What is it?
FERN is an e-mail discussion group that was started by the Thames Valley Family Practice Research Unit in February 1994. Its purpose is to foster a sense of community, enhance communication, and further the dissemination of research findings among family physicians. Currently there are approximately 200 area family physicians on board.
FERN provides a forum for family physicians to participate in lively discussions regarding clinical issues, clinical case discussions, family medicine research, community service opportunities, and political issues. Really, its anything of interest to area family physicians- politics, the OMA, and the government have been hot topics but it has also been used by physicians seeking collegial help with:
A Troubling Case: from an e-mail after describing a young man in his 20's the question to FERN was: “Are there any psychiatrists/neurologists in London with an interest in adult ADD with tic disorders”
The “Ethics And How” Of Prevention In Long Term Care: from an e-mail, “Difficult questions. I look after a number of group homes and homebound patients. My usual approach is a routine annual review ...I have some difficulty justifying sedating someone for routine examinations...Individual assessment seems to be the key here.”
Sharing Of Insights Gained Handling A Difficult Patient Situation: from an e-mail “This woman is improving! Pain has decreased from 10/10 to 4/10 in last 48 hrs with addition of small amount of Haloperidol BID(with Cogentin)...She is talking in terms of ‘when I go home’ instead of ‘if I go home’, and is beginning to sound hopeful. There's still a long way to go, but things are looking up. Many thanks to all who responded to my first post.”
Convenience And Ability To Learn In Off Hours: “..it was something you could do at your own pace in the middle of the night” “There is a tremendous convenience at being able to choose when I can do it (CME)”
Interaction With Family Physician Colleagues: “it’s been very helpful and I get suggestions from other Family doctors who really understand what it is, the problem seems to be”
Familiarity With New Technologies: as health care moves more to electronic records family physicians will need to know how to get the most out of the technology for their patients and practices: “I wasn’t very comfortable with my computer...when I joined in I found this was really interesting... they get incredible information”
Access To The University Library System: including Medline and many other searchable databases
All family physicians in southwestern Ontario, Canada (including the counties of: Essex, Kent, Lambton, Huron, Oxford, Middlesex, Elgin, Perth, Bruce and Grey) - including those who are currently in active practice and retired physicians, community-based and academic physicians, and those completing residencies - can become members of FERN. At present, there are 200 members in FERN. To become a member of FERN and to participate on FERN, you need an E-mail address and INTERNET access.
OK! I’m convinced...What do I need to do?
You need a computer and a modem- but a 486 will do and anything from a 14,400 baud modem up will work.
Call Cathy Thorpe at the TVFPRU 519.858.5028 and they will help you get set up with either a UWO “julian” account (currently free) if you are in the London “free” dialing area or give you suggestions as to other service providers in your area.
If you already have an e-mail account, it’s even easier- just call Cathy or Sibi, answer a few questions and get put on the e-mail list.
If you have trouble getting “hooked-up”, Sibi at TVFPRU can offer some help and can trouble shoot problems.
Questions?? Call Cathy at TVFPRU (519.858.5028) ....you won’t regret it!
FERN Advisory Group:
[Please note: Although residents can become members of FERN, they are responsible for arranging their own INTERNET accounts through The University of Western Ontario]