By now social media is pretty much ubiquitous for most of us; if you don't have a Twitter account, then you probably have a Facebook account. If you don't have a Facebook account, then you've at least read someone's blog.
So it makes sense that EMS providers would use social media outlets to reach out to their peers, to discuss protocols and procedures, get answers to questions, share stories or photos, or just to vent about a particularly long and grueling shift. EMS providers are a pretty chummy bunch, and social media allows providers to connect with one another and grow EMS in ways never before possible.
Into that fray jumped Kenya Nixon a little more than three years ago, not just to read and comment, but to help spread information as well.
Nixon, an EMT-I with 14 years experience in Louisiana, had very little experience with social media when she launched the EMT/Paramedic page on Facebook in January 2009, other than a confessed "slight addiction to Facebook."
"I was up late one night looking for an EMT fan page to join on Facebook and, much to my surprise, there were none," says Nixon. "So, I decided it was time to start one."
She created the page and then all but forgot about it for four months. When she did finally check it she was surprised to see it had more than 1,000 fans.
"It was then I started posting articles and pictures," Nixon explains. "It's been a little over three years now and we're close to 160,000 fans. It's a bit overwhelming."
Nixon says maintaining the page is a bit like having a part-time job. She checks the page daily for questions or messages, and she tries to answer them all in a timely manner. And, depending on her schedule and what's going on in the world of EMS, she tries to post something three to five times per week.
Nixon says she enjoys being able to "connect with EMTs everywhere—sharing information, protocols and building a sense of community on a worldwide level. It's given me a chance to interact with a lot of great people who share the same passion for this profession—and the same wicked sense of humor."
She's also had to good fortune of having companies send her samples of their products to try out, which she's then often given away to fans of the page as freebies. "The response has been incredible," she says.
Of course, there is a downside to being the administrator of a popular, public page. "Dealing with spam and trolls is a big negative," Nixon says. "I like everything to stay civil, but that doesn't always happen."
Thankfully, Facebook has strict rules regarding what it deems "obscene," so it's easier for her to discourage things like pictures of extreme injuries. "I also don't allow any solicitations without the vendor first contacting me," she says. "I don't want the site to turn into one giant ad."
By and large though, users are respectful. "I keep an eye on what the users are posting but, for the most part, no intervention is needed. Generally, when I post a link, I read all the user comments and try to interact when I can. They're a very entertaining bunch," she says.
Nixon is also a fan of other social media ventures spawned by EMS providers. She frequents A Day in the Life of An Ambulance Driver, the popular blog from Kelly Grayson, who was her EMT-B instructor, as well as the Paramedics on Facebook page and EMTLife.com, just to name a few.
And while Nixon enjoys the interaction with her peers, she sees another benefit to the presence of EMS social media sites. "It gives the public a chance to see who we are and what we really do," she explains. "Most people don't know or understand what happens in the back of an ambulance or have any idea the amount of training and knowledge we have."
To check out the EMT/Paramedic page on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/EMTsParamedics.