Ten Tips for FOAM Beginners

So you’ve heard about FOAM and want to get involved.


Welcome to the FOAMsphere!

Even if you take part in only a small way, it all adds up to make the world a better place. Here are ten tips if you’re starting out in FOAM.

1. Be a Tweeter

Twitter is the thread that ties FOAM together. With a Twitter account the FOAM world is yours for the taking. You can choose who to follow based on the merit of the information he or she is sharing — just follow people who share good stuff… It is simple! You can use it to keep up with blogs, podcasts and even the medical literature. You can also use it to share what you are reading and you can use it to question your fellow FOAMers, including internationally renowned clinicians and educators. Just add #FOAMed to any tweets you make that share free open-access medical education resources or that have medical education value in their own right. There are even ‘sub-speciality’ hashtags like #FOAMcc for critical care, #FOAMped for paediatrics and #emconf for tweets from emergency medicine residency conferences. If you’re not sure how to use Twitter, or what the etiquette is, the simple guide at Mom, This Is How Twitter Works will get you up and running in no time.

You can also learn about Twitter basics from LITFL’s Tessa Davis here:

2. Be a registered FOAMphile

If you are a FOAM supporter don’t be shy. Add your name and Twitter handle to the FOAM database at the bottom of the LITFL FOAM page so that all the other FOAMers will know who to follow and interact with. Also add #FOAMed to your Twitter profile (like I have). Mike Cadogan (@sandnsurf) also keeps a Twitter list of the FOAM supporters in the database here.

Addendum 4th June 2013:

I’ve copied the form and database from the LITFL FOAM page to the bottom of this page too  so that you don’t have to go searching too far!

3. Be identifiable, don’t be anonymous

In order for FOAM to be credible, members of the community have to be visible and identifiable. The best way to build meaningful networks and get the most out of FOAM is by being ‘real’. FOAM is about real people interacting, collaborating and sharing information. If necessary consider having a separate personal Twitter account and a separate medical Twitter account.

4. Be professional

Professionalism applies online the same way it does offline. Be professional. Remember that every time you tweet you might as well be shouting into a megaphone at a football stadium. Always protect patients and cast yourself and your colleagues in the best possible light. If you can’t do that, keep it to yourself. Don’t tweet about specific cases, but communicate in general terms about medical topics or create hypothetical cases in hypothetical settings. Always protect patients!

5. Be active

The success of FOAM depends on the interaction of like-minded experts and enthusiasts. Even if you don’t see yourself as a FOAM creator, but are more of a consumer, do it actively. Give feedback on blogs and podcasts, suggest corrections if you see an error. We are all into FOAM because we want to learn and help others learn. None of us want to set people astray. There is not always a right answer, but there should never be a wrong answer. Don’t let anyone be wrong on the Internet!

6. Be generous

Considered criticism is the best way to improve FOAM resources. Remember that FOAM creators are doing it for the love of it, so be generous in support, even if that support involves correction and criticism. If you are a FOAM creator or sharing information be sure to acknowledge original sources, provide references and link to what has been created before (ideally search GoogleFOAM before publishing anything so that you can link to related FOAM resources). This is how meaningful networks and communities are created online.

Also, be generous in what you share. Even if it just links to Pubmed, you never know who you might help. If you don’t have a blog or a podcast, then you might want to open up a free account at GMEP (the Global Medical Education Project) which will enable you to establish an online presence for free and allow you to share unlimited media that other people can use under a Creative Commons license. What does this mean? So long as someone else attributes you as the source, they can use it for any educational and non-commercial purpose. In doing so, FOAM resources spread like wildfire, and so does the FOAM philosophy.

7. Be good

The more you put in the more you get out. Content is king in the FOAM world, and if you create good stuff, doors will open. Opportunities to collaborate, speak at conferences, write papers and get new and interesting jobs might well come your way if you engage in quality interactions, help others, engage honestly and display a generous spirit. In FOAM, the most iridescent bubbles float to the top.

8. Be a user of the key FOAM resources that will help get you started

At LITFL Kane Guthrie creates a weekly summary of the best emergency medicine and critical care FOAM from the past week, called The LITFL Review. Scan that and see what takes your fancy — it only takes 5 minutes. Use GoogleFOAM to search for FOAM resources. To follow everything in FOAM follow the FOAM EM RSS website and download the brand new free Smart FOAM app from iClinicalApps.

9. Be a fabulous filter and use filters to beat information overload

It’s not information overload that’s the problem, it’s filter failure. The strategies I use are described in Information Overload, which includes a 400 second long PK SMACC-talk summarising it all called ‘Dr InfoLOVE: OR How Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The FOAM’.

10. Be fun and keep it real

FOAM is a fun way of learning and interacting with other like-minded people across the world. However it is just an adjunct to all the ways we already learn — from bedside mentors, reading papers, and seeing patients. FOAM is not a cult, and it is not a popularity contest nor a marketing exercise. There is always room for humour and quirkiness to keep things interesting. FOAM is simply a community of experts and enthusiasts trying to help others while helping themselves — nothing more, nothing less.

Viva la FOAM!

em foam

Become a FOAM supporter!

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  1. Chris, great post – food for thought there for both current users of FOAMed and as a guide to newbies

    Thanks, will include a link on my blogs and push the “FOAM-curious” colleagues towards this resource

    Well done & thanks

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