Gentle trainees, this piece has one goal and one goal only. I want to ask every trainee here to please join Twitter.
The majority of trainees are millennials – a demographic cohort with the highest levels of social media usage of any other generation. 88% of adults in the U.S. aged 18 – 29 years have integrated their lives with at least one social media site. And I’m guessing that our statistics down here in the Antipodes are not too dissimilar. If worldwide population trends in social media usage hold true for junior doctors, then it’s reasonable to assume that the vast majority of trainees reading this piece will be members of Facebook. And that a much smaller group – perhaps only one quarter of us – may be members of Twitter.
I am a member of several medical Facebook groups. Facebook groups are bloody brilliant spaces where we can share knowledge, support one another. Rant. But, in these spaces, we are only talking to one another.
At the time of writing, my medical college, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (@TheRACP), has 5,766 followers on Twitter. There are 7,000 RACP trainees, of which 1,900 are members of RACP Trainees Facebook group. Likewise, The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (@RACSurgeons) has 6,572 followers on Twitter, and 1,300 trainees. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (@RACGP) has a whopping 18,800 Twitter followers, and 7,500 trainees.
Needless to say, between all the specialty medical colleges in Australasia, there are thousands upon thousands of us gentle trainees. If all of us join Twitter, we would form a mighty, irrepressible, united trainee voice in Australasia.
There are no journalists following our conversations on Facebook. But journalists follow our medical colleges and specialty societies on Twitter. In case you didn’t know, twits (?) can Tweet directly at their medical colleges.
When the RACP launched the #makeequitythenorm public advocacy campaign ahead of the 2017 New Zealand General Election, a single trainee Tweeted at the RACP saying how proud she was of her college that day. That single Tweet was quoted widely in college papers reporting the campaign. A single trainee, a single Tweet.
Think about our current trainee woes, our trainee ‘wicked’ problems. Bullying. Overworking. Trainee suicides. Gender disparities. The 2018 RACP basic training exam debacle. How much would you Tweet?
I really believe the way these things might play out would be different if there were thousands of Tweeting doctors-in-training on Twitter in full view of our colleges and of the media.
Gentle trainees, we need to get smarter about the way we are going to make a positive change in our profession, to change its culture. And to let our managers, seniors, and society at large know that change is coming.
The medical profession pushes us to publish scientific papers. @SandroDemaio was interviewed by the BMJ. He Tweets that there are >1.5 million scientific papers published each year. Only half of them will be ever be read by anyone other than the author, reviewers, and editor. Let’s think about that. The interview, which could have been titled “Why doctors should Tweet” for all intents and purposes and includes his 5 tips for how to learn to Tweet, can be found here: Knowledge translation with Dr Sandro Demaio.
I’ve spent 11 months working on and writing up a scientific paper on child health and disadvantage. It will likely be read by no one. And even if read, it will be preaching to the converted.
At the start of November last year I spent 3 hours writing an e-news piece on medical advocacy giving credit to the #ThisIsOurLane and #KidsOffNauru movements. (https://thespinoff.co.nz/…/2018-is-forcing-doctors-to-be-ad…) You could say the conclusion was kind of in the same vein as the scientific paper. There were over 500 article-shares in less than 48 hours through social media. So, now I know where you get more bang for your buck.
I think we have learnt over the past year that the society and our media is extremely interested in the wellbeing of us trainees and what we care about. The Australian media alone has given ample airtime to bullying, sexual harassment, doctor suicides, and the RACP exam mess. The potential for us to shape the conversation and create accountability is massive.
The potential doesn’t stop there. We human beings are mimetic creatures. Our best chance at learning how to grow into the physician advocates that this new century requires is through closely following those who are going ahead of us. Twitter offers the opportunity to learn directly from health leaders and advocacy gurus such as @MichaelMarmot, @Atul_Gawande, and @RichardHorton1. And many others, including clinical leaders, as they opine, emote, rage, present new research, and report from the frontlines.
Have I helped convince you all that this is a good idea?
Getting to the end of this long piece I realise that there is a small chance that you are all on Twitter already. But just that nobody wants to follow me, ha! Please consider. If you are already on Twitter, would you share your handle in the comments below so we can all find each other?
I’m @DrJinRussell. Can’t wait to meet you.