Teaching as an academic GP

Professor Ruth Chambers reveals a fresh challenge for well-established GPs - teaching other GPs.

Some universities employ local GPs as occasional tutors to facilitate problem-based learning
Some universities employ local GPs as occasional tutors to facilitate problem-based learning

Once you are well established as a GP, you might want a new challenge or special interest - why not consider a teaching role?

Teaching in a deanery
You may want to be a GP trainer teaching junior doctors or registrars. A trainers' course may be helpful to allow you to give tutorials to GP registrars or ST1 or ST2 doctors progressing through vocational training.

As a GP trainer, you might climb up the career scale to run the local vocational training scheme as a primary care medical educator (PCME), or go on to apply for senior deanery posts such as associate GP dean with sub-regional responsibility for GP training. Ultimately, becoming director of postgraduate GP education is a possibility.

To be a PCME you should expect to have, or be studying for, a Postgraduate Certificate of Medical Education.

It is common for a medical educator in a deanery to work for, or with, a university too.

Sometimes deanery posts are based within a university, or a senior medical educator for a deanery has an honorary academic post recognising their academic status.

Alternatively, deaneries and primary care organisations (PCOs) employ GP tutors.

If it is a deanery, you are likely to be leading continuing professional development for doctors; if it is a PCO, you might run protected learning time schemes for GPs and their teams. You might help with performance issues, for example helping an underperforming doctor.

Teaching in a university
Before teaching in a university, you might start by taking medical students in your practice.

Contact your nearest medical school to speak to someone already involved in medical education. There is a nominal payment to your practice to cover the costs of organising the placements and additional teaching time.

You could teach at a university medical school as an undergraduate clinical lecturer. You would be paid on the academic GP pay scale for university lecturers and senior lecturers, which ranges from around £72-99,000 per annum pro rata.

This is usually negotiable at appointment and depends on clinical and teaching experience and qualifications. Some universities employ local GPs as occasional tutors, to facilitate problem-based learning sessions, among other things.

The pay scale is much lower for a university lecturer in a post not requiring clinical knowledge, skills or experience - about half the rate of the clinical scale.

As well as teaching, organisational roles are available. These may involve teaching medical students in a university in conjunction with the deanery and training practices, for instance as a clinical community sub-dean (see Chris' story). Some GPs start as an undergraduate lecturer, then take a post as a GP tutor and then a GP trainer.

Once you have a grounding in medical education, you can diversify. Kay (see box) describes her career track to becoming a senior academic in postgraduate medical education.

  • Professor Chambers is an honorary professor at Staffordshire University and a GP in Stoke-on-Trent
Undergraduate Education - Chris' Story

'After I had been a GP for about five years, I wrote to the GP professor working at the local university asking if there were any opportunities for part-time teaching. The medical school is about five miles away from my practice. That was 20 years ago and I have been a part-time clinical lecturer at the university ever since - teaching medical students for one day per week. I love it. Now I am also the clinical community subdean for another day per week. I work with practices to prepare them to take medical students; I quality assure practice placements and check that teaching is appropriate and of good quality.'

  • Chris, GP


Postgraduate Education - Kay's Story

'I got into an academic post by accident. I was working as an honorary tutor in an ethics department after my MA in medical ethics. The university was short of someone to teach epidemiology so I stood in temporarily. I ended up running two modules a year for two years. One thing led to another and I reached senior lecturer over the next seven years. Then I saw the advert for my current job, fancied a change, applied and got it. As director of postgraduate medicine, I am responsible for all academic and professional courses after registration.

My role involves teaching (medical ethics, communication skills, teaching the teachers), management and strategic planning, quality assurance, faculty support and development.'

  • Kay, GP and part-time university academic

Learning points

1. As a GP trainer, you could teach foundation doctors and registrars in your practice.

2. It is common for a medical educator in a deanery to work with a university too.

3. As a GP tutor, you could have a role in continuing professional development.

4. Diverse lecturing or organisational roles at universities are available.

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