The RCGP Curriculum covers the whole of general practice from practice management to specific clinical areas. However, many GPs do not refer to the curriculum, possibly because they are put off by its size and apparent complexity.
Nonetheless, it is a sound foundation from which GPs can base their learning.
Mind mapping is a useful and under-utilised learning tool for medical education. It is the ideal platform to promote the core information that is contained in the curriculum and promote it in a format which is engaging, easy to use and fun. It facilitates grasping the bigger picture and the detail simultaneously.
Mind mapping is essentially a graphical system of thinking and note-taking that can be used in addition to your preferred way of learning.
It can enhance rather than replace what you already do. It mimics the brain's own workings by starting with a central concept or idea and then branching out in a radiant fashion rather than linearly (such as reading sentences in a book).
The brain also thinks visually and the extensive use of images and colours in a typical mind map is appealing, enhancing creativity and making things easier to understand and remember. It works by links and associations.
The structure of a mind map allows additional material to be incorporated into the mind without needing major re-writes. The map is never finished and therefore always up to date.
Digital mind mapping
Many of you will be familiar with mind mapping in its basic form using pen and paper but perhaps not with digital versions. These are extremely powerful and perfect for medical education.
A standard mind map is easy: a central topic or image, branches and key words.
The detail appears as you move away from the centre. Colours, graphics, shape and form appeal to the right brain making it more memorable.
The use of keywords and associations mimic the workings of the human brain.
I have created a free online resource for all GPs, trainees and medical students using videos and mind maps based on the RCGP curriculum (http://medicalmindmaps.com) - see map below using polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR).
The online versions even allow you to save links to websites. The fact that you can access the resource at the point that you need it not only makes it easy to find again, but also places it in context. This is hugely beneficial to understanding and remembering: what educationalists call comprehension and recall.
You can also view information in the notes pane. The information is where you want it - but only reveals itself by clicking the notes pane icon, helping to keep the map uncluttered.
Existing electronic mind mapping programs that can be purchased also provide a helpful way of centralising your collected or created resources and demonstrating your learning.
To avoid cluttering the map these are hidden from view until revealed by clicking on a paperclip icon. Any sort of file, such as PDFs, can be attached. The software allows you to open all these files within the program.
You can even use the notes pane to write reflective entries on your CPD at the very location of your learning.
There is little point in having a fantastic collection of learning if you cannot find things easily. Fortunately, there is an array of tools to locate information quickly and comprehensively.
The online maps I have provided can be searched individually but other online mind maps let you search for text across all the mind maps. You can search for font, colours and map markers. You can filter the maps so all the branches apart from the ones you want are hidden.
Other online mind maps also have elegant integration with Powerpoint. The maps can be printed or exported into Microsoft Word and other formats. Most of all it is fun to use and involves the right and left brain, making it memorable.
Electronic mind mapping is an extremely powerful tool that has huge potential in the field of medical education. The versions of mind maps I have produced based on the GP Curriculum can be used for personal learning or teaching. So have fun and with the time you save in learning, make sure to improve your work-life balance.
- Dr Jesuthasan is a GP in Ipswich