The teamwork and negotiation skills course I attended recently was run by very experienced GPs on behalf of the London deanery.
The course flyer indicated that it was aimed at training GP registrars or newly qualified GPs. To my surprise, it attracted a mixed bunch comprising not only ST1 and ST2 doctors, but also an experienced partner.
The majority were registrars within weeks of completing GP training. Most of the attendees were part of a primary healthcare team and worked with both clinical and non-clinical colleagues.
The goal was to equip us with skills to help us work better in teams. I thought the negotiation part would come in handy when dealing with employers and PCT officials and when I come to securing a suitable post after the registrar year.
It was a three-day residential course, although those with young families did not have to stay over.
The course was set in the plush surroundings of Cumberland Lodge, Windsor in Berkshire - a tranquil setting with a most refreshing ambience, indeed a far cry from the cities.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth bequeathed Cumberland Lodge to an educational charity in 1947 to provide a relaxing and comfortable venue for the exchange of knowledge. The trust subsidised our stay.
Surprisingly, the lodge is still a family home with set times for the meals, which we ate together in the picturesque dining room. This was followed by time for socialising either in the bar/tearoom, or around the fireplace.
After supper, evenings were spent reading the newspapers, chatting, playing table soccer or watching the only TV in the whole mansion, which is in the Queen Mother's sitting room.
Know before you go
The first day was dedicated to teamwork. We had to first discover our own innate contributions to a team, before breaking up into small groups to take part in various team-building exercises.
After these we returned to the large group for some teaching and to compare achievements.
Without giving too much away, the exercises were all different and mostly non-medical, as the benefits of the course were designed to transcend our medical environment and subsequently serve us well outside work.
Each was designed with a different goal, but they all involved the team working out the best way to complete the task - be it making the most money or achieving some other desirable outcome.
Most of us had never met before and this was part of the challenge. We were totally unaided by the facilitator, whose role was to observe and feed back at the end of the course.
It soon became evident that one group stood out, getting the best results in most tasks, whereas the other groups seemed to be struggling, probably, in the words of member, due to their 'large personalities'.
It became clear that the success of teams was based on several factors, such as good relationships, valuing diversity and being flexible enough to work in other roles as needed by the team.
The next day we learnt about negotiation skills through short lectures, handouts and, best of all, practice at different activities. This demonstrated how, by using certain words or actions, we could clinch or kill a deal.
Some of us discovered why we were not in business, whereas others discovered hitherto latent business skills.
The groups who had had more time after supper to bond seemed to be producing better results this time.
After lunch, we were rewarded with the opportunity to go for a short walk to take in some of the refreshingly clean country air.
The third and final day was for summarising the learning points, mock job interviews and reflection (we wouldn't be GPs without that).
Then, working in our groups, we each had to write on a large poster a complimentary quality we had observed in each team member. We could also give personalised feedback on their contribution to the team and advice for the future.
Many felt this was a real plus; I for one was very pleased with my feedback.
I strongly recommend this course, even if you've already used your educational allowance, as it equips you with lifelong skills, confidence, practical knowledge of life and group dynamics, and is as much fun as a holiday.
- Dr Agomo is a newly qualified GP in London
- For more information on this course visit www.londondeanery.ac.uk