GP training: How to get the most from the trainee e-portfolio

Dr Patrice Baptiste provides advice on what GP trainees need to include in their e-portfolio and how to stay on track with recording evidence of learning and competence.

(Photo: Poike/Getty Images)
(Photo: Poike/Getty Images)

When I began the GP training programme during 2016 I remember the difficulty I had with getting to grips with the e-portfolio. Overall the impression I got from others was that it was not viewed as the most user friendly system (and over time began to see why).

It seems that the RCGP has recognised this as well and a new portfolio has been developed and is due to launch in 2020. You can find more information on this here.

The college has said that all existing work in the e-portfolio, including anything you are currently midway through entering, will be moved across to the new training portfolio.

This article is intended to help you understand what you need to record in the training portfolio and provides some advice, based on my own experiences as a trainee of how to stay on track with recording this.

Have a look around

If you didn’t already know, you have to register with the online portfolio and this includes purchasing it. Before you begin to worry about all the things you have complete and get signed off I would suggest having a general look at the portfolio itself.

If you do this now, you will still be on the existing e-portfolio. On that platform you will see that when you sign in there are two menus – one on the left hand side and one centrally. You can access different areas via one of these two menus. It is actually self-explanatory so take the time to have a look at various areas.

You also need to ensure you sign any declarations before you begin your placements.

Personal development plan (PDP)

Before each placement you need to write a PDP, (you can write more throughout the year if you like), which you need to go through with your supervisor at your initial meeting. This will be the main objectives you hope to achieve during your placement.

It is a good idea to do this early as it can easily be forgotten, especially if you are starting a busy rotation.

For example, if you are working within a general practice setting you may want to learn more about the set up and structure of a GP surgery, from the services offered by the practice and in the surrounding areas, to the wider setting of the primary care network and CCG.

When I was working at a hospice I wrote a PDP about how I would like to improve my communication skills, especially with regards to the sensitive topic of death. I set myself the task of completing a communication skills course along with related workplace-based assessments and logs.

Evidence

Evidence comes in many forms, from reflective logs where you reflect on a case you learned from, or a significant event that shows team working and changing practice.

It also includes audits or quality improvement projects (QIPs). You will need to complete one by the end of your training and if you undertake an audit you will need to complete the audit cycle.

It is a good idea, to provide your supervisor and ultimately the ARCP panel with a variety of evidence that shows you meet the curriculum as detailed by the RCGP. One area I would encourage regular use of in the training portfolio is the ‘curriculum coverage’ area. This allows you to see where you need more evidence.

For example, areas such as ENT, eye problems and genetics can easily fall by the wayside, so use this to monitor of where you need to improve, or provide more evidence to demonstrate your competence.

There is a lot to cover, so at the start of the year know what the minimum requirements are for each area. I would also encourage you to do slightly more than the minimum.

Clinical examination and procedural skills (CEPS) is another important piece of evidence to mention. You can either write about the CEPs you completed (and I would recommend being observed 100% of the time you record one) or you can send a ticket request like the other assessments. Make sure you complete the minimum at least.

Speaking to colleagues from present and past this can easily be forgotten and left to the last minute. Overall, make sure you provide the evidence you need steadily throughout the year rather than at the last minute, which I know can be difficult to do at times.

Reflective logs

Sad but true, reflective logs were not seen as a positive throughout my training by many colleagues, junior and senior to me. Although I did not get time set aside for adding information to the portfolio, which would have helped immensely, I still saw the benefit to reflective writing and really enjoyed producing quality logs.

Whatever career you’re in, it is crucial to reflect on your day-to-day experiences and challenges. This will not only help you improve and become better at what you do but it will help you not to make any similar mistakes again.

In medicine, because of the nature of our work, small mistakes can potentially have significant consequences for patients and their families and I believe that reflecting on day-to-day experiences and challenges is necessary and integral to what we do – I’ve written more on this here. The issue is understanding how to reflect and to do it in a way that ensures you and your patients can get maximum benefit. You might want to read this two-part article on GPonline as a good introduction to this skill.

Another important point is how to make your logs clear. Given your supervisor is already swamped with a million things to do, I would advise you set clear headings so that they can easily link the areas you have demonstrated competency in.

For example, if you have demonstrated data gathering and interpretation, why not include this in the text or use it as a heading. This makes it much easier for you to keep track of the areas you have shown you are competent in, as well as your supervisor. I also sometimes used bullet points to break the text up and make it easier to read.

There is much more I could discuss with regards to the portfolio, but I will finish by saying that the portfolio really is your friend. It is a very useful way to keep a record of your progress and achievements, which should be clear and accurate for your supervisor and ultimately the ARCP panel. Hopefully the new version next year should also make it much more user-friendly.

  • Dr Patrice Baptiste is a London-based portfolio GP. She has also founded a medical careers company called DreamSmartTutors.

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