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How to become a teaching practice

Ten top tips for expanding educational horizons by teaching undergraduates, by Dr Rodger Charlton.

To teach well, you may need to undertake a smaller number of longer consultations and this will have an impact on the other GPs (Photograph: SPL)
To teach well, you may need to undertake a smaller number of longer consultations and this will have an impact on the other GPs (Photograph: SPL)

Teaching medical students at the surgery is a refreshing experience that should prompt you and the whole team to look at what you do and why with renewed enthusiasm.

TIP 1: Get the team on board
Plan ahead and think through the idea. It is important that the whole practice team wants to be involved in teaching and will help to make a student welcome.

The GP leading on this must have protected time to provide quality teaching to the student. It will not work if it is just you who is keen.

TIP 2: Be enthusiastic
The key to success is for the lead GP to be excited by general practice and able to inspire students about a future GP career. Students will still benefit from being informed about what a GP does if they decide on a career in hospital medicine. In the future, that student you taught at the practice could be the person from whom, as a junior doctor, you are seeking an emergency admission for a patient.

TIP 3: Contact local medical schools
Universities are always looking for new practices for student placements. With greater numbers of medical students, new medical schools and an increasing proportion of the curriculum being spent in general practice, you and your team are likely to be encouraged to become a teaching practice.

TIP 4: Create a practice information folder
Based on your practice leaflet, describe your practice and provide details about your practice team.

Explain what is special about your practice, for example, any clinics or services run by GPSIs who can tutor students to gain new knowledge and skills.

Gather support from your colleagues and see what areas of practice they might like to teach the students.

TIP 5: Take a medical education course
Consider attending a course, however short, on medical education. There is a growing recognition that to be a teacher, you should attend a course on medical education so that you can ensure students have a valuable educational experience and you feel confident in your skills to deliver their training and to assess them. Hopefully, the medical school from which you take students will provide a course for you that will be relevant to its curriculum.

TIP 6: Plan ahead
Once everyone in the team is happy to go ahead, planning in advance of the first student arriving is important so that everything goes smoothly.

Ask non-clinical staff if they would like to be involved. For example, the receptionists can provide insights into triage and the practice manager can explain the financial side of general practice.

Similarly, find out if the practice nurse is keen to teach about chronic disease management.

TIP 7: Provide appropriate resources
A practice library is probably not required, but the student will need access to the equivalent through the internet. They will require facilities to make tea and coffee and somewhere to eat at lunchtime.

Consider some audit topics that need to be undertaken. Your students might be keen to lead on an audit and feed back on it to the practice, and so feel part of the team. Provide a list of audit topics they can choose from.

TIP 8: Sort out the practicalities
Talk through any potential logistical issues with other local teaching practices that you know. In particular, it might make sense to provide overnight accommodation for students on attachment if they would otherwise face lengthy commuting to the practice. Also, look into the options available for them to gain out-of-hours experience.

TIP 9: Think through the time commitment
To teach well you may need to undertake a smaller number of longer consultations. Doing this will have an impact on the other GPs. Agree with them that this is all right. The fact that medical schools pay fees for student placements (perhaps £1,200 or more for a four-week stint) may be an added incentive to become a teaching practice. However, do the teaching for the love of it, rather than money.

TIP 10: Provide a positive educational experience
Recalling your undergraduate days, what did you enjoy and dislike about your GP attachment? If you create an enjoyable experience, not only will the students you teach want to be GPs, they will also talk about their experience and prompt other students to opt for your practice rather than a neighbouring one.

  • Dr Rodger Charlton is a GP in Solihull, West Midlands, and associate clinical professor at Warwick Medical School

These further action points may allow you to earn more credits by increasing the time spent and the impact achieved.

  • Discuss at a practice meeting what you need to do to become a potential teaching practice. Compile some action points and decide what each team member needs to do over the next four weeks. Get feedback at the next meeting.
  • Consider creating a practice website if you do not have one. Make a student information folder about your practice. Include details about the local area such as places to eat and, if necessary, accommodation.
  • Draft a letter of interest and a short CV to distribute to local medical schools. Include what you believe you and your practice have to offer to students and the medical school. Teaching and training are recognised extended areas of practice for your revalidation ePortfolio and can be included in your personal development plan.

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