Creating community online
“Why do we do it? It’s difficult to read all of the relevant published articles and keep up to date,” said Dr. Arora, a medical educator whose job at Chicago Medicine is to improve the clinical learning environment for trainees and staff by aligning learning with the health system’s institutional quality, safety and value missions.
“Our idea was to bring together a kind of virtual journal club and have discussions around topics such as: how do you create a shared vision on rounds? How do you integrate that into clinical practice? How do we preserve work/life balance or address structural racism?” she said. Other topics have included work flow concerns, burnout, difficult conversations with patients, and career planning.
“The people we’re trying to reach are hospitalists – and they’re busy at the front lines of care. We also thought this was an interesting way to raise the journal’s profile and spark broader interest in the articles it publishes. But it’s really about creating community, with people who look forward to talking and connecting with each other each month through the chats,” Dr. Arora said. If they miss a chat, they feel they’ve missed important interactions.
“Many times when people log onto the chat, they give a status report on where they are at, such as ‘I’m home putting my kids to bed,’ or ‘I’m on call tonight,’ ” she added. “People are willing to engage with the medium because it’s easy to engage with. We can forget that physicians are like everyone else. They like to learn, but they want that learning to be fun.”
On Dec. 14, 2020, at 9 p.m. Eastern time, the first question for the monthly #JHMchat was posted: How will caring for COVID-19 patients this winter differ from caring for patients in the first wave? Given that another surge of hospitalized COVID patients is looming, participants posted that they feel familiar and more confident with effective clinical strategies for hospitalized COVID patients, having learned so much more about the virus. But they’re facing greater numbers of patients than in prior surges. “In March, we were in crisis, now we’re in complexity,” one noted.
Joining the moderators was the Pediatric Overflow Planning Contingency Response Network (POPCoRN), a group formed earlier this year to help mobilize pediatric medical capacity for COVID patients during pandemic surges (see “POPCoRN network mobilizes pediatric capacity during pandemic,”
Defining medical communication
Another chat moderator is Angela Castellanos, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Dr. Castellanos did a 1-year, full-time fellowship right after residency at the New England Journal of Medicine, participating hands-on as a member of the editorial team for the print and online editions of the venerable journal. She is now doing a digital media fellowship with JHM, a part-time commitment while holding down a full-time job as a hospitalist. She also puts together a Spanish language podcast covering primary care pediatric issues for parents and families.
“I’m interested in medical communication generally, as I try to figure out what that means,” she said. “I have continued to look for ways to be part of the social media community and to be more creative about it. The JHM fellowship came at a perfect time for me to learn to do more in digital media.”
COVID has created new opportunities for more immediate dialogue with colleagues – what are they seeing and what’s working in the absence of clinical trials, she explained. “That’s how we communicate, as a way to get information out fast, such as when hospitals began proning COVID patients to make it easier for them to breathe.”
Dr. Castellanos said she grew up with text messaging and social media and wants to continue to grow her skills in this area. “I think I developed some skills at NEJM, but the opportunity to see how they do things at another journal with a different mission was also valuable. I get to share the space with people in academic settings and leaders in my field. I tweet at them; they tweet at me. These two fellowships have given me unique insights and mentorships. I know I want to continue doing pediatric hospital medicine and to engage academically and learn how to do research.”
Twitter sometimes gets a bad reputation for hostile or incendiary posts, Dr. Wray noted. “If you look at social media writ large, it can sometimes seem like a dumpster fire.” But what has happened in the medical community and in most medical Twitter encounters is a more cordial approach to conversations. “People who work in medicine converse with each other, with room for respectful disagreements. We’re extra supportive of each other,” he said.
“I think if hospitalists are looking for a community of peers, to engage with them and network and to find colleagues in similar circumstances, the JHM chat is such a fantastic place,” Dr. Wray concluded. “Don’t just come once, come several times, meet people along the way. For me, one of the most beneficial ways to advance my career has been by connecting with people through the chat. It allows me to share my work and success with the hospitalist community, as well as highlighting my trainees’ and colleagues’ successes, and it has created opportunities I never would have expected for getting involved in other projects.”