In the emergency medical service arena, there are a number of online networks designed to provide support for EMS personnel. Most of these networks are listservs or discussion groups aimed at bolstering education and best current practices.
I first started in EMS as a route to become a firefighter, but after working for a short time as an EMT, I decided that I enjoyed the practice of medicine much more than fire suppression. It was about this time that I formed a goal to be the best that I could be in this industry. There is an inherent problem with this: most in EMS feel that they are the best at what they do. I had to figure out a benchmark to compare myself to.
Searching the internet, I found a small group of EMTs, paramedics and physicians who promoted teaching as learning. This group also debated best practices constantly. Most importantly, all were welcome to contribute. Partaking in many discussions over the years has broadened my knowledge and has made me keenly aware of many of the problems facing EMS that I was going to have to deal with. This group has helped me to grow as an EMT, motivated me through my education as a paramedic and instilled in me some of the virtues of being an effective educator and a mentor within the EMS community. This same group has helped turn inexperienced and insecure providers into authors, consultants, researchers, managers, and educators. These truly were the best and the brightest in the field. Many of group participants were only known to me by their email address or the initials with which they signed their posts, but now, after meeting and forming in-person relationships, I count many of them among my friends and colleagues.
This only outlines one of my professional networks. I truly understand the value of professional networking, and I have promoted this within the educational environment in the past. Networking among colleagues, whether professionally or academically, encourages teamwork and collaboration. It also encourages a healthy competitive nature in the participants which translates to more overall growth. In the academic arena, students are able to rely on other students’ expertise in some areas while, at the same time, providing expertise in others.
The new online social networking venues (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, et al.) appear to be replacing the listservs of old. These applications provide the user a broader, more personal sense of their social and professional network. Opening one’s self up to your colleagues in this manner can only encourage more personal growth and professionalism.