Careers - Organising an educational event

Anyone who has enthusiasm for education could be a course organiser, explains Dr Andrew Wilfin.

Decide on the format of the day, the course content and how the information will be communicated
Decide on the format of the day, the course content and how the information will be communicated

GPs can become involved in education in a number of different ways and organising a course can be very rewarding.

Recently I organised my first study day at the RCGP. I believe it is important for GPs to have other roles outside surgery commitments. Being involved in an educational event fosters relationships with other colleagues, provides a creative outlet and enables learning of clinical and organisational skills.

What skills are needed?
Having some experience of teaching, which most of us have as doctors, is beneficial but not essential. There are some courses you can attend to improve your teaching skills, which is helpful as you may want to be the chairperson or even do some of the teaching yourself. Attending educational events will give you ideas for course topics and how to run an event.

If you have areas of special interest then you may want to organise an event that uses your knowledge. You might want to try out some ideas on your colleagues at work in a more relaxed environment before taking things to the next level.

Getting involved
Contact your local GPVTS, RCGP faculty or PCT as they all provide educational events. I joined my local RCGP faculty educational committee and agreed to organise a paediatric study day. I was slightly anxious as although I had organised medical student teaching I had never attempted a whole day event for doctors.

I decided on paediatrics as this is something all GPs need to know about and I have done some extra work in this area.

Planning a course
The first step is to draw up a business plan, which needs to include costs for speakers, premises hire (there may not be a cost), catering, equipment (e.g. computer hire) and printing (e.g. handouts).

Costs for speakers will depend on the length of their talks and the amount of preparation and should be negotiated individually. Work out how many people you would like to attend and how much to charge.

When deciding on the amount to charge you need to think about how much people would be willing to pay and how much money you need to cover your costs. I decided to charge £100 for RCGP members and £60 for associates in training. As course organiser you need to negotiate a charge for your preparation time and being present on the day.

Decide on the course content and how the information will be communicated. Lecture-based sessions are the usual format, but for courses where skills are being taught practical sessions will need to be included. If you organise a practical course, think very carefully about the numbers you could cater for.

Choose your speakers wisely and all the better if you have seen them in action. Make sure your lecturers know the content you want them to cover and the sessions are as relevant as possible to the audience. Regular short breaks between sessions are important and probably should be taken every 45 minutes with coffee every 90 minutes.

Before the day itself, assess the need for a microphone and remember some lecturers speak quietly.Also make sure you will have access to the electronic equipment you will need, including a slide changer.

Always aim to finish an event early as this is a day off work and GPs will want to get away by 5pm at the latest.

Why organise an event?
Organising a course was a very rewarding experience for me and I will certainly organise further events. Ensure participants fill out feedback forms at the end of the day, and only give out certificates if you receive the form back. These forms will highlight what went well and will guide future changes if you decide to organise another event.

Apart from financial rewards you have the chance to learn an area of medicine in more detail and work closely with colleagues in secondary care. Anyone who feels they need a creative outlet may find organising a course rewarding and give more balance to their work.

  • Dr Wilfin is a salaried GP in Wembley, north London.

Learning points

1. Choose an area of medicine that you know plenty about and that you feel will be well attended.

2. Keep the course content relevant to your audience and if possible meet with your speakers beforehand to go through their material.

3. Have regular breaks during the day and do not finish late.

4. Bring some humour into the event.

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