Dr Zoe Needham and Dr Nirshanthan Nagarajah are both practising GPs and medical educators. They joined the GP Education Group (GPEG), which is based at the Primary Care Unit, at the end of 2022. Dr Needham leads GP teaching for Year 6 medical students and Dr Nagarajah leads GP teaching for year 5 students. They talk about their new roles in this blog.
When I began teaching medical students, I’d forgotten how much we, as clinicians, have learned over the years; how much knowledge had become ingrained. I had to step right back: ‘What do they know, what have they been exposed to so far?’
I realised how challenging it can be – trying to fit around your learner’s starting point. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on your own clinical practice.
Teaching gives us the opportunity to showcase General Practice as a career and the depth and breadth of practice provides fantastic experience for our students. It helps us to keep up to date too.
My teaching memories are slightly different – they go back to when I was at school, teaching music. I have always loved teaching.
Good GPs are excellent communicators and very skilled listeners . Every clinician should have those skills whether they’re an orthopaedic surgeon or a renal physician.’
Even if the students that come to us are not going to be GPs, they will hopefully be better doctors and then better medical educators themselves. All our medical students need to understand what goes on in GP and the primary/secondary care interface.
We have the opportunity to guide young people into the field and they should choose it for the right reasons.
General Practice can be a really satisfying job. Students will witness both short and long-term interventions being implemented. All the preventative medicine is making real gains for someone’s health in the long-term. Even something simple like treating someone’s indigestion appropriately, that changes their quality of life.
In Year 6 GP placements, students have an excellent opportunity to hear the patient’s story, hone their clinical reasoning, and gain confidence, ready for their FY years.’
We bring a lot of anecdotes into our teaching to try and illustrate it for the students. We like to promote the positives of being a GP and the opportunities for students in placement are vast.
Our Year 6 students do a six week stretch in a GP placement. It’s a real apprenticeship; the student becomes part of the team. As a result, the GP tutor will become aware of any challenges the student is facing.
This is an opportunity for us, as a team, to identify issues and try to help.
We ask: ‘What can we offer this young person, how can we help them?’
We are really focused on encouraging our GP tutors to continue to take part in medical education, even when they have so many pressures.
We have just had a couple of practices saying they don’t think they can cope any more – someone’s off sick and they are the person that ran it or things are just too difficult.
So, we want to emphasise the benefits to the practice and the team of continuing the medical education part of your work.
Bringing new tutors on board is a big concern for us at GPEG. A lot of the time in practices, only one doctor is teaching and when that person leaves, you lose that practice.
Or, certain practices may just take year 4 students, for example, and we can enthuse them to take year 5 and 6 students.
Our annual tutor conference is coming up for our 180 or so teaching practices. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get talking with our tutors, one to one. If we can change something or support people in some way with their teaching, then that’s what it’s for.
Top: Dr Zoe Needham and Dr Nirshanthan Nagarajah at the Primary Care Unit
Middle image credit: Dr Nick Saffell
Bottom image credit: Chris Loades