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Undergraduate tutors Dr Rachel Allen, Dr Laura Ingle and Dr Ruth Wilson reflect on a what has been challenging year for undergraduate primary care teaching.

A graphic of different forms of online learning © Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

How to pandemic-proof an OSCE

Dr Rachel Allen, Year 5 Lead

MBBS, MMedEd, MRCGP Rachel Allan - Deputy Academic Lead for Undergraduate GP TeachingFirst and foremost, I want to say a huge thank you to all our Year 5 tutors for the last six months of having students back in practice following the resumption of the clinical course. Your dedication, flexibility, good humour and excellent teaching in challenging times has been valued both by our students and by us, so thank you for all you have done. 

Feedback from students about their time on placement continues to be excellent. It's been a busy six months: the new interactive canvas modules that we are continuing to develop have transformed how we deliver teaching to our year 5 students. Despite all the Covid-19 restrictions, we were able to run a face-to-face 'mega' OSCE in September to finish off the last academic year. It was necessarily shortened, and we exchanged the location of Tingewick Hall for a local GP surgery. Although they had to negotiate PPE changes, students demonstrated once again their excellence in a clinical setting. 

We will continue to adapt things as Covid-19 restrictions change, so please do let me know any feedback on student placements. I would love to hear about what is working well and areas that we can improve.

"You're on mute!"

Dr Laura Ingle, Year 5 seminar tutor, explores the logistics and hitches of teaching on MS Teams 

An image of Laura IngleI wonder how many of us had heard of MS Teams or Zoom this time last year, let alone delivered a workshop via an online platform? Even the lingo would sound alien to my 2019-self. 

Six months after my first MS Teams teaching session, it is now a familiar friend. I've learnt that there will always be an IT issue of some sort; a student can't access the "chat" to see a case I've posted, or someone's microphone is so distant it creates loud feedback. However, the acceptance that glitches will occur means I'm more adept at managing this: a quick email to share the cases we're discussing, or muting the student whilst their microphone is fixed. 

Some students are confident in the online setting, others a little reticent. Getting each student to share how their placement is going right at the beginning of the session has assisted with logistics (are their camera and microphone working?) but also helped me gauge how easily the student finds opening up to the faces on their screen.

Regular feedback from the students on how they find the online tutorials has been incredibly useful, and allowed tweaking of the sessions. One student commented, "I really appreciated that you waited a while after asking if we had questions, so there was actually time to phrase and ask one". So I'm now more conscious to leave pauses during discussions, to allow for slow internet connections, and students' thinking time. 

I've still lots to learn (hosting break-out discussion groups on Teams would be wonderful) but in a year of change, the online setting has been a useful way to continue teaching and also an enjoyable experience. As one student commented, "this was really good (and fun!), even online!".

Learning from a pandemic

Dr Ruth Wilson, Communication Skills Lead, reflects on a challenging year which has produced a wealth of positivity and innovation 

Ruth Wilson - GP TutorWhere to start with 2020!

We were part way through our teaching year when the Covid axe fell. We had to work fast to convert to online teaching sessions. We approached online teaching with some scepticism: how could communication around sensitive discussions - such as breaking bad news - ever be taught on a screen?

We produced an online module around remote consulting to support students in their video consulting. It’s now central to our teaching sessions. Thanks to Suzanne Stewart for all her hard work on this and to our colleagues at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, who collaborated with us to produce the module.

Thanks to the excellence and commitment of the tutors and actors, the sessions have worked really well and the feedback from students has been very positive. We do miss our chats and catch-ups and we are hoping to build some post-teaching chat rooms into next year’s teaching programme.

Emma Wiley and Maria Luque deserve their own very special thank you. It’s difficult to capture the enormity and urgency of the organisational challenge they faced as well as becoming familiar with the teaching platforms at speed.  It’s been a roller coaster of a ride for them and we are full of respect and gratitude. So, although the year started with many challenges, I would like to end it with some TLC.

  • Treasure what you have. Thank you to all our amazing tutors / actors / students / wider Primary Care Teaching team.
  • Learn what you can. We’ve all learned so much but perhaps most of all, we’ve learned what can be achieved with a collective will and purpose.
  • Connect. We have been able to make meaningful connections with each other and with our virtual patients and students and look forward to 2021 as a time of great (re)connection.

On behalf of all the Communication Skills teaching team, season’s greetings and let’s look forward to a happy, healthy and herd-immune 2021!


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