Advice for New Medical Bloggers

In Mentorship by Brent Thoma1 Comment

If you follow BoringEM you may have noticed that there has not been as much new content lately. While I plan to continue writing and occasionally hosting content from other Canadian writers, the frequency of my posts on this site will be decreasing to ~1 per month. 

After 70,000 hits in less than 9 months, I continue to be astounded by the support that BoringEM has received. More important than the randomness of internet viewership has been the relationships that I have developed with amazing healthcare professionals. If you haven’t already, I heartily recommend you get online and join this amazing community. However, if you are planning on doing it by starting a blog like I did, I have some thoughts on this.

Advice for New Medical Bloggers

After spending a ludicrous amount of time on this site, I feel modestly qualified to offer one huge piece of advice for anyone considering starting a medical blog of their own:

Consider contributing to the site of an established writer or group

While there is something to be said for the freedom and learning inherent in the development of your own site, there are many benefits to blogging within a collaborative group. Here are my Top 8 reasons to begin blogging at an established site:

  1. Mentorship from established medical bloggers. In retrospect, many of my earliest posts would have derived HUGE benefit from additional guidance. It embarrasses me a little to read them now. While you could certainly find mentorship blogging on your own, joining an established site is an easier way to do it.
  2. Pre-publication Peer Review. I know the benefits of this are somewhat controversial. However, I think new bloggers derive more benefit from it than anyone else. Even beyond the medical components of a blog, the format and style of writing is different and an editor can help. Again, writing at an established site isn’t necessary to get it, but it helps!
  3. An initial readership. It can take a lot of time in the trenches to build a site with a significant number of followers. While that may not be your aim (it certainly wasn’t mine when I started) I found that it quickly became a consideration when I started spending substantial amounts of free time producing the content. Part of the satisfaction of writing this stuff is knowing others find it useful and interacting with them.
  4. Building a readership. If you start writing for an established site and do good work, readers are likely to continue following your work even if you leave your initial site to start your own.
  5. Supporting the growth and visibility of major sites. While I will continue to wholeheartedly support small blogs like this one because I think they are the life-blood of the free, open-access meducation (FOAM) movement, I also think it is important to develop consolidated, substantive, trustworthy, go-to resources for medical education.  Developing respected resources that meet these criteria is the best way to continue increasing the legitimacy of medical blogs in the eyes of the establishment.
  6. Avoiding IT frustration. Unless learning the IT aspect is one of your aims, avoiding it will helpfully give you more time to write. 
  7. Giving the other writers a break. While bloggers wouldn’t write if they didn’t love it, keeping up a consistent publication schedule is hard work. The occasional contributions I had from Paul Olszynski, Maxim Ben-Yakov, Chris Byrne, Joel Death and (most significantly) Teresa Chan have been amazing and I hope they continue to chip in!
  8. Trying it out. Maintaining a site with regular, substantive updates is a lot of work. If you try it out and love it, you can always set out on your own later and benefit from the contacts and followers that you developed at your first blogging home.

I tip my hat to the some of the many collaborative groups that have already formed including Life in the Fast Lane (Australia), Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (USA), St. Emlyn’s (UK) and PHARM (Australia).

Why the Slow-down?

This advice leads me to my rationale for why I will be slowing down at BoringEM. While I look forward to posting less frequently, other opportunities and challenges have presented themselves.

On the challenges front, I have come to realize that creating quality FOAM will be easier the more I develop my medical expertise. While my writing has certainly enhanced my understanding of the topics I have written about, unfortunately, I can not learn and write as fast as I can learn alone. I plan to hit the books with renewed vigor and until I (hopefully) crush my licensing exams in 2015. Ultimately, my future FOAM contributions will be better for it.

On the opportunities front, I have started contributing to the Medical Education section at Academic Life in Emergency Medicine and hope to begin translating FOAM in a more scholarly way. My first contribution to ALiEM (in association with Teresa Chan) is the Medical Education in Cases (MEdIC) series. Check out part 1 here and part 2 (complete with expert responses) here. And keep your eyes peeled for some collaborative, FOAM-y publications soon!

It’s not good bye, it’s talk to you less often

Once again, thanks for your ongoing support of the blog. If you’re a Canadian that would like to use the site that I’ve built as your initial foray into the world of medical blogging, check out the information here and contact me on facebook, twitter or google+ (see the top of the right column). I would love to host additional well-written content!

Thanks to Teresa Chan (BoringEM/ALiEM) and Eve Purdy (Manu et Corde) for reviewing this post.

Dr. Brent Thoma is a medical educator, blogging geek, and trauma/emergency physician who works at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine. He founded BoringEM and is the CEO of CanadiEM.