'Swapping' trainees among different practices can improve GP training

Swapping GP trainees among practices with vastly different circumstances in their final year improves their confidence and helps alleviate concerns of entering the workplace, analysis of a scheme in Swindon has shown.

Delegates at the RCGP conference listen to the short papers presented by GP researchers
Delegates at the RCGP conference listen to the short papers presented by GP researchers

GP Dr Elizabeth Alden, a training programme director in Swindon has been running the practice swap project for over two years, and called for other areas to implement the measure after its successes.

The scheme involves swapping GP trainees approaching the end of ST3 among practices for two-week stints to help them get new experiences and reduce anxiety of their impending release into the world of independent practice.

‘We tried to swap them to as different a place as possible to where they had been in their ST2 and ST3 placements to really throw them out of their comfort zone,’ Dr Alden said at the RCGP annual conference in Harrogate, where she was presenting the results.

Once on their placement, trainees were treated exactly as if they were an ordinary locum or salaried GP visiting the practice, with only ‘light touch supervision’.

They found that this enhanced confidence, improved ability to cope with pressure, improved adaptability of consultation style and helped trainees reflect on their future career intentions.

There were some challenges to the scheme, namely that some trainees were not well enough prepared ahead of the swap, while others struggled with managing the finances and paperwork involved.

Some of the trainees on the programme ended up with offers of employment and locum work as a result of the scheme.

‘It helped some trainees realise what kind of place they actually wanted to work in,’ Dr Alden said. ‘It also led to good practice and innovative ideas being shared - that was fantastic.

‘Despite us being quite nervous about how it would go, there were no serious problems and everyone was amazingly positive. Trainees loved it, and trainers were fantastically supportive - even though we made more work for them.

‘In conclusion, I would say it’s worth thinking about introducing - it allows trainees to learn things they can’t get anywhere else.’

The research was one of several studies presented at the RCGP annual conference 2016 in Harrogate.

Full coverage of RCGP annual conference

Photo: Pete Hill

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