Top 10 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.

Here are my Top 10 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 Twitter 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 interact with your fellow FOAMers, including internationally renowned clinicians, researchers, 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, and #FOAMped for paediatrics (among many others). 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.

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 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 self-identified FOAM supporters on Twitter as a Twitter list here.

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 regardless of whether you are online or offline. Be professional! Remember that every time you tweet you might as well be shouting into a megaphone at a football stadium during a televised event. 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 consumer rather than a FOAM creator, do it actively. Give feedback on blogs and podcasts, and suggest corrections if you see an error. We are all ‘into FOAM’ because we want to learn and help others learn. None of us wants 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 you are just sharing a link to a Pubmed entry, you never know who you might help. If you have a blog or a podcast, then create content using 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

Content is king in the FOAM world, and if you create good stuff, doors will open.The more you put in the more you get out. 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 we create a weekly summary of the best emergency medicine and critical care FOAM 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 or download the  Smart FOAM app.

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

It’s not information overload that is the problem, it is 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 other ways we learn — learning from bedside mentors, reading papers, participating in teaching sessions, and seeing patients. FOAM is not a cult, it is not a popularity contest, and it is not 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!

Nickson CP, Cadogan MD. Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emerg Med Australas. 2014 Feb;26(1):76-83.

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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