#FOANed Free Open Access Nursing education – not just another hashtag


Jesse Spurr is a Nurse Educator for Medical Emergency Response at Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital. Jesse has a blog called Injectable Orange and is active on Twitter under the handle @Inject_Orange. Today he tells Nurse Uncut about using the Twitter hashtag #FOANED for interactive nursing education.

Sharing online content with colleagues is nothing new. Quality free resources have existed for nursing continuing professional development for years. But we have been limited to sharing with those we already know and there have been limited mechanisms to provide commentary or critique of these materials to a broader audience.


Jesse Spurr.

In the past two months, something amazing has started to happen. Nurses have begun to share quality, evidence-based, dogma-destroying education adjuncts via social media using the hashtag #FOANed.

Ian Miller of The Nurse Path provided the perfect analogy for#FOANed as being like a paperclip that keeps quality education materials together for easier identification, handing on to someone else or for later reading. Listen to what Ian  has to say about #FOANed: http://soundcloud.com/thenursepath/recording-2

In explaining the origins of the Free Open Access Nursing education tag, we must first hop in the time machine and travel back to a bar in Dublin circa 2012.

Imagine the smell of yeast-trodden carpet, the clinking of glass, bustling anecdotes and the cool dense Guinness foam adorning your top lip.

Dr Mike Cadogan (founder of Life in the Fast Lane – Emergency Medicine Blog) and his mate Dr Sean Rothwell are philosophising over the state of medical education and the way we interact with knowledge online. The disparate, variably qualified and inordinately enormous nature of online medical education resources and the proliferation of emergency medicine and critical care education and opinion blogs coexisted with an increasing professional uptake of social networking platforms such as Twitter and Google+.


Staring into a pint (or potentially several pints) of Guinness, an idea formed. The foam was a result of thousands of bubbles drifting up to the surface to form a rich creamy layer on top. Mike proposed that quality online content had potential to bubble up to the surface, but like Guinness this content needed a vessel. FOAM was born – Free Open Access Meducation. The concept was steered into existence through Life in the Fast Lane (LITFL) and promulgated the hashtag #FOAMed.

What followed was Mike pursuing a tireless agenda of researching, gathering, hosting (on the LITFL servers), supporting the authors and promoting an ever-expanding compendium of Emergency, Critical Care and Medical Education blogs and podcasts. A commonality behind all of this was a philosophy of altruism and social promotion.

Fast forward two years, #FOAMed has given birth to a number of children. Nursing has cautiously edged forward and claimed a scoop of the FOAM.

I have credited the start of use of the #FOANed hashtag to a couple of individuals on Twitter. Here though, I’m sure the early adopters would agree, ownership is the enemy. Instead, I think the best way to get a grasp of why we nurses need our own metaphoric ‘paperclip’ is to hear from the online community.

So here are a few examples of what happened when I asked people to tell me their thoughts on why we need #FOANed.

tweets foaned

foaned tweets

foan tweet

What is different about #FOANed? We are still finding our collective voice as nurses in a changing world. We are asking more of our own practice and striving to develop our own knowledge, not extrapolated from other professions, but true to us. We need to develop a compendium of accessible, engaging and evidence-based education that can improve nursing practice and elevate our profession. So is #FOANed just another hashtag? No way.

So what can you do?

  1. Get on Twitter, make yourself a profile, load a photo so you don’t stay an egg (no-one talks to eggs)
  2. Tweet me a ‘hello’ @inject_orange
  3. Search #FOANed (use the Twitter search box) and kick yourself for waiting so long to find this Narnia through the wardrobe!




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