Teaching opportunities for GPs

Teaching undergraduates, trainees, other GPs or other healthcare professionals - there are many medical teaching roles available to GPs.

GP teaching roles can range from the provision of occasional courses to offering portfolio career advice
GP teaching roles can range from the provision of occasional courses to offering portfolio career advice

Teaching has long been associated with a medical career.

A translation of work attributed to Hippocrates reveals that even in the fourth century BC, it was encouraged: 'to teach (one's master's children) ... without fee or contract; and that by the set rules, lectures, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to students bound by this contract'.1

More recently, the GMC's Good Medical Practice stated: 'You should be prepared to contribute to teaching and training doctors and students.'2

Teaching undergraduates

Teaching medical undergraduates has increased over the years, following recommendations for a higher proportion of community-based teaching for medical students.

The teaching requirements can vary in type and length. Some may be with an individual final-year student undertaking a few weeks' placement for a general practice component.

Others may be to groups of first-year students visiting the practice regularly throughout a year or more, for the delivery of a broad spectrum of the medical school's curriculum.

The local medical school is normally the first option for this, but there are also some medical schools whose students are permitted to travel further afield for some of their teaching.

This is particularly for assistance with some primary care based intercalated degrees or parts of the curriculum where, for example, ruralbased medicine may prove useful to an urban-based medical school.

Roles and opportunities could include being the GP lead for teaching provision, provider of tutorials, demonstrator of procedures such as joint injections and minor surgery, as well as filling the lunch-time gap by taking students on appropriate home visits.

There are numerous teaching opportunities at the medical school itself. These may be for required parts of a course, such as communication skills workshops and problem-based learning sessions, or as part of the assessment team.

Such opportunities may range from occasional course delivery to being the regular supervisor of a group of students throughout an academic year.

More informally, perhaps, are offers to speak and run teaching sessions at individual student medical society meetings.

Furthermore, in some parts of their course, students can choose from a list of optional modules, often known as student selected components (SSC).

Such modules often fall into medical, scientific or humanity subjects. Therefore, GPs with a special interest, experience of a portfolio career, or particular hobbies can create and run modules to enhance the student curriculum.

Practices can also offer SSCs specific to their characteristics and services, which may include, for example, adolescent medicine, rural medicine and drug intervention work.

Teaching postgraduates

GP trainees
GP specialist trainees (GPSTs) have regular protected teaching on their vocational training scheme (VTS).

This is often provided by local GP trainers, but further sessions could be offered and discussed with the local programme director.

A non-exhaustive list of options for teaching on a VTS includes small group work, leading a session, delivering a session with a secondary care colleague, providing mock clinical skills assessment scenarios, offering portfolio career advice and experiences such as working at a police station, prison or sports venue.

Teaching practices have traditionally been those having GPSTs working with them. These require GP trainers from the practice to act as supervisors.

This is an important teaching role that a practice may look to initiate or to expand by adding extra trainers to those already offered.

Other postgraduates
Foundation year training is increasingly including general practice.3

Roles that are similar to teaching medical students and GPSTs, as mentioned above, can be undertaken. Importantly, it is to this foundation year group in particular that education about the realities of a career in general practice should be provided.

Practice-based teaching

In addition to the above practice-based opportunities, there are other allied healthcare professionals to whom teaching could be offered, for example, students of other healthcare branches who are based at, or who work with, the practice.

Practice and primary care educational meetings can be used to teach a group on a required topic, as well as helping to deliver any appraisal or practice needs for healthcare assistants, nurses, dispensers or reception staff. Sometimes there is a local need for teaching among groups of such staff.

Dispensers and nursing staff in particular often have educational meetings, for which GP-led teaching can be appropriate and well received.

Teaching GPs

Being a GP appraiser can be a teaching and mentoring opportunity. In terms of group teaching, there are study groups, postgraduate events and other GP practices.

There may be a position available as a VTS course organiser that encompasses GP and GPST teaching roles. Regionally and nationally, there may also be courses for which teaching by a GP is required. If there is a gap in provision of a particular topic, a role as a lead for such a topic can be created by liaising with the relevant deaneries or colleges.

There is a growing need for GP-provided education, partly because of the rise in undergraduate teaching and proposed longer vocational training. This offers teaching opportunities for both GPs and GPSTs.

  • Dr Metcalfe is a GP in York and honorary senior clinical tutor, Hull York Medical School


1. National Library of Health. Greek medicine: The Hippocratic oath.

2. GMC. Good Medical Practice. London, GMC, 2013.

3. Nagel C, Kirby J, Rushforth B et al. Clinical Teacher 2011; 8: 249-53.

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