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Building Rapport and Maintaining Empathy In Challenging Scenarios

Demonstrating the role of the ACE to a group of 1st and 2nd year Physician Associates

Meducate Academy were recently invited down to The Drummond Education Centre West Suffolk Hospital to demonstrate the role of the ACE to a group of 1st and 2nd year Physician Associates. The vast majority of the day was spent taking the students through systems examination techniques. Many of the students requested that we discuss techniques dealing with challenging patients, building rapport and maintaining empathy under stressful conditions.

During my time as an ACE, I inevitably get asked these types of questions from both students and novice ACEs. Questions usually focus on:

  • How do I deal with an angry patient?
  • How do I deal with contentious issues?
  • How do I deal with upset patients?
  • How do I break bad news empathetically?

Although each situation may present with its own problems, there are a few rules you can abide by which will help achieve the desired outcome.

When we talk about communication, the phrase that always crops up is:

“How do I build rapport and create empathy in a challenging scenario?”

Sometimes, when you are under pressure to deal with (for example) an aggressive, angry patient, it’s not so easy. Stress will cloud your judgement, you will doubt your ability to communicate effectively. You may panic, or at worst display anger of your own!

The first thing you should do is acknowledge the person’s situation. Acknowledge how they are feeling. Begin by asking them for more information about the source of their anger and then listen! If they use words like angry, frustration, annoyed, upset, use their words when replying to them, for example:

“I can see that you are angry.”

“I can see that you are frustrated… How can I help?”

Do not interrupt the patient. Wait for a natural space that they will create. Recognise how they feel without judgement. You must then explore the situation that has caused the anger, the frustration.  Get them to define and clarify what they mean when they say they are frustrated.

Listen – Listen – Listen.

Whilst you are listening, use minimal encouragers. These are little verbal or non-verbal cues to show the patient that you are listening. For example:

Nodding of the head.

Saying, “Mmmm.”

Saying, “Go on, or yes.”

When I say listen, you must actively listen and not wait for the patient to stop talking, so that you can throw in a question that has no relevance to the patient’s current situation.

New students have a list of things they must ask the patient. SOCRATES is one of them and of course there is ICE (Ideas, Concerns, Expectations). Whilst these are important to complete a consultation, use them in the context of the situation. This is a conversation, not a battle or a debate. Become a partner in the interaction.

Once you have found out what the source of the problem is, it is time to restate what the patient has said. You could even say: “Is that everything?”  Restate what they have said and get acknowledgement. You are now both talking on the same page and you can now help them come to some sort of closure. You are thereby maintaining rapport.

Meducate Academy teaching key concepts of the role of the ACE to Physician Associates at The Drummond Education Centre West SuffolkDuring any heated conversation, you must think about your body language. Do not be too defensive in the way you are sitting or standing. To a certain degree, you need to mirror some of their nonverbal language. If they are in an open posture, keep yours as open as possible. If their arms are crossed, cross your hands or maybe your legs. This is called micro-mirroring and is less obvious to the patient.

You may also notice that some patients use words that sound visual, auditory or kinesthetic. It’s important to listen for these types of words. Below are some examples of sensory language or phrases that are commonly used.

The patient might use words or phrases that describe their experience visually:

“It’s clear to me.”
“I see where we are going.”
“The future is bright.”
“Look at it this way.”

They might however talk about:

“Getting to grips with the situation.”
“Trying to get a handle on things.”

These are kinesthetic statements and again you must learn to listen for them and use similar types of language in your reply.

Finally, we have the auditory pattern:

“I hear what you’re saying.”
“You are not listening to me.”
“Does that click for you?”

Often, people will use one or more of these sensory based patterns when speaking. Mirror some of these patterns and you are on the way to creating trust and rapport. Using the patient’s verbal and nonverbal language is a powerful way to build trust and hence come to an agreement.

Finally, never jump in mid-sentence when your partner is speaking. Keep listening and if the patient pauses, wait a little longer as they may be reflecting on what they have said. I often tell a student to bite their tongue and count to five before speaking. Give the patient time.

It is your responsibility to find out what the patient is trying to say. If you don’t understand what the patient means, ask them, for example:

“Would you explain what you meant by that?”

“I’m sorry, that’s unclear. I’m not sure what you said. Can you help me understand?”

If you are a student PA reading this, use these ideas to generate powerful, meaningful conversations with your patients. If you are an ACE, these techniques are the tools of your trade, so it’s your responsibility to be aware of them. You need to help a PA student to recognise them too.

If you are a Clinical Educator and would like to take advantage of using ACEs as part of your clinical teaching, book now for a free consultation. Contact us via the form below or give us a call on 07870611850. Thanks again for reading this post.

Meducate Academy On The Physician Associate Podcast

The Meducate Team and their Assessors at The University of Wolverhampton

Those that follow us on social media will also know that we were interviewed by James Catton of The Physician Associate Podcast. We had a great time answering his many questions, and it also gave us the opportunity to let a wider audience hear just what an ACE is and does. There are many misconceptions about our role and it’s important that we are not seen as just a body to practice on, but a highly trained expert patient, able to give accurate feedback to students whilst performing a physical systems examination. We chatted at length about the origins of the role, where we are today with the role, and what the future has in store. The future, of course, will see us producing a robust assessment process for the role of Associate Clinical Educator. This is something Bob has had a personal interest in for years. More of this later on in this post!

Exciting times continue for Meducate Academy with the development of some innovative and fresh approaches to medical simulation, including a top secret Meducate partnership in the pipeline. Sadly, we cannot talk about this until the research phase is complete. However, we can say it has something to do with our high level of skill in delivering MSK teaching modules.

Bob and the team have continued to build relationships with Chester University Medical School, which includes working as a visiting lecturer interviewing potential candidates for the medical degree that starts there in September of this year. This started a couple of months ago when Bob was invited to observe the process and then being asked to act as facilitator at the communications station, working with one of the medical role players.

One other development with The University of Chester was working as an ACE teaching alongside James Ennis and Dr Gareth Nye (Lead BmedSci course Chester), with medical scientists on history taking in the morning. The afternoon saw them demonstrating the physical skills required when performing a cardio-vascular examination, with the students taking an active part. It became apparent to the students how important taking a history was to finding a diagnosis. The students, who had no experience of this methodology found it fascinating and were highly engaged throughout the day.

The students also had the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with Bob and learn more about taking a blood pressure, palpating pulses and running through a basic cardio exam. A few asked about taking this further as post graduates and possibly joining the Physician Associate programme at Chester. It sort of turned into a recruiting drive! Later on in the month, we ran the same course at Chester University Shrewsbury Campus. Again, the students showed a real flare for hands on medicine rather simply working in the laboratory.

Meducate Academy also specialises in GTA and MTA teaching (Gynaecological Training Associate and Male Teaching Associate). For the uninitiated, these are ACEs who are trained in intimate exams such as gynaecological, breast, testicular and prostate examinations. The ACEs who teach in this field are highly specialised and work alongside experienced clinicians. Student feedback is always excellent once they get over the initial embarrassment and nervousness around this subject. It’s a valuable session for students and is the next step up from working with mannequins.

Members of the Meducate Academy Team in their official polo shirts
Members of the Meducate Academy Team in their official polo shirts

The keen eyed amongst you may also notice that we now have a uniform (of sorts). The new dress code includes a polo shirt with embroidered company logo and name tag. This helps the students identify the ACE they are working with so they can provide feedback and also gives a clear impression that they are working with a team of professionals.

Meducate Academy have also started training volunteers at the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in Birmingham, who give up their time to help 4th and 3rd year medical students from the University of Birmingham and Aston learn the correct approach to MSK examinations. This was a great opportunity to show our skills and knowledge to the clinicians assisting us.

As mentioned previously, we have been involved in creating a robust system of assessment for our ACEs. On Saturday 28th May 2022 we brought together eleven of our team and with the help of Professor Jim Parle, ran a pilot of the assessment process. This gave us an opportunity to test run the marking scheme that Jim and Bob had previously created. The ACEs were expected to demonstrate a high degree of skill in teaching and demonstrating their knowledge of the various body systems. This could never have happened if it wasn’t for the help of Clinical Lead Teresa Dowsing and the use of the University of Wolverhampton’s clinical skills suite. We ran the assessment very much like an OSCE with the ACEs core skills being put under scrutiny and the marking being overseen by Professor Parle. Many lessons were learned during the session and we are currently reviewing feedback from the ACEs.

ACE Accreditation is something Bob has been passionate about for almost ten years and he has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to get organised.

“Having Jim Parle on board is vital, as he has years of experience assessing both medical students and Physician Associates. He spent some years as the National Examiner for the PA course and, of course, was one of the creators of the PA programme in the UK.”

Next month will see Meducate Academy taking their show on the road.  We will be doing workshops for The University of Newcastle on 15th July 2022. We will also be running a workshop at The Education Centre, West Suffolk Hospital, Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds with ARU and UEA in attendance on 26th July 2022. These workshops are open to all PA students who attend the universities mentioned.

Keep your eyes open for the next post which will be looking at:

  • How students can use effective questioning techniques to elicit information from difficult patients,
  • Why students fail to ask the questions they should to help with a diagnosis.
  • How to get patients to answer your questions even if they are resistant.
  •  7 techniques for creating questions that get to the core of the problem.

If you want to hear more about the type of work that Meducate Academy is involved in please listen to our interview on the Physician Associate Podcast.

Physician Associate Podcast with Meducate Academy

 

How To Pass The OSCE On Purpose

Associate Clinical Educator Bob of Meducate Academy and a cohort of PA Students
Associate Clinical Educator Bob working with a cohort of PA Students at Chester University

For many years I’ve worked with thousands of students in medical schools and institutions teaching specifically on the physician associate programme at Wolverhampton and Chester University. It’s been a highly satisfying job and allows me to do what I love more than anything and that is to teach students! One of the major concerns students have are about passing their OSCEs. From the day their course starts to the day of their exams the conversation inevitably centres around one topic: The dreaded OSCEs.

OSCE is an acronym that has become linked to insecurity and fear, most of which is unfounded. These fears and insecurities are prevalent with most PA students wherever I am teaching. The common questions I get asked are:

“What’s going to happen in the OSCE?”

“What happens if I fail the OSCE?”

“Are they going to try and catch me out in the OSCE?”

“I get really nervous before any exam and never do well.”

It’s all students think and talk about to colleagues and friends. It seems to be the main topic of conversation whenever I talk to students. I often tell the students, why not focus this emotional energy and time on the coursework itself. These negative types of conversations can only produce one outcome; that all involved in this unproductive dialogue will scare each other to death. Instead, I get them to imagine using that intensity of focus on doing what they need to do to pass the exams, rather than fretting, worrying and talking to other students who also feel the same way.

These negative thoughts and ideas about the OSCEs are after all just assumptions based on ignorance. Ignorance inevitably leads to the imagination running riot and before you know it you have prepared yourself to fail the exam. Talk of OSCE fears inevitably start in week one of the first term, two years before the actual national exams. What a waste of time and energy.

When I talk to these students (usually in their 1st year) I ask them,“What made them choose the PA Programme. What made them want to be a Physician Associate? What is it about the PA Programme that excites them? Does it excite them?” In other words, I ask them if they know their purpose in becoming a PA?

“Why are you doing this course?”

“What will you get out of becoming a physician associate?”

“What is your purpose?”

Their usual response when asked these questions is to get confused and talk about setting goals and passing the exams. A few will say it’s what they have always wanted to do. A minority will say that their purpose is to care for people and see themselves as a compassionate person. This is what drives them each day. Now that sounds like someone who understands their purpose in life.

I knew one PA many years ago who shared his thoughts with me after a session and he had just this mindset. He said when he was a student and thought about the OSCEs it got him excited, not afraid. He looked forward to the OSCEs because this meant he was getting nearer to his goal of fulfilling his purpose which was to help others. Incidentally, he passed all 14 stations in the National Exams later that year. He knew what his purpose was and kept that in mind every day. Yes, he was nervous before the exams, but he had developed a strategy for dealing with those emotions. More of that later.

Once you have defined your purpose, you now need to review it every day and get yourself excited about achieving the goal of becoming a PA. If you stay on purpose you will achieve your goals both short and long term. But remember a goal without purpose will be short-lived.

This is a strategy I have always used and it helps keep me focused. I know why I am doing what I am doing and I know I will reap the rewards. I have never been goal oriented only purpose driven and yet I seem to achieve my goals.

Another technique I encourage students to practice is to add a sensory component to their thoughts when they think about their approach to the PA course. For example:

“How will it look when you are working as a PA?” (Visual component)

“How will it feel when you are doing the job you were born too do?” (Kinesthetic component)

“Imagine how it will sound when you proudly tell people you are a Physician Associate”, (Auditory component)

Employing your imagination and thinking like this changes your mindset so that you stay focused on your purpose. You have already been doing this when you have spoken negatively about the OSCEs. You know how to do this, but have been using your imagination to work against you and not for you. Use your brain for a positive change, not a negative one!

When fellow students say things like:

“What happens if I fail the OSCEs?” I always re-frame it and say: “What happens if you pass the OSCEs? What would that look like and feel like in your minds eye?”

By staying focused on that feeling your energy will begin to change. You will approach each task with the knowledge that you are getting closer to living out your purpose.

Sometimes, it is true to say that you will encounter setbacks, when things don’t quite work out the way you wanted them. I call these badly formed outcomes. I don’t see them as a failure. These situations are often outside of your control and have been dictated by others. That’s OK. See these episodes as just feedback. That’s all. This approach allows you to stay focused on what’s important and not worry about being a failure. This just wastes emotional energy. Energy you can use in a more positive way.

A great way to re-programme your brain, so that you do more of the above, is to sit for 10-15 minutes a day in a quiet place. Focus on your purpose, imagining how you will feel when you finish the final station of the OSCEs and become a Physician Associate. You should timetable this in to your activity every day. It’s an OSCE meditation, if you like. It will be time well spent and as mindfulness is a big thing at the moment why not get in with the trend?

I’ve taught and used meditation long before it was fashionable, as well as taking part in physical exercise, both of which have helped me stay balanced and integrated and lead a pretty stress free life. So why not add those two beneficial activities to your diary every week to improve your mental and physical health. These activities will not only help you with work, but in all areas of you life.

I suggest you give both a try and 10-15 minutes of meditation every day will show you what state your mind is in. It will teach you how to ensure that you won’t be ambushed by the inevitable negative thoughts, internal dialogue and subsequent emotions when the acronym OSCE is mentioned!

When you sit in meditation for the first time, many thoughts will come into your awareness. Being a PA student you may encounter many negative reactions including thoughts about the OSCEs. Focus on those thoughts and then do the following:

  • Observe the emotion, the reaction and see it for what it is. Just a creation of your mind. Just a sensation in the body.
  • Then Let It Go. That’s right,just release it and watch it vanish. A student once said to me what happens when this train of thought arises? I said, “Do not get on the train”. “Let it Go. Let it leave the station”.  She said she waved it off, smiled and felt relief.
  • Once you have Let Go of the thought, any inevitable knee jerk reaction you would normally experience will stop. Allowing you time to …
  • Be in the moment and come back to focusing on your purpose. These techniques will help you to become more mindful of your mental states, and you can practice this awareness which will carry over into your daily life.

It is a great technique for improving your overall mental health too. It helps you remain balanced and integrated in the other aspects of your life. Do it for a week and see how you feel!

This doesn’t mean you wont be influenced by those around you though. They will still attempt to discuss their failings with you but this time stay focused and listen politely with out getting dragged into the  conversation. I have a technique to deal with that to and I’ll share it now.

When the negativity starts to flow from others around me and they don’t want to listen for an alternative, I have a delete button. Yes a delete button in my head. I use it quite a lot actually. Mainly if I listen to the news. But seriously, it can be a powerful tool and a great strategy that will help you stay on track. Just use it for a week and see what happens.

It turns out that this is what successful people seem to do most of the time. Some of the most successful people have not listened to the naysayers and the critics. They stay on purpose until they achieve what it is they are looking for. If you become one of them you become an optimist. Optimists always seem to get things done. They don’t always succeed on the first attempt, but optimism keeps them going. There is always a silver lining to every cloud and a light at the end of the tunnel for an optimist.

By putting yourself in this mindset you are as the saying goes, “living in the moment”, but with an optimistic eye on the future. The only alternative is of course to do what you are probably doing already:

Thinking about how tough the OSCE will be and how badly you are going to do.

Filling your head with self-doubt and negative internal chatter.

Deciding ahead of time how you are more than likely going to fail a station or two.

If you’re doing that, use the delete button or turn the volume down! Drown out the internal dialogue by reminding yourself of your purpose, and asking yourself every day as to just why you want the job of a Physician Associate.

If you want to learn more about some of these strategies and techniques Bob will be running an online seminar on 23rd July 2022 at 12pm until 2pm explaining in detail how to put these techniques into daily practice. Once you’ve signed up for the course you will receive a downloadable handbook on how to improve your mental health.

When you enroll on the course please send your questions to Bob in confidence and he will address those issues during the online seminar. The cost, including the manual, is only £9.99 paid via PayPal.

He is also available to do 121 coaching for any students who feel they need a little bit of personal help. Contact him on 07870 611850 to arrange private Zoom meeting.

Meducate Academy – Five Years Of Providing Student Centered Medical Simulation

Meducate Academy has been providing student centered educational services now for five years. Five exciting years of ups and downs but mostly ups!

When we established the Academy in 2017 the world was a very different place, pre-Covid, when every thing looked brighter. We had established ourselves with two growing University departments. Wolverhampton had only just recommenced their Physician Associate Programme under the leadership of Gill Conde and Pete Gorman. It was going from strength to strength.

Meducate Academy ACES at The University of Chester Medical School
Meducate Academy hard at work at The University of Chester Medical School

Chester University was also using our Associate Clinical Educators across their programme under the guidance of their new Clinical Lead James Ennis. Things were going well and growing rapidly. Who could have guessed what would happen next.

The Pandemic came as something of a surprise to everyone and things started slowing down for most educational institutions. Some closed their doors and didn’t start up again until twelve months had passed and things for us looked bleak.

Simulation means being in front of students. Face to face interaction and hands on physical examinations which were the norm had all but ended for everyone.

Undaunted, we took the bull by the horns and started working online with history taking skills, and even had an attempt to run a pilot of online OSCEs. It was a creative time for us and our partners, and we learned a lot during that period. We adapted and improvised and came up with innovative new ways of teaching online and used a variety of different technologies to further our cause.

Once restrictions began to lift we were back to work but this time in full PPE, taking the students through the preparatory work on systems examinations in preparation for their OSCEs; and it worked. Students were keen to get back into the sessions and Chester and Wolverhampton Universities led the way. Whilst other Institutions were using mannequins, we were back at it. Cardio, respiratory, G.I. Cranial nerves, Neurological, and of course MSK examinations were being practiced almost as normal.

Teaching and support for the students was second to none and we were able to carry on almost as normal. It was for us a good time and now that the situations is getting back to normality we are being approached by a number of institutions to supply Associate Clinical Educators on their Programmes.

In the above video we listen to Bob (Founder and Director of Meducate Academy) and Senior ACE™ Mark Reynolds about what’s been happening and how Meducate Academy is shaping up for the next 5 years.

If you are a Clinical Educator and would like to take advantage of using ACEs as part of your clinical teaching, book now for a free consultation. Contact us via the form below or give us a call on 07870611850. Thanks again for reading this post.

An ACE™ Is Not a Simulated Patient, But A Simulated Patient On Steroids!

1st Year Physician Associate Students and Associate Clinical Educators at Wolverhampton University

Recently my attention was drawn to an article, ‘It’s Not An Acting Job … Don’t Underestimate What A Simulated Patient Does”: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Perspectives of Simulated Patients in Health Professions Education”, which was submitted to the journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare about Simulated Patients (SP).

The article, whilst interesting and enlightening, discusses the work of the ‘normal’ SP, and shows how valuable their contribution is to medical education. However the title sums up the fact that an SP is more than just an actor who learns their lines and portrays a character. Any role player will be quick to alert you to the fact that, unlike actors, the SP has to give feedback on the communications skills of the student clinician. This is beyond what we expect an actor to be capable of doing.

A good SP can improvise around a common theme, for example breaking bad news. However each student will approach this in a variety of different ways and this is based on their communication style. Some may be hesitant to break the bad news, whilst others may be more exp-licit with their communication. It is the job of the SP to respond to the different approaches that students have effectively, and then give feedback on what the student did well and how they can improve their communication for the benefit of the ‘patient’.

Some students will build rapport readily and easily whilst others need feedback on how to do this more effectively. Non-verbal language also plays its part in communication as we have discussed in a previous post. However, if the SP is presenting with a specific physical condition i.e. central chest pains, the student will respond by performing an examination, for example ‘cardio-vascular’. An SP is unable to give feedback on this part of the process. This is where to Associate Clinical Educator (ACE™) excels.

What the article previously mentioned didn’t cover (and I wouldn’t expect it to) was how an ACE™ can take the interaction to the next level.

An ACE™ is not a Simulated Patient, he’s a simulated patient on steroids! On many occasions I have spoken to clinicians who mistake what we do for medical roleplay and/or that we are simply simulated patients. This is simply not the case.

An ACE™, whilst giving feedback on the communication, will also be able to quickly inform the student whether of not the examination itself is being performed correctly. For example, below is a typical respiratory examination as expected to be performed by a first year physician associate student:

    • Introduction using full name and role
    • Confirms patient’s full name and DOB
    • Explains examination and takes informed consent for examination.
    • Asks if they want a chaperone
    • Washes/disinfects hands
    • Exposes patient appropriately and maintains dignity
    • Inspects the patient’s chest (looking for scars, asymmetry, both axillary area)
    • Positions patient on the couch at 45 degree angle and asks if they have any pain anywhere
    • Inspects the patient’s hands looking for peripheral cyanosis, clubbing, tar staining, CO2 flap
    • Checks patient’s pulse (radial/brachial) checks for rate (90 bpm), rhythm and character
    • Counts respiratory rate (offers to do for one minute: 18/min)
    • Checks patients face for pursed lip breathing, central cyanosis, pale conjunctiva etc.
    • Palpates patient’s chest checking for chest expansion and apex beat
    • Percusses the chest (top middle bottom, axillar, compares left and right)
    • Auscultates the chest (top middle and bottom and both axillar)
    • Checks tactile vocal fremitus or vocal resonance
    • Checks for sacral oedema, feet and legs (for swelling and tenderness)
    • Checks for lymphadenopathy (supraclavicular, cervical, submandibular, etc) from behind
    • Concludes examination, offers to help patient dress
    • Summarises findings in a logical systematic manner (including important negatives)
    • Gives differential diagnosis

Senior Associate Clinical Educator teaching session at Wolverhampton universityThe role of the ACE™ therefore is to give feedback on all of the above. This will ensure that the student performs the examination correctly,to the standard of the current OSCE curriculum and demonstrates safe practice. As you can see the function of the ACE™ far exceeds that of a simulated patient or role player.

This level of expertise requires training and a high degree of commitment from the ACE™ and with that in mind, Meducate Academy continues to train and support new and experienced ACEs whilst they work with us. Alongside that, the various institutions and academics we work with will continue guide and assist us in producing the best outcomes for their students. Vitally important when you consider the role OSCEs play in the students development and assessment.

Training is ongoing and we are still in negotiation with academic institutions to ratify our position in the industry through a strict accreditation process. This will ensure that the quality of our ACEs is of the highest standard and meets the requirements of any academic institution.

 

If you are a Clinical Educator and would like to take advantage of using ACEs as part of your clinical teaching, book now for a free consultation. Contact us via the form below or even give us a call on 07870611850. Thanks again for reading this post.

Pharmacist Sarah Baig On Working With Associate Clinical Educators

Pharmacist Sarah Baig on Pharmacist's Experiences With ACE's Teaching

Programme director, Independent Prescribing Course – NHS Lead PCN Pharmacist Sarah Baig is involved in teaching on the Independent Prescribing Course, a multi-disciplinary course working with Health Professionals from a whole range of disciplines. On our recent Associate Clinical Educators online conference she discussed her first experience of working with ACEs. Prior to that she had only worked with medical role players and simulated patients. She found that the experience of working with ACEs far exceeded her expectations. Here, is what she had to say:

“Today, I’m going to talk about the pharmacists’ experience of working with ACEs, teaching on a multi-professional course. Involved were nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, optometrists who were studying on the Independent Prescribing Course at the University of Birmingham Medical School.

“This was my first experience of working with ACEs and I was surprised as to how much they knew. I was new to the course, so this was my first experience working with ACEs. I was surprised at how much they contributed to the physical examination, which is taught as part of the Independent Prescribing Course.

“The course itself was attended by a whole range of Clinicians. We very often have nurses who are very experienced in clinical examinations, as well as physios are great at MSK examinations. Then we have pharmacists who have never done physical examinations before, and so there is a big variation in the level of knowledge the students have.

“One thing that really helped was having ACEs assist us to integrate the different skill sets. The ACEs helped utilise the experience of other students to support the weaker ones. We had lots of positive feedback about how intensive the ACEs understanding of clinical skills was. Feedback on the teaching was also very positive and having that level of skill from the ACEs was vital.

“I was really impressed by the ACEs, especially their consistency in the teaching process, and also surprised at there versatility. The ACEs (it turns out) are multi skilled and able to teach lots of different systems examinations, which in itself really helpful. I really liked the way they built rapport with the students and the teaching staff. Their other contribution was the ability to put the students at ease, which helps in the learning process. The ACEs are not clinicians and therefore the students don’t feel that they are being judged in any way, which of course opens them up to learning the techniques that much quicker.

“I think what is also important to mention, is that the ACEs know their limitations and I really liked that. They will never try and overstep the mark, so when they found that they didn’t know a clinical reason for certain parts of the examination they would enlist the clinician at hand to take over. I think it’s really important as a professional to demonstrate that mutual trust, and that the ACEs are working as part of the team. The students really valued the feedback that the ACEs were able to give about techniques like palpation and percussion, for example.

“I wasn’t in such high demand from students on the days I worked with the ACEs. At one session we had three ACEs assisting us teach and the ratio was 26 students to 3 aces. We also noticed there was a big difference between the way the role players and the ACEs were working, and that’s what really cemented my passion for working with ACEs. The ACEs, it turns out are also Roleplayers, and can therefore provide feedback on the students communication skills as well as their practical skills.

“The ACEs were used also for the OSCEs which was really helpful. We had some very honest and appropriate feedback from the ACEs which was included in our global assessment tool. The feedback from the students and the clinicians attending has been absolutely amazing, and they’ve actually said that they’d like to have ACEs in other aspects of their core system of training. All of our students are advanced clinical practitioners and they asked if it was possible to have ACEs on the ACP course. For me that was really positive. It says a lot about the way the ACEs work. I think there’s lots of scope for development of clinical skills within the ACP and the utilisation of ACEs. I for one will be working with the ACEs whenever I can.”

 

If you are a Clinical Educator like Sarah and would like to take advantage of using ACEs as part of your clinical teaching, book now for a free consultation. Contact us via the form below or even give us a call on 07870611850. Thanks again for reading this post. Please also leave a comment and share.

Kate Straughton On Working With ACEs & Training Student Physician Associates

Kate Straughton discusses the vaulue of working with ACEs & training student physician associates

Kate Straughton is one of the senior lecturers with the Physician Associate Programme at the University of Birmingham and is also currently the President of the Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA). Kate wanted to talk about how working with ACEs has helped in her educational role in training student Physician Associates.

“Thank you very much for inviting me to the conference. I’m a Physician Associate and have been qualified for several years now, working in a few different settings and in education itself for around seven years. I have also worked in a university that did not use role players, simulated patients or ACEs and instead relied on volunteers. Now, I find myself working on a different programme where we rely heavily on ACEs, simulated patients and role players. So, I just want to talk a little bit about my experiences from having been a student but also from working on the other side of the fence as an educator.

“A word that has come up on the conference today is consistency, which I have found personally when working with ACEs. When you have a scenario to work with, you know that that’s what the ACE is going to deliver. As an educator, you can then concentrate and talk to the student about the learning outcome. You don’t have to worry about whether the ACE is delivering the scenario in the correct way, consistently and accurately. That’s the beauty of having such highly trained people with that type of experience over several years; and who also have the ability to improvise when needed quickly, yet still work within the parameter you have set as a teacher. This means we can go down different routes depending on how the student interacts with the ACE.

“For me, the really useful thing is whilst teaching the students we are able to stop the scenario and if necessary, rewind and play it again. We give students time to reflect on the experience, they can then have a chat with their colleagues, re-calibrate and try it again to see how the response changes.

“It’s about identifying errors and being able to iron those out. I’ll give an example: I recently taught a Breaking Bad News session and here we had a scenario which we had used several times before. We knew that it worked very well: ‘One student said what if we adapt the scenario so the ACE and the scenario is one where the patient wasn’t expecting any bad news, so it was a complete surprise for her.’ The ACE we were working with was highly experienced and  so I had a very quick chat with her and then she came back in and ran it in a completely different style. The student was then able to compare and re-calibrate some of the earlier statements they had made. A stupid statement made previously was changed and the learning outcome was remarkable.

“The students really appreciated being able to see those changes and,  as we went through another example, their style of communication was demonstrably better. The other real strength, and what makes the ACE unique, is their ability to give feedback on examination technique.

“We’ve had students, fairly new first-year students, who had gone out on their first hospital placements. They returned to university and said that they were nervous about examining real patients. This is quite a common experience. So we explored why and the comment came back that they were afraid to examine patients in pain. They felt that although they had a good grasp of the examination routine, they were worried that they might hurt a patient. As a result they were stepping back and weren’t getting too involved with real patients. They didn’t want to cause any discomfort and consequently they were nervous.

“We were therefore able to incorporate that into our teaching and the ACE and I ran a session about examining a patient in severe pain. We had the student perform a GI examination on the ACE who presented with severe abdominal pain. What we found was that aside from being nervous they just weren’t palpating deeply enough because they were really worried about hurting the patient,  and that’s obviously knowing that this is a simulated patient!  Once two or three students had received the feedback from the ACE that they needed to palpate appropriately with good communication skills, they were able to allay any fears they had. Incidentally one student was was too forceful and would have hurt a real patient. We then had the ACE turn the pain on and off until the students got the message. You can’t do this with a volunteer or a real patient!

“Having the ability to turn the symptoms on and off is really useful and all the students walked away saying that was one of the best sessions they had had. They felt much more competent and confident in their abilities.

“The other thing I think that I wanted to raise at this conference is that what I like to do when I’m working with ACEs is to let them get on with it without me interfering. I’m still involved, but at a distance, so there is no undue pressure on the student from the academic. I’m there if they need to talk to me. They tend to share their worries with the ACEs more openly too, which is extremely useful. To be honest, the ACEs know the answers to a lot of the questions, especially when it comes to their experiences of being involved in OSCEs. The student tend talk to the academic about their academic performances, whereas they will admit things to the ACE about their lack of confidence or worries.

“I’m really confident and I do feel this quite strongly, that the little bit of time away from the academics really helps. With an experienced ACE, we know that the student is in safe hands.  They are able to get more out of their experiences, which ultimately will help them in the long term too.

“I think simulation using mannequins also plays an important role. The more I talk to my fellow professionals about simulation in my role as FPA president, the more we discuss how you have to get the mix of skills just right. ACEs are not the answer to everything to be honest and the right answer is probably going to be that we should think in terms of a hybrid approach to simulation in teaching.

“However, the training that goes into producing ACEs and the confidence they engender in the student definitely improves the students skill sets quickly and effectively. They bring the human side to simulation and also provide standardisation. I’m just finally, quickly going to touch on that topic now as I feel this is important.

“With an ACE, you will get an expert patient who can repeat again and again a task, whether that be roleplay or physical examinations or a mixture of the two. In the past, I have used volunteer patients and the main problem was their lack of consistency and their inability to react in the same way every time, which is very important in an OSCE or training for the OSCEs. They would also get tired and sometimes give the student too much information too readily or even forget important details. In some cases, they would also add details that were not relevant. This can take a student off course quite dramatically.

“We’ve seen OSCEs where we’ve had students having wildly different experiences over the course of a day, and if it’s for something like an assessment, particularly high-stakes assessments, you need to be able to rely on consistency and standardisation. This sort of improvised information can be included of course, but needs to be done in a way that maintains consistency across the day.

“We have ACEs and role players who can improvise within a fixed scenario without losing track of what the key points are and what the desired outcome is. They will also make sure that this  done within a specified timeframe. For me the important point is that I’ve had extensive experience from both sides, both as a student where I was really nervous and didn’t have any clinical background, then as a Practice Manager before I trained as a Physician Associate.

“When I was a student Physician Associate, having an ACE there was so reassuring. My colleagues, some of whom who are on this conference, who were responsible for training me were also incredibly intimidating. They knew so much about medicine and had so much experience, and actually just having someone who you could just have a chat to such as the ACE, was invaluable to me. It made real life much less scary! I also felt much more prepared to be able go into a hospital and have a chat with a real person because of my experiences with the ACEs. It also meant that I got stuck into the course as a PA student and it prepared me to be able to take an accurate history, to examine a real human being, and to be more practical rather than just observing clinicians on placement. That experience to me was the key to my success as a PA and educator.”

 

If you have enjoyed reading these posts and you are a student Physician Associate who wants to learn more about the work of the Associate Clinical Educator and how they can help you gain more insight into the OSCEs; why not join us on our workshop on January 8th 2022 at 12 noon on Zoom.

We will have two highly experienced Associate Clinical Educators along with President of the Faculty of Physician Associates Kate Straughton to answer any questions you might have about passing your OSCEs in 2022/23.

Our ACEs have over 12 years experience of being involved, not just in the teaching of Physician Associates but actually taking part in the exams, both as role players and ACEs. They have interesting things to say about:

Confidence building
Motivation
The Golden 2 minutes that happen outside of the station
Taking a history
Building Rapport and knowing when you have it
The cues the role player will give you
How to structure for success

Of course we will be directed by your questions and will make sure we can answer most of them.

Why not join us on January 8th 2022 at 12 noon online on Zoom.

James Ennis On The Use of ACEs & Roleplayers In Clinical Education


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 James Ennis Clinical Lead at The University of Chester Physician Associate Programme

James Ennis is currently Clinical Lead at The University of Chester Physician Associate Programme. He has worked with ACEs both as student Physician Associate, and also used ACEs when he was teaching at The University of Birmingham and latterly at Chester University. Here we have an overview of his contribution to the Meducate Academy ACE Online Conference 2021 in an abridged form. If this sparks your interest please watch the attached video and share the link with colleagues and friends.

“Today on the conference, I’m just going to quickly give you an overview of how we use Associate Clinical Educators at Chester University. This was quite a new concept to Chester and as I’ve recently moved from Birmingham up to the area, I decided to bring the Associate Clinical Educator role up with me. We consider the ACEs to be an integral part of the teaching team, and so I’m now going to talk about how we use them and where we use them. I’m going to give you some quotes from our students about their experience in working with ACEs on the course and more importantly a little about simulation and the ACEs themselves.

“I’d like to give you a balanced opinion on the role because there are some perceived threats, in my opinion about the use of ACEs and roleplayers. I want to talk about the future development too at some point. The main point that should come across is that the ACE can give accurate Hi-Fidelity feedback to both the teacher about the student and more importantly to the student themselves.

“Typically a roleplayer is used as a live patient often able to give feedback to the student in terms of their communication skills. The ACE does this and more. They can give  feedback on the physical examination skills themselves, both from the point of view of safety and technique. We’ve kind of gone away from the compartmentalisation of history taking and then  physical examination skills and we have looked at it more as a kind of an integrated model which is how clinicians truly consult. As well as that, we use the ACEs in specialist roles for example intimate examinations.

“We also use the all singing all dancing SIM Man. This is what we would typically think of with regard to high fidelity simulation. Of course we do use the Sim Men as well, particularly for emergency scenarios, but we also use the ACEs as part of a role play that would fit into the scenario and so the communication isn’t lost during the interaction.

“During the pandemic we also had to change the way we worked with ACEs and a lot of the work was carried out online. This also fitted in with the growth of online consultations that are now part of a clinicians responsibility. Of course this is useful for maybe online medication reviews but not for someone presenting with acute abdominal pain.

“To maintain balance of opinion I’ve captured a few of our most recent students/staff liaison minutes from meetings and these  are from our year two students. These are kind of common themes so I’ve just picked a few just to quickly touch on.  Looking at the completely comprehensively positive feedback from from students on the ACEs role and what they give to the student.

“Many students said that they find working with the ACE far less threatening, particularly when making the inevitable mistakes while performing physical examinations, and they were able to refine their technique with the ACE. However, I would like to  mention that it does say that mannequins and other types of simulation may be just as helpful.

“Now, what I would say is, I don’t see the ACE role completely dominating simulation in medical education. It’s very much used as an adjunct and that’s how we now utilise our ACEs. Also  the students obviously get quite twitchy around OSCE season assessment periods. Again, we found the ACE  to be  incredibly helpful, not just for improving students technique and examination skills but also in building their confidence.

“Again, as Professor Jim Parle mentioned previously, the students really responded positively to the ACE role in working on things that they find specifically difficult. One of the things I’d like to highlight is the MSK examinations. It’s one thing that our ACEs really cover in depth with our students. All of our ACEs are heavily trained in MSK examination technique as I’m sure Uzo will talk about in far greater depth in his talk.

“The student feedback has always been positive and more time with ACEs is constantly being requested. This is why we really are so keen on simulation with ACEs.

“I’m sure most of you haven’t used ACEs or simulated patients in any great detail, but you will find that they have had some push back from institutes, mainly because of  the financial burden and restricted budgets. The way we’ve worked around this, is I would far prefer to have the human factor in  simulation than simply by props and Sim Men, sometimes costing up to £80,000. Sim Men have their place, but I would prefer to spend our money towards the use of ACEs. I have  certainly not had any problems from my institute with  getting the financial backing, especially when we keep  getting such excellent feedback.

“We haven’t yet got a great amount of evidence on the  student and patient outcome from such interventions and that’s something I’ll come onto later.

“Another thing, although the ACE is highly trained they are of course not a substitute for a skilled clinician. They are always available to discuss and answer questions of a clinical nature and each supports the other. The ACE and the clinician work as a team.

“So, that’s just a quick overview of where I’m going with my research and I would invite anybody to contact me if they are interested in this subject. I’m constantly monitoring the impact the ACEs have on student performance, and therefore patient outcomes after training. Take a look at the slides I have provided and I am as always interested in any questions you might have.”


Click arrows to view PowerPoint slides of this talk by James Ennis

The Importance Of Simulation In Medical Education

Professor Jim Parle discusses the use of Associate Clinical Educators at the online conference

Professor Parle was our keynote speaker at the conference and it was an honour to have him join us. What follows is an abridged version of the talk. If you want to view the complete talk it is available in the video above.

“I’ve been involved with the ACE process for something like 15-18 years or so. I am now a retired professor at the University of Birmingham and I’ve been using ACEs and similar kinds of approaches to education for a long time. What I’m going to do today is to go straight into talking about what ACEs are and why we introduced them into the Physician Associate Course and what sparked my interest in education generally.

“We used ACEs on the PA programme for probably at least 15 years if not longer, so for today’s conference I would like to spend more time talking about simulation generally. Also, would like to talk about why we need simulation and why I think we need more simulation and why I think we need high fidelity simulation by which I mean using real human beings, not computers or robots!

“Obviously there’s an ethical issue about performing intimate or any kind of physical examination on actual patients. When I was a student, which is quite a long time ago, we used to examine patients without consent. The patient wasn’t really given an opportunity to say no.

“Obviously you should never do this kind of thing and fortunately, times have changed. I remember my first female patient examination, in which I was embarrassed. She was embarrassed, and I was probably incompetent. I don’t think I hurt the patient, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Looking back now, it was a ridiculous way to learn to carry out examinations. That is one reason we need to think about simulation.

“There’s also the point that medical students need repeated practise and repeated, focused and relevant feedback. You don’t really get that from a patient and when you examine a patient, they rarely know whether you’re doing a good job. We don’t really give them a voice, so we need to have or recruit a patient or patient substitute who is skilled in that area.

“There’s also the issue that students arrive with different levels of skill. You therefore need somebody who can work at the level the student is at. We can’t expect a real patient to do that, as they’ve got their own problems and their own things to focus on when in a consultation. An ACE, however, can do that and more, because we have trained them to be able to show certain kinds of pathology or abnormalities.

“I’ll give you an example: A patient comes off his or her bike and injures their chest. Maybe a couple of fractured ribs and difficulty breathing. If you were to examine an actual patient, they will be in a great deal of pain. They will have tenderness around the area and having restricted breathing. It would be unethical to subject an actual patient to multiple examinations by new students. With an ACE, that problem won’t occur. Some of our ACEs can even demonstrate asymmetric breathing and can obviously be examined throughout the day by many students with no ill effects.

“We can therefore reproduce an extremely convincing simulation with an actual person who the student has to interact with just like an actual patient, but they’re not putting a patient through all that kind of discomfort.

“I just want to add the importance of recognising what is also normal and an ACE can present both sides of this situation. Consider the previous example of asymmetric breathing. The ACE can easily demonstrate what is normal, then quickly change to abnormal. I can only assert that it’s much easier to learn something that’s abnormal when you have something normal to compare it with and, obviously, vice versa. The ACE  can do this. Is able to switch asymmetric breathing too symmetrical breathing and back again so the student can see the difference and we as human beings are good at spotting differences but not so good at spotting absolute values. On a similar but not quite the same theme, I am concerned that if we learn something incorrectly, then it becomes difficult to unlearn it.

“I think it’s really important when students are learning physical examination skills that they compare normal with abnormal there and then. This means that they get immediate feedback, and which they don’t necessarily get with mannequins.

“Because of austerity and the current COVID crisis, students are not able to wander as freely around the wards interacting with patients as they did during my time as a student. So pressure on clinical learning environments and the clinicians who might teach us has become more and more restricted. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for students, whether medical, physician associates or pharmacists, and I’m sure it’s true of other clinical professions that an ACE could fulfill that role.

“An ACE is somebody who’s been trained to use their body and their psyche in educating clinicians by responding appropriately when asked to do something by a student. An ACE, as well as being a responsive patient, can also play a naïve patient, so if simple instructions are not given, the ACE will respond appropriately. If the student wants to take a blood pressure, for example, then the ACE knows exactly how this should be done. An ACE can replicate being a patient who has never had it done and do a variety of things that will affect the blood pressure reading. The ACE can then teach the student how to do it correctly. The student can see the blood pressure go up and down when a patient moves their arm or flexes their muscles. They will see the blood pressure go up and down. The student then gets the reason for doing it correctly and shows that they can do it correctly. This is immediate feedback and students love feedback. They’re always asking for more feedback! If it applies to the individual students’ strengths and weaknesses, they then improve straight away.

“So in conclusion I think I would say that what ACEs bring to the interaction is that they can role play, they can show abnormalities including assessments, they can understand what errors students make or errors patients make and then feedback to the students.

“The most important thing I want you to remember from what I’ve said is it’s sometimes good to take the clinician out of the room when the ACE is working. You do not want a clinician in there. If you have a clinician in with the ACE there, they’ll inevitably get into discussions about various pathologies and what a particular system does in terms of it’s function.

“The ACE is there to work as a tool to aid in the learning of the systems exams. We can do the theory at another session. Making full use of the ACE is vital and students’ feedback always shows they learn the examination processes quicker when the academic leaves the room!”

Click here to watch Professor Jim Parle talking about the value of using ACEs as simulated patients on the ACE National Conference 

Agenda For Meducate Academy Online ACE Conference 2021

Meducate Academy First Annual Online Conference on Simulation

 

September 4th between 12-2pm on Zoom

 

Are you involved in Medical Education?

Do you use simulation as part of your teaching?

Do you use Role Players and simulated patients during your Clinical Skills teaching sessions?

Would you like to know more about the benefits of simulation?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, why not find out more about the work of the Associate Clinical Educator (ACE).

Hi Fidelity simulation with focussed feedback from an expert patient can play an important role in improving the learning outcomes of your clinical sessions, and utilising the skills of an ACE can help you improve the performance and standard of your clinical teaching modules.

Meducate Academy are therefore pleased to announce the launch of their Free First Annual Online Conference on Simulation on Sept 4th between 12-2pm on Zoom.

You will have the chance to listen to 6 Highly experienced clinicians talk about their experience of simulation in teaching practice and how the ACE has helped their students develop important skills whilst also developing their ability to communicate more effectively with a patient.

There will be a Q & A session in the last hour, giving you the opportunity to address the speakers directly.

ACE National Conference Day

The big day is almost upon us!

Our Guest Speakers & Agenda

 

Meducate Academy’s ACE National Conference is for anyone interested in simulation and its use specifically in teaching medical professionals.

We have some great speakers lined up.

Speakers with expertise in teaching medicine using Role-players and Associate Clinical Educators, all of whom have had a personal experience of working with ACEs in a clinical teaching environment.

The agenda for the conference is as follows:

12 noon: Opening Introduction from Mark Reynolds, your host for the event.

Each speaker will talk for approximately 10-15 minutes about their chosen subject outlined briefly below.

 

 

Professor Jim Parle - Keynote Speaker

Professor Jim Parle will talk about his role in creating the Associate Clinical Educator. People based simulation has been a key theme of his academic career and he utilised ACEs widely to both teach and examine PA students during his tenure at the University of Birmingham.

This will be a short history lesson from a highly experienced clinician and clinical educator who is a former chair of the UK and Ireland Universities for PA education.

Jim believes strongly that if we are to make best and most moral ‘use’ of patients in clinical education, we have to do as much as we possibly can in simulation and that real people are the best hi fidelity simulators.

 

James Ennis

James is currently Clinical Director at the University of Chester and will discuss his work on the use of ACEs alongside other methods of simulation. His work is based on his experience of working with ACEs at various Universities around the country on the Physician Associate Programme that he has been heavily involved in.

Uzo Ehiogu

Currently, Uzo is a consultant in Rehabilitation and Physical preparation. He is also a Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in Birmingham. He will talk about the work he has been doing with ACEs from a Musculo-skeletal perspective with 4th Year Medical Students and how that has informed his teaching style.

Kate Straughton

Kate is a Senior Lecturer with The Physician Associate Programme at The University of Birmingham. She is also currently the President of the Faculty of Physician Associates and will talk about how working with ACEs has assisted her in the education of Physician Associates.

Peter Gorman

Pete is a Clinical Lead at the University of Wolverhampton on the Physician Associate Programme and will talk about his experiences working online with ACEs during the Pandemic, and how this has affected the students he has taught during this difficult period.

Sarah Baig

Sarah is a Pharmacist and is currently Programme Director for Independent Prescribing at the University of Birmingham. Sarah has worked in several sectors during her career, including hospital and community pharmacy, but more recently has headed up a team of pharmacists in the Local Primary Care Network. She only recently started working with ACEs and is going to talk about her personal experiences in this area.

Bob Spour

Bob Spour

Founder

Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman

Managing Director