Having mentioned yesterday that I am grateful for people I can ask when I have questions, today seems like the perfect time to write the post maddog wants me to write.
What is the point of using social media?
Not just tweeting with friends, or posting memes on facebook, but what is the benefit, if any, to EMS?
For me, it is a combination of a number of things.
I started blogging a few years back, before I knew there was such a thing as an "EMS blog." I was writing about other aspects of my life, mostly for myself.
After a while, I started looking for interesting blogs to read, and I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I stumbled across some EMS blogs. I must have been lucky, I guess, because the first few I found were excellent, and led me to others. The first one I remember finding was AD's blog, but the first one I went back and read through every post was maddog's. Through them I found epijunky and Happy Medic and a bunch of others. I kept wandering from blog to blog, finding some that were interesting enough to check back once in a while, and others that ended up disappearing. I found a couple of my very favorites: Rescuing Providence and Unlimited-Unscheduled Hours.
It was a whole new world for me.
People, out there, who knew a lot more than I did, had years and years more experience, and were interested in sharing.
I read about calls I'm relatively unlikely ever to see.
I read about calls that I'm VERY likely to see.
I read about mistakes made, and ways to correct or avoid them.
I read training tips and suggestions.
I read stories that touched my heart and some that froze my blood.
I found people who felt like we're on the same team. Folks out there trying to do the right thing, the right way, who understand the importance of caring for people, not just doing procedures.
I realized somewhere along the way how very important they all are to me.
When I went to EMS Today in Baltimore earlier this year, I was able to meet several of them in person, and to meet others I hadn't been aware of. A community. I felt welcome, and valued, and validated in ways I do NOT feel here. They reinvigorated me, and gave me hope. Having people out there who are willing and able to reach out and help, or even just to talk to, is an extremely valuable- perhaps vital- resource. I have met even more of my favorite bloggers in person now, either at conferences, or simply because we wanted to meet and are close enough to manage a day trip.
Not only did I find a community of like-minded people, I also found a wealth of online training resources. Ranging from individual blogs, to sites dedicated to online training, I found somewhere to GO when I needed to know more about some medical situation. There are free online training materials, a couple of excellent inexpensive paid online training centers, a fabulous online magazine, and behind those, real people to talk to. I found more training than I could ever possibly take advantage of. It is a complete mystery to me how any organization could EVER not have quality training, since I am tripping over it on a daily basis, on blogs, on websites, on facebook, and coming to my e-mail in-box.
And that doesn't even count finding out online about various nearby in-person hands-on training. In addition to EMS Today, I've found out about and attended training anywhere from 50-200 miles away, and almost all of it was provided for FREE, and taught by excellent, highly skilled and fairly well known instructors.
For the most part, my experience with EMS social media has been extraordinarily positive, and has made it possible for me to expand my knowledge base and continue to increase my skill level, in ways that simply are not possible where I am. It has allowed me to feel connected to something, to feel not so entirely alone. If I were "in charge" I'd work to see that more EMS providers connect with this online network of people and resources, increasing the benefits to everyone involved. I try to do that, anyway, but I'd love to see more people in positions of authority recognize the value of what is happening in the EMS social media world, and to see them promote it instead of being afraid of what they don't understand. For that, we either need newer, more internet-comfortable people in positions of authority, or those who are there now need to educate themselves on this. It is inexcusable to simply ignore this incredible resource.