Training - How to make the most of your trainer

Planning and preparation will ensure you have a successful year, says Dr Alison Glenesk.

Teacher? Friend? Supervisor? Mentor? What would you like your trainer to be? Many registrars just starting their year might not even have considered this important aspect of their training. The answer is, of course, that your trainer might adopt all these roles at different times, though some are more conducive to the training relationship than others.

You have to appreciate the complexities of the GP trainer-registrar relationship.

Following years of variable and inconsistent hospital teaching, it might seem like an impossible dream to have a personal tutor to guide you through the complexities of general practice and be available at all times to help you sort things out, but this is what actually happens. It is very important to choose not just a practice that seems attractive, but also a trainer with whom you will get on well. It is essential for you to interview a few candidates (even though they think its the other way round).

Many registrars choose their training practice quite early, and it is sensible to keep in touch in the period before you join it. Keenness is much prized by trainers, and will certainly get you off to a good start.

You can also look at ideas for your audit project, and generally get to know how things work.

Taking charge

The key to a successful year is to realise early on that you must take charge of your own learning, using your trainer as a facilitator and mentor.

It might not seem quite this way when you are following a hectic prearranged programme, however your role as an adult learner will develop through the year.

You should try to work out what your learning needs are. 'All of general practice' is perhaps too general. There will be areas you have not covered since you undergraduate days, and you might have topics of special interest.

You should also have some idea about sitting the MRCGP exam.

Put this together with other topics suggested by your trainer, and you have an acceptable programme for much of the year.

The cornerstone of your training is the tutorial, for which you and your trainer will have protected time. You should decide on topics well in advance and then look at resources you can both use to prepare for them; for example guidelines, journal articles, net-based resources and actual cases.

This makes the tutorial a stimulating discussion, rather than a boring, one-way teacher-pupil encounter. Most tutorials start with time to analyse your difficult cases. However, after a month or two you will manage most routine consultations easily. Most trainers enjoy a challenging management problem, so keep notes for discussion and treat this as a training exercise.

You might also be asked to bring along routine cases for random case analyses. It's amazing what you can get out of seemingly straightforward cases.

Consulting skills

Some problems might need a quick solution and you should not hesitate in asking for advice at any time.

Consulting skills are usually learned by sitting in with your trainer, joint consulting and by the use of video, which assumes more urgency with the exam in view. You will get much more out of video analysis with a little preparation. Pre-select the cases you want to look at and have some idea about the areas you want help with. At first this can be difficult, but you will gradually learn to analyse and improve your own consulting .You might also find it useful to look at your trainer consulting on video.

Trainers vary in how much help they offer for the exams. You will certainly have supervision for your audit project and your consulting skills and practical help with aspects of your video. You will be looking at ethical issues all year and can concentrate on this important area before the MRCGP oral exams.

Feedback

Finally, assessment happens continuously and not just at formal appraisals.

You should be prepared to accept any resulting feedback and then act on it. Equally, if there is any aspect of your training you want to change, be honest about it - constructive criticism should be a two-way process.

Most qualified GPs rate their registrar year as their most enjoyable, so try to integrate yourself into the practice and make friends with your trainer. You never know, they might be next year's colleague.

- Dr Glenesk is a GP in Aberdeen and a summative assessment examiner.

LEARNING POINTS

How to plan your training year

- It is important to pick not just a practice that seems attractive, but also a trainer with whom you will get on well.

Many registrars choose their training practice quite early and it is sensible to keep in touch until you join.

The key to a successful year is to realise early on that you must take charge of your own learning, using your trainer as a facilitator and mentor.

You should decide on topics for tutorials in advance and look at resources you can both use to prepare for them, for example guidelines, journal articles, internet resources and actual cases. Remember that there will be areas you have not covered since your undergraduate days.

You should not hesitate to ask for advice at any time.

Assessment happens continuously and not just at formal appraisals, therefore you should be prepared to accept any resulting feedback and act upon it.

RESOURCES

www.rcgp.org.uk

Pendleton D, Schofield T, Tate P, Havelock P. The consultation: an approach to learning and teaching. Oxford University Press, 1984.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus