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Looking at medical education in general practice – what does it mean for patients and students?

By Nathan M Davies, on 22 May 2014

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Dr Nada Khan and Dr Sophie Park discuss the work on their systematic review of medical education in general practice in the United Kingdom.

The Primary Care Educational Research Group (PCERG) is a multi-disciplinary research group that aims to conduct high quality research looking at medical education based in the community.  For the past year a team of researchers lead by Dr Sophie Park, who chairs the PCERG, have been bringing together research looking at how medical students learn in general practice in the United Kingdom.   It’s been an exciting project, and is now coming to an end after a fruitful year of research, collaborations and plans for the future.

The research project is registered with the Best Evidence in Medical Education (BEME) Collaborative, and is titled ‘A systematic review of UK undergraduate medical education in general practice’.  For the project, the research team searched through relevant evidence and found 169 papers that looked at the topic.  By looking at this previously published research we were able to bring together the current evidence, and build upon it to develop new findings and understandings of what happens when medical students and patients are involved with teaching consultations in general practice.

What are some of the main messages coming from this project?  There are several good news findings, including that medical students seemed to learn as well in general practice as in hospital, and that medical students, GPs and patients described different ways in which taking part in teaching benefitted them.  To give a few examples, medical students got a chance to see patients as a ‘whole person’, and GP tutors felt that taking part in teaching refreshed their knowledge base.  Patients often felt a sense of gain and altruism from taking part in teaching.  There were also some challenges raised. For example, some patients felt embarrassed or anxious when a medical student sat in on their consultation. Our findings suggest that how the GP manages the relationships between the student and the patient, and the GP themselves, can make an impact on the experiences of medical students and patients in teaching consultations.   The main findings from the project will be published on the BEME website later this summer.

Following on from this project, Dr Park’s team has now received additional funding for another study. We are going to conduct focus groups and interviews with medical students and patients and discuss with them our findings relating to medical education in general practice.  This is a step towards taking a piece of theoretical research back to the people it impacts and to get their impressions and ideas on how it represents their experiences of taking part in medical education.

Another exciting outcome from this project has been a successful collaborative application by UCL and the Institute of Education to become a BEME International Collaboration Centre (BICC) for systematic reviews in clinical education.