Finishing Fellowship training is one of the most exciting times in a doctor’s life. Many of us have spent our entire adult lives on the pathway from first year medical student to medical specialist; for GPs this process takes at least 10-12 years and often much longer. Sure, there are forks in the road along the way: optional placement opportunities in medical school, choice of internship training hospital, deciding which specialist training program to enter, which extended skills posts to pursue and whether to train in city or country. But then, after countless lectures, seminars, hoops-jumped-through, log-books completed, forms signed off, exams sat and hours of study, the road comes to an abrupt end.
This new found freedom can be exhilarating. Finally we have absolute control over when, where and how we work and are no longer limited to accredited practices and mandatory training requirements. Some of us use this time to pursue interesting new work options such as teaching, medical leadership or cosmetic medicine. Some can finally devote the time and energy to things they’ve been putting off: renovating the house, having a baby, traveling the world.
As a self-respecting Gen Y doctor, I immediately cut my hours and set about trying to obtain the perfect work-life balance. In lieu of full time work I’ve turned my attention to non-medical pursuits such as Bollywood dance lessons, coffee appreciation, blogging and mastering the art of baking macarons.
However, leaving the comfort zone of training is not without anxiety. Sometimes I worry that eventually they’ll discover that I’m a complete fraud; that I’m not a grown-up doctor at all, I’m really just a 13th-year medical student who still has so much to learn. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never feel like I know enough, due to both the enormous breadth of General Practice and also the constant turn-over of new information. So just how do we keep improving our medical knowledge without the external motivation of exams and the constant support of experienced supervisors?
Here’s where I think that social media has so much potential. The global Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) movement has made new medical knowledge more accessible and immediate than ever before and is also gaining momentum on the Australian GP scene. An increasing number of Australian based medical education blogs are embracing the FOAM concept to provide high quality, accessible, asynchronous learning opportunities for local doctors. There is also an inclusive and supportive community of Australian GPs using Twitter to share resources, discuss ideas and debate hot topics. Registrars share exam-related information by posting tweets using the #GPExams13 hashtag.
In addition to its educational potential, social media is an amazing way to connect with experienced GPs to fulfill that ongoing peer-supervision and mentoring role. If I encounter a challenging clinical scenario, I can ask a question on Twitter and get multiple useful responses very quickly. This online version of traditional “corridor teaching” is particularly important in reducing the feeling of geographical and professional isolation that can arise when working in rural, remote or solo practice. It’s a great way to network, and above all it’s fun. I feel like I’ve made some good friends and mentors on Twitter, even though we have never met in real life. The applications of social media in medicine are expanding all the time and it will be exciting to see what developments arise in the future.
It’s a big wide world out there as a new Fellow, but I’m confident that by building on the foundation of a quality training with the use of new technologies, we will be able to transition confidently into our new role as independent GPs.