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This term saw an exciting new venture for Year 2 students, run jointly between the Patient & Doctor and Psychology for Medicine courses. Students were given the opportunity to experience reflective practice in a group setting, with the aim of helping them think about their emotional responses to patient encounters. GP Tutor, Lorna Monteith, reflects on her experiences facilitating this new session.

A photo of a man and sunset sky reflected in the sea

Thinking about interactions within a consultation is a critical part of medical training, both the emotions involved and the dynamics between patient and clinician. It helps us to apply the science to the person in front of us and to analyse why our patient might be presenting in a certain way, or with particular symptoms. By putting our own emotions under the spotlight, we can critique and change our behaviour, challenging our natural biases and ways of thinking. This makes a real difference to the quality of the care we give our patients. It also helps us to keep fulfilled and excited about our jobs, not to mention healthy in our lives.

Our patients tell us their secrets. We are part of their lives when they experience true joy, complete despair or when taking their last breath. We then have to go home, do the school run, get the food shopping and live back in the real world with everyone else. We need to understand how to process the things we see and do as doctors. Things that at times can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. We also need skills to support our valuable colleagues with their feelings and experiences too.

With this in mind, teaching the new Psychology for Medicine/Patient Doctor Course session felt really important. Giving second year students the opportunity to start to explore these themes and reflect on cases they had seen was a special thing to be involved with. The session incorporated the expertise of tutors from General Practice and Psychiatry working together. As educators, we were able to challenge and support each other which kept things fresh and exciting. We hope this cross-disciplinary collaboration added to the student experience too.

The sessions took the approach of a “light touch” Balint group, modified to suit the early stage in training and experience of these students. In small groups, we aimed to think around the issues raised by one or two cases encountered during the Patient & Doctor course. This led to discussions around undiscovered elements of the case, dynamics within relationships, emotions engendered in ourselves and the reasons for these. There was so much to process and students engaged with some very challenging topics in a respectful and professional way. Everyone had a different emotional experience during the session and seeing these differing experiences modelled and shared was incredibly valuable.

Thinking about the connections we make with others is part of what makes medicine an art-form rather than a pure science. This is what it is all about. The nitty gritty, the dark and dirty feelings that make our patients human but also make us human too. In some ways this session was just about making a start in this area, but an important one nonetheless.

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