Small study groups can provide a learning environment that simply cannot be replicated by lone working or large lectures.
- They model team working which is the current template for working and leadership in the NHS. Nobody works alone anymore so the skills you see and develop in your groups are highly relevant to your training and your future career.
- They provide a social framework which can reduce isolation and help group members integrate with colleagues in the area.
- They provide a degree of continuity for you during your years on the NGPTP.
- They are excellent both for exam preparation and for laying a foundation for life-long learning. Life-long learning is a core activity for medical practice and is enshrined in the UK by annual appraisal and regular revalidation.
The wide range of possible topics (see below for some ideas) provides a rich learning environment for every member of the group. Experience tells us that most GPR’s do form informal study groups during their time on the NGPTP. These groups tend to focus on exam issues. Exam preparation will remain a key aspect of these groups but there is much more potential for the groups.
The plan is that groups will be informal, self-sustaining and supportive to group members. Whether the group flourishes or not will depend on you.
2. What is the role of the NGPTP in the study groups?
The NGPTP will help you establish your group. This will be done by the Training Programme Directors (TPDs) facilitating the ½ day release programme in ST1. The TPDs will help you understand the role and function of the groups, give you an opportunity to run them for a 3 week period during the half-day release programme, then help you de-brief on how they are going.
After that the NGPTP is expecting the group to arrange its own meeting times, dates and venues. The NGPTP is not providing protected time for the groups apart from the 3 weeks during the half-day release programme. Group meetings will not form part of your study leave entitlement.
In view of this the NGPTP will not require any formal feedback from the groups on their activities: we want you to decide what to do and get on with doing it. The NGPTP likewise will not require any record of attendance and minutes at group meetings except for the weeks the group meets during the half-day release programme as per Health Education North East requirements.
The NGPTP will provide an opportunity every 6 months for people to review their groups. This will occur during ½ day/full day release teaching sessions.
We are very interested to know what you decide to do so we intend to ask each group to complete a short survey (done electronically using surveymonkey) every 6 months. The reason for this is not to limit what you do but to find out how helpful the group is to you (and why/why not) and what have you decided to do in the group. We will be able to use this information to better refine the study groups for future GPR’s and we may write this up as a service evaluation.
3. How will the study groups work?
You will need to decide how often to meet, when and where. We are hoping you will decide to meet at least 10 times a year. Many informal study groups meet weekly in the run-up to the CSA exam.
For a group to function well the following issues need to be understood and set in place:
- There has to be a clear idea of the role of the group (in this case it is to provide peer support and an educational environment that will allow group members to become competent and confident GP’s).
- Group rules need to be articulated and recorded in the first meeting. These are likely to be similar to the group rules you developed in your half-day release programme.
- Likewise there needs to be a clear understanding that these rules should be referred to when needed.
- Someone needs to take responsibility for organising the group: e-mailing, arranging meeting times and venues etc. This can be rotated around the group but perhaps no more frequently than every 6 months.
- Likewise someone needs to take responsibility for chairing the meeting. This can be rotated every meeting if the group so decides.
- There needs to be a commitment from group members to make the meetings a priority.
It makes sense to write up your thoughts and learning points from your meeting and include them in the Learning Log of your e-portfolio.
4. What ideas are there for meetings?
- Problem Cases. These are always worth doing.
- Significant events.
- Review of a clinic.
- Issues at work esp. issues around working with colleagues and in teams, ethical issues and fitness to practice.
- General support and social events. These are very important to help people feel integrated in the training programme and in the area.
- Cultural discussions and events. This can provide insights into local NE culture, organisational culture, national UK culture and overseas culture. For example group members can arrange a meal in which they share aspects of their culture and values.
- AKT preparation looking at topics together that are likely to come up in exams: NICE guidelines, hot topics, areas previously identified by the examiners as being below standard.
- CSA practice. There are plenty of books and websites with practice cases.
- Preparation for practice: looking beyond the end of the training programme to discuss issues such as jobs, CV’s, work-life balance, continuing medical education (how, when, why, where?). Appraisal.
- Art in Medicine. There is a wealth of material that could be used here to provide interesting and useful discussions relevant to your training. Film, TV, literature including poetry, visual arts can all be powerful tools for learning.
- History of Medicine. Again there are lots of tools out there that help us to learn why we practice medicine the way we do, provide insights into patient expectations and cultural attitudes etc.
5. What resources are available?
The internet is awash with resources so often the best advice is to decide what you want to do then go looking for the resource. However there are some resources which we regularly use at the NGPTP and we have listed them below.
Bradford VTS: http://www.bradfordvts.co.uk/ This excellent site contains a huge amount of useful training material along with links to many other on-line resources. It is maintained and developed by Ramesh Mehay, a TPD at the Bradford VTS.
RCGP: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/ You will all be familiar with this. It contains a lot of useful information especially about exams, ongoing medical education, topics etc.
NICE: http://www.nice.org.uk/ For latest guidelines that will be used in your exams.
GP Training: http://www.gp-training.net/ Another website containing a wealth of learning material on all aspects of GP Training.
Penine VTS: http://www.pennine-gp-training.co.uk/
Trip database: http://www.tripdatabase.com/ A useful a free medical database.
Cinemeducation, a comprehensive guide to using film in medical education. Editors: Alexander M, Lenahan P, Pavlov A. Radcliffe publishing, Oxford. There are now 2 volumes of this book. It allows you to pick films and discuss their relevance to your training. Film is a great medium for medical education.
Baltic art gallery, Gateshead. A trip here can provide you with useful insights into the world of Medicine