, tidal volume and O2 consumption. This was in the days before apnoeic diffusion oxygenation!

(iii) high altitude decompression ‘time of useful consciousness’

The RAF leased B17 ‘flying fortress’ bombers from the USA. These lightweight aluminuim-skinned aircraft apparently flew at the height of Everest, unpressurised – posing hazards of cold & hypoxia to the crew. Pask explored the effects of bailing out at such high altitudes – again, using himself and colleagues as test subjects. They were exposed to various hypoxic mixtures in a decompression chamber – the records are disturbing, essentially describing young men being asphyxiated and then allowed to recover.

Here is a description of Gar Pask being asphyxiated, whilst hanging vertical in a parachute harness in a hypoxic mix in a decompression chamber. Extreme hyperbaric medicine!

The period of anxiety was more prolonged than in the ‘descent’ from 55,000 ft, with the subject sitting, and not until the sixth minute was it certain that the ‘descent’ could be completed.

The subject [Pask] made two attempts to raise himself in the harness by pulling on the parachute risers during 1 1/8 to 1 ½ mins. These attempts he could not remember afterwards. At 1 ½ minutes., the subject became limp and relaxed, the head falling forward, but although it must have been merely a matter of chance, it was not thought that laryngeal or pharyngeal obstruction actually developed, although vigorous inspiratory efforts were made.

Sweating was very profuse and liquid sweat fell from the forehead and formed a noticeable pool on the floor. Muscular twitching of the left arm was seen between 5th and 9th minutes. The pulse was not rapid – indeed a good deal slower than in previous ‘descents’ with this subject, but between 2nd and 6th minutes it was recorded as very feeble.

[the experimental record of one of Pask's 'descents']

The upshot of all this was that Pask demonstrated that 30,000 feet was the highest survivable altitude to bail out without supplemental oxygen. I somehow doubt that such experiments would get past a modern day Ethics committee!

Post War Years

Pask’s bravery was recognised with award of the OBE (Military Division) in 1944. His meticulous approach to experimentation ensured the success of his 1947 thesis, although public publication of his wartime research was delayed until 1957, no doubt for both secrecy reasons and also in view of the justifiable outrage concerning similar experimentation on non-willing volunteers by the Nazi’s at Dachau.

It is a tragedy of man’s inhumanity to man that the Luftwaffe used human prisoners in these experiments. An account of the abhorrent work of Nazi Dr Sigmund Rascher is here. A disturbing thought is whether the data from these brutal crimes could be used subsequently – an issue explored in the NEJM. Ironically Rascher was executed on the orders of Himmler, in part for falsifying his data.

Recognising the folly of ongoing human self-experimentation, Pask was instrumental in developing Sierra Sam, the forerunner of modern crash test dummies. This proved a safer method for testing modern lifejackets than anaesthetising Gar Pask!

Sierra Sam
Sierra Sam

Pask died in 1966, age 54 – no doubt the toll of a lifelong smoking habit and the high likelihood of aspiration during the ‘flotation tank trials’ contributed to his early demise.


You can read more about the amazing exploits of Gar Pask below :

History of lifejackets

Professor Pask

Edgar Pask – a hero of resuscitation

Pask – the bravest man never to have flown an aeroplane




HUET & Lessons for Medicine

I was a little apprehensive about undergoing HUET training, mostly due to some gentle winding up by the likes of Minh le Cong in Queensland & some of the GSA-HEMS mob. Comments about eliciting cremasteric reflexes, sinus douching and so on seemed to be setting the scene – made worse as undertaking HUET in the middle of Adelaide winter.

“Back in the day” – a young Dr Tim posing whilst C1 slalom training – Augsburg, Germany

Actually, I don’t know why I was concerned about being dunked. ‘Back in the day’ I was a keen (and expert) whitewater canoeist. I rose through the ranks in both kayak and canadian classes, competing regularly at premier level in slalom events in the UK and representing my country overseas. Being flipped over in the dark whilst training in the ice cold waters of the Thames weirs or on the grade IV rapids of Scottish rivers was no problem.

Competing at that level of performance, the difference between boat-body-blade was indiscernible, with movements practiced and fluid such that one could quickly (<1 second) roll up from an inverted position with barely an interruption to forward paddling movement.

Boat-Body-Blade – it’s a bit like Arm-Laryngoscope-Epiglottis

But that was a long time ago. Being stuck inside a metal airframe and dunked upside down is completely different. And unlike a low volume carbon-kevlar canoe, there’s no element of control when a helicopter ditches…

Training took place at the heated (27 degrees, thank you) pool at the Adelaide Dive Centre, under the expert guidance of the team from RHO aviation.

Why bother with HUET?

Brian Burns of Sydney HEMS tweeted this slide today from the concordant HUET exercise in Sydney, demonstrating why it is vital that anyone being transported by a helicopter platform knows what to do in the event of ditching in water.

Slide tweeted from GSA-HEMS training by Brian Burns @HawkmoonHEMS

Whilst it is possible to perform a controlled ditch on water, this will be subject to water conditions, aircraft performance and so on. Some helicopters have floats – but helicopters are inherently top heavy and are highly likely to invert. Or be attacked by sharks as in this clip below from Jaws 2 :

That said, helicopter transfer is reasonably safe. The most pertinent reference that I could find dates back almost 10 years and is from Dave Cooksley and (then registrar) Jim Holland when in Townsville, both nice FACEM chaps. However problems can occur and it makes sense to be prepared. Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) is designed to improve the chances of surviving a ditching episode.

As can be seen from the footage below, an uncontrolled ditch in water poses risks of disorientation, impact with unsecured equipment and debris from the impact. Add to this the confusing elements of inversion, cold water and poor/zero visibility, and it is easy to see why occupants can become disorientated and fail to survive. Add to this the myriad of different harness & door release mechanisms (over 35 of the latter, with no industry-standard!). HUET training is designed to increase chances of survival in an unlikely emergency.

US-Navy CH-46 Sea Knight crashes while landing on USNS Pecos


Controlled ditching onto water, then disaster as rotor blades enter water


So what did we learn?

The facilitators from RHO aviation were really good, working through educational material in a solid, stepwise manner with a clear goal (lessons there for meducationalists). They emphasised the importance of a pre-flight safety brief :

  • seat belts
  • loose items (secured)
  • lifejackets
  • identifiying primary & secondary exits, with reference points

It is no secret that I am a fan of checklists in a crisis – when there is time. But the regular performance of a safety brief reinforces safety, mitigates against complacency and is something that I try to instil into the resus bay of my local hospital when awaiting a patient – checkling O2, suction, confirming presence of airway and crash carts, setting up vent and anticipating likely clinical needs…as well as backup plans. Cliff Reid has talked about the value of having a resus room safety officer….perhaps it’s not such a bad idea, especially in EDs where the resus is performed by a flash team (members who may never have worked together, or are used to another ED’s equipment/procedures). Minh le Cong (who never sleeps) has proposed a pre-ED RSI safety brief, albeit tongue-in-cheek.

Once the aircraft inverts, the importance of WAITING for cessation of violent movement was emphasised (to reduce risk of disorientation, injury), then calm performance of a well-rehearsed sequence :

  • orientate (use one hand to anchor as a fixed reference eg: underside of seat, with inboard hand)
  • locate (primary exit, use body movement eg knee or shoulder to locate door, then use outboard hand to locate exit release)
  • release (once exit open, keep outboard hand fixed on frame and then release inboard hand to undo safety harness)
  • vacate (use a low profile, pull inboard hand to join outboard hand at exit & pull head through – body will follow)
  • inflate (clear the surface of debris and inflate lifejacket if safe & appropriate to do so)

It was certainly easiest to perform this drill with eyes shut, avoiding the potential added disorientation of visual cues whilst inverted. Obviously an emergency ditching is a high stress environment – there will be a catecholamine surge and removing factors likely to add to panic is sensible

What’s the parallel in resus? There are probably a few. I was immediately reminded of similarity with CICO crisis training. I’ve had the misfortune of doing a few of these in real life, and have learned (by hard experience) to perform surgical airways as a tactile procedure (scalpel-finger-[bougie]-tube). But body mechanics are important in other things we do – threading a catheter onto a seldinger wire (use palmar aspect of both wrists to form a stable bridge, giving fine motor control) or effective laryngoscopy (understanding different mechanics of Mac 3 vs 4, elbow and wrist position to maximise force – a plug here for Rich Levitan’s airway course which certainly helped my airway technique).

Here’s a demo of the HUET in action – experimental test crash dummy Dr Francis Lockie uses his secondary exit, as the primary exit is blocked.

In summary

Despite the ‘wind up’ about HUET, I thought it was a well run course, delivered exactly what it was supposed to and has given a structure to dealing with a ditching crisis.

Could such lessons be applied to medicine? Absolutely – building muscle memory, relying on simple drills and regular sim are key.

Dr Michael Edmonds (creator of the rather excellent adelaideemergencyphysicians website) keeps grinning despite the forthcoming dunking
Dr Rhea S. Canavan assumes the position : brace-brace-brace!
Forming a group huddle with new-found chums. Apparently the trick is to PEE INTO THE MIDDLE to create warmth…
Thank God medSTAR kids rep Dr Naomi Spotswood is light as a feather, hauled aboard the life raft
Survivors! Drs Paul Spedding, Naomi Spotswood & Kat Shelley after HUET completion. That yellow patch around Paul is sea dye….we think….

Sabbatical with Retrieval

It’s pretty obvious that I see the benefit of FOAMed for rural doctors as in the ability to ensure rapid knowledge translation, particularly in fast-moving fields such as emergency medicine. Although the work of rural docs encompasses predominantly primary care, our work intersects with emergency medicine when on call for out small rural hospitals…and of course some practice obstetrics, anaesthetics or surgery.

I am keen to apply best evidence to care of the critical patient; caring for these patients is something that rural doctors do relatively infrequently and it can be hard to maintain both skills and knowledge. There are some rural doctors with high end skills (particularly those who practice procedural medicine) – but such work may be very much out of the comfort zone for some doctors working in the country.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of criticising patient management by others – we’ve all seen (or worse still, been part of) the ‘ICU-puts-down-ED-management-which-puts-down -primary-care-failings‘. It’s easy tribalism. I’ve blogged about this before in the “Be a ZERO not a HERO” post.

Anyone who’s seen the movie ‘Trainspotting‘ will understand this spoof EM leaflet

From http://lifeinthefastlane.com/choose-emergency-medicine/

Whilst there is no shortage of muppetry across disciplines, I am more interested in ways to improve delivery of care in rural Australia, despite the problems of regular skills maintenance, relative infrequency, staffing, equipment and so on. Less criticism and tribalism, more solutions…

FOAMed is one way of helping to rural doctors to avoid being the ‘weak link’ in both EM as well as other areas of medicine. Having excellent support (iCCNet, medSTAR retrieval etc) is essential – but I think it behoves rural docs to avoid a therapeutic vacuum, even whilst awaiting the retrieval ‘cavalry’ to arrive. To whit : doing the simple things, well. Training for the occasional emergency. Using appropriate cognitive aids (action cards, checklists etc). Understanding the value of regular in situ sim-training with all players (doctors, nurses, admin volunteer ambulance officers etc) involved. Critical illness may be infrequent – all the better to be prepared.

Time to learn from the experts…

With this in mind, I am taking 6 months off to work as a retrieval clinician.  MedSTAR, South Australia’s retrieval service have very kindly offered this opportunity and I look forward to soaking up as much knowledge and skills as I can in the time.

Whilst it’s a bit of a jolt (and pay cut!) to move from my own private practice as a rural doctor to a salaried role, I reckon the experience gained will be worth it…

Learning from a high-performance organisation like medSTAR should have flow on benefits to delivery of care in the bush. So I need to get out and learn more…and there is no doubt in my mind that I have lots to learn from the experts in delivering critical care to rural South Australians.


Rural hospitals are well supported by retrieval services in Australia
Rural hospitals are well supported by retrieval services in Australia – medSTAR landing near wharf [photo from KI registrar, Dr Jeremy Wells]
In keeping with SA Health’s social media policy, I won’t be describing any of the cases I am involved with during this time (not that I’d discuss any case on this site, other than ‘hypotheticals’ for education purposes)

There may be an occasional sporadic post on clinical topics of interest to rural clinicians, but I do not expect to post much over the next six months. Ditto use of Twitter under the @KangarooBeach handle, unless appropirate.

So … if you see me in your ED (whether rural or metro) please take time to say “G’day”…

Meanwhile I’ve got HUET training to look forward to….

Safety of Helicopter Aeromedical Transport in Australia : a retrospective study


KIDocs will be relocating to a super secret hideaway, with kayak access to the ocean on the Adelaide sea shore
KIDocs will be relocating to a super secret hideaway, with kayak access to the ocean via Adelaide seashore