Leciester medical school teaches how they taught their medical students

Earlier this month, Dr. Jane Bethea ran a workshop to teach medical educators her experience in teaching online consultations at the University of Leicester Medical School. Leicester is the first medical school in the world to teach online consultations as part of the medical curriculum, and they are doing so using Patients Know Best software. The faculty is doing amazing work and I always enjoy watching and learning from their experiences.

If you are available to see Jane and colleagues at the Royal Society of Medicine this May, it is well worth registering to join us for the evening. Here are some highlights for me. The video includes a good introduction about PKB and a reminder about Leicester’s psychometric testing. Each student is part of a group, and the testing ensures that the students will work together well over time.

Alongside Jane is Andy, a GP and educator, who heard about the program after reading the BMJ blog describing the first year of the program; and Rachel, who volunteered as a patient avatar and put the students through some impressive questioning. The questions originate from translations of curriculum teaching points by course leader Dr Ron Hsu. One of the questions she made up showed how useful online consultations are for safeguarding children. Mary said they encouraged the avatars to use the ethos of PKB by speaking their minds when they were not happy with the care they received from the students.

The students themselves raised important questions. Of course, it was important for their group learning that they discuss the cases with their peers, but could they do so in the coffee bar or using Facebook discussions? The Leicester faculty and I were impressed and surprised to discover the students approached the university legal team to ask this question.

The students coped well with the technology, engaging and responding in a timely and accurate fashion with the avatars. Over time, their ability to use lay language improved. What the students were less good at was showing empathy in their online written answers. The students were also less good at asking questions. When our chairman, Dr Richard Smith, visited them he was surprised that they asked no questions because they had thought they did not have permission to do so. So for the second year of the program the medical school focused the first week for the medical students to ask questions to get to know the avatars. This is the kind of relationship building the clinicians do face to face. Shifting online does not remove the need for and benefits from such relationship building, it just means that explicit time needs to be spent on this activity.

Also in the second year of this program we see the effects of the introduction of pharmacy students from De Montfort University. The students had to learn exactly the skills we would want them to learn for multi-disciplinary team work. I know from conversations with Ron that the medical students were initially unsure of what value they could add after the pharmacy students gave perfect answers around medications. Both students were initially unaware of the best way to discuss a case with the patient seeing their discussions. They soon learned when to discuss with the patient and when to discuss in separate private messages.

Leicester faculty have created great resources for their teaching. You can see some of the booklets they created and these are available for other universities who want to use PKB for their own teaching:

Leicester PKB Booklet

The faculty is expanding usage to include others, including community end of life care. They also want to add social worker students for next year.

The first year of students are now apparently known within the university as the “golden year” as they gelled so well, and it was “quite noticeable” that they were different because of exposure to PKB.  Three quarters of these students said they expected to communicate online with their patients after graduation, so they felt learning these skills was relevant to their clinical practice.

If you would like to offer the same teaching to your students, please contact us, we love to help.

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