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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

 

Diversity & Confidence Building In Medical Simulation

Demonstration of MSK skills at The University of Wolverhampton

The past month has been frantic! Both of our partners (Wolverhampton and Chester University) have kept us busy with both their 1st and 2nd year cohorts. We have sent teams of ACEs out, providing hi-fidelity teaching and simulation covering a number of body systems. The teaching included reviews of both their communication and history taking skills. So far the topics we have covered are Cranial Nerves, Cardio-vascular, Gastro-intestinal, Respiratory and scenario based training.

In the next few weeks we will also be teaching upper and lower limb neurological exams, as well as intimate examinations on males and females. We have access to specially trained ACEs for this type of examination. Obviously when students perform these types of examinations there is often a degree of embarrassment on the part of the student. Our ACEs are highly experienced in allaying any fears the student may have, and this creates a safer and confident approach when examining a real patient. Most medical institutions don’t offer this type of experience to their students and often rely on using mannequins to practice their skills on.

Our connections to other institutions continue to expand and we are currently in talks with a couple of universities who have expressed an interest in what we are doing. We have recently been involved in MMIs for the recruitment of medical students at The University of Chester.

It still amazes me at how adept our ACE™ team can be. They are able to switch systems examinations at a moments notice, improvise around a theme and yet still provide high quality feedback to the academics and clinicians who are teaching on that module. It is experiences like these that have prompted me to write this month’s post. Without wanting to sound repetitive and simply repeating the last post, I think institutions and individuals are starting to realise the difference between an ACE™ and a simulated patient.

In a few weeks you will have the opportunity to listen to Mark and myself talk about the ACE™ role with James Catton from the PA Podcast. He was somewhat surprised at the level of our knowledge of body systems and was under the illusion that we were simply simulated patients and role players. He was so impressed with our expertise that he is in the process of organizing workshops with the University of East Anglia and Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge Campus.

So, coming back to our team of ACEs and their diverse range of skills, let’s look at a typical month of Meducate Academy’s workload.

Cranial Nerves Examination with Clinician Jack and ACE Howard (Seated) at The University of ChesterIn the last month we have worked with students to improve both their clinical and history taking skills. This was done in the context of both OSCE practice and when they are out on placement where they are expected to use a hybrid approach. We also worked with an experienced Physician Associate in a GP Practice, helping them with their time management and trouble shooting skills. This demonstrates how diverse our ACEs can be when required.

Our skills were also required in order to help pharmacists with their clinical examinations. This was for an assessment to help them gain their Independent Prescribing Course qualification. The pharmacists were given the opportunity to practice their examination skills in a safe environment with ACEs who gave feedback on their techniques. Techniques such as percussion, palpation and auscultation. We helped them work through the seven main body systems whilst the clinicians present talked about the common pathologies they would encounter.

Skills such as these can be practiced with a volunteer or even a sim-man, however what the students don’t get is high quality feedback. This is the main strength of our approach to teaching and the key to our success. Knowing the moves is not enough. The clinician must be able to perform these skills correctly and with our help, through educated feedback, become excellent, safe clinicians.

The body systems covered in the past month have included G.I, respiratory, cardio-vascular, cranial nerves as well as a whole range of neurological exams. We also covered history taking scenarios and the practical aspects of examining a diabetes patient, and how to examine the thyroid.

With the 2nd year Physician Associates we were able to guide them with multiple systems reviews working in a hybrid way. Just like the real world of medicine.

Happy team of Associate Clinical Educators Greg Hobbs, Ellie Darville, Howard Karloff & Meducate director BobOn top of all this of course is the ongoing conversations we have with the students about their fears and worries about the intensity of their course. The students always feel that they can talk to us more openly about their fears rather than going to the academic tutor. This takes some of the pressure off the academics who already have a full timetable. In the 12 years I have been an Associate Clinical Educator I have spent many hours helping students build their confidence and motivation through a variety of strategies.

Knowing that students will confide in you and seeing them graduate is the most rewarding part of the job and the reason I do this work. It’s a role I would recommend to anyone who enjoys working with the medical profession. It’s our way of giving back to the NHS in a small way.

Also, we have finally organised the accreditation process for the ACE™ role and will be running a pilot of this at the University of Wolverhampton in May 2022 with Professor Jim Parle.

On top of all that, a few weeks ago I was called into Trinity Court GP surgery in Stratford-Upon – Avon to run a workshop to 25 staff about how to deal with conflict in the workplace!

Now that’s diversity.

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.

The Associated Clinical Educators Role In Providing Feedback To Student Clinicians

 Associated Clinical Educators Providing Feedback To Student Clinicians

Last week saw us working online with our partners at Wolverhampton and Chester University. Although the role of the ACE is to work predominantly with helping the student to develop their physical skills with systems examinations, we also spent a lot of the time teaching them how to take an effective history.

Alfred Korzybski the developer of General Semantics once said:

“The meaning of communication is the response you get”.

When you are a medical professional sitting with an actual patient, you won’t be in the fortunate position of receiving feedback from them. They just won’t tell you.

They can’t.

They don’t really know what you are doing and you wouldn’t expect them too!

Working with an ACE or simulated patient changes all of that.

When ACEs work with students, their key role in the interaction is to provide quality feedback to the student clinician on their communication and the systems exam that they are performing.

Everyone employed by Meducate Academy are experienced actors and can therefore present powerful examples of a patient with a variety of problems and pathologies. Whether it be a mental health scenario, a difficult or challenging patient, an angry patient, those presenting with physical problems or working with colleagues and relatives of a patient. We have done them all!

This is all very useful as it creates a ‘reality’ for the student to work with, but it is not the complete story.

Role-play and simulation without high-quality feedback is just acting, and that’s not our aim here at Meducate Academy.

An ACE is an important and vital resource for the student, and our ability to recreate a scenario as a simulated patient providing feedback is of critical importance to the student and their assessors.

The feedback we offer allows the student time to reflect on their performance without the worry of making a ‘mistake’. That the environment is safe and that they can stop the scenario at any time in order to make any adjustments to their communication style.

You can’t do this with an actual patient!

Providing feedback in a nonjudgmental way gives the student an opportunity to improve without the pressure of having to get it right every time.

Feedback when given is always specific and detailed where necessary. We never say:

“Oh. That was Good!”

Without qualifying the statement to the student with detail as to why it was good and how it made the patient feel at the time they said it. Feedback should be evident and observable.

For example, the ACE would explain how the patient felt when the student failed to make eye contact when delivering bad news. There should be no ambiguity in your feedback, and clarity is vital:

“When you auscultated my chest and asked me to take deep breaths, you lifted the stethoscope off my chest before I completed a full breath cycle.”

This is much better than: “Keep the stethoscope on a little longer.”

The timing of the feedback is also important. We always wait until the end of the history and/or examination before giving feedback. This is normal unless the assessor/staff member asks for it earlier.

In some cases (mainly physical examinations) the ACE may stop the interaction if a procedure is performed roughly, or if the ACE is in danger of getting injured.

When we give feedback to more than one participant in a simulation, we keep it as succinct as possible and we never judge. An ACE will never compare one students’ performance against another. We take each person on their own merits.

When giving feedback, we do it in the third person as the patient. Explaining how the patient felt from their perspective is vital, and when we give feedback, we always ensure that we only make two or three points. We never overwhelm the student with a wealth of information, only enough to develop their skill set.

An ACE never gives feedback on the medical content of the simulation unless they have been specifically trained by a clinician. We always remind ourselves that we are lay educators and not clinicians.

If a student becomes defensive about feedback, we do not engage in arguing the point. Speak calmly and logically. A good structure therefore is vital. We are never too negative in our feedback and if the support of the facilitator is required, the ACE will get them involved.

If a student seems confused by the feedback, we take a few moments to reflect on what has been said and then recalibrate our communication style to suit the student. Everyone is different, and an ACE always endeavours to be a master communicator.

If a member of staff contradicts the ACE, we always wait till the session is over to discuss that difference in perspective. We would never discuss issues in front of the students. This may be an opportunity to learn something new and improve our skillsets.

It is often the case in our multicultural society that an ACE may not understand the student because of an accent, dialect or even the volume. We are always respectful, and will explain to the student that they sometimes have to work on this aspect of their communication in order to ensure they are understood and that their interaction has a high degree of clarity. Lack of clarity is always pointed out sensitively.

Sometimes the ACE may notice that the accepted dress code is not being adhered too. It is important that we highlight this in our feedback to the staff. Personal matters such as bad breath, body odour and unkempt appearance should be addressed. We don’t mention this directly to the student, but through the facilitator.

We always expect our ACEs and simulated patients to also develop their communication skills. We regularly assess them in this ability. Being an actor does not mean that you can be a role-player. The ability to deliver feedback effectively to the student is what is expected.

Let’s ensure that the standards of the ACE are as high as that of the clinicians.

We are currently producing a workbook for the ACEs and this will serve as a useful aide-mémoire for those who take on this very demanding but rewarding role.

Clinical Communication and History Taking – An Associate Clinical Educators Perspective

It’s always important for an ACE to understand the protocols health professionals must follow to help them take a good history from a patient. Once we understand this we are able to give hi-fidelity feedback to the Clinician and thus help them improve their ability to build rapport and gather information simultaneously.

Last week I had the pleasure of working with our partners at The University of Chester and The University of Wolverhampton Physician Associate Programmes.

At Chester University  we worked with 1st Year physician associates and at Wolverhampton we were working with 2nd year students. In both cases we were looking at how students communicate effectively with patients. What was apparent is the importance of quality feedback to the student.

For the students at Chester this was their first time looking at role-play, it was difficult convincing shy students to step up to the plate and hear their thoughts. It turns out that the ACE also has to be something of a motivator encouraging the students to take part. To get to grips with the scenario and to see that “roleplay” can be fun and educational, rather than scary and intimidating. It is this element of teaching that I particularly enjoy.

Wolverhampton however was very different, but still had its challenges. Although the students were more experienced with role-play and history taking, we still had a lot of work to do as the scenarios were far more challenging.

This week however, they had a reprieve from taking part in role-play.

I had been asked by the clinical lead Pete Gorman to deliver a session on communication theory and to talk about the practical challenges students face when talking to a difficult patient.

Whenever we communicate we interact both verbally and non-verbally, and understanding how we can make this work would take more than this short article. Here is a brief synopsis of what we discussed.

There are four legs to effective communication and these are:

  • Rapport
  • Behavioural Flexibility
  • Sensory Acuity
  • Knowing your Outcome

Rapport is key to successful communication. Indeed without rapport it is very difficult to influence anyone, whether that be to make behavioral change or to take a simple history. We have all had that experience with another person when we feel we just connect. We sometimes find ourselves engaged in a conversation with a stranger and feel that they are just like us. That is rapport. People deeply in love have rapport to the extent that they mirror each others’ posture, language and even breathing patterns. That is rapport.

Interacting With A Patient Whilst Performing A Systems Exam Is Crucial To Building And Maintaining Rapport
Interacting With A Patient Whilst Performing A Systems Exam Is Crucial To Building And Maintaining Rapport

In order to be effective in our communications with patients we must also be aware of the continuous process of feedback. It is important to know whether we are getting what we want from our communication. To do this effectively we must have sensory acuity. We notice  changes in physiology, breathing, eye accessing and language patterns. Armed with this information we can build rapport more authentically and deepen the relationship with the patient.

Once we have noticed these seemingly imperceptible cues, we can help the patient make better decisions and connect fully with the health professional. Using these tools will allow the clinician to help the patient to have a greater awareness of the choices available to them in the present, rather than have these choices restricted by past experiences and out-dated responses. This is what we sometimes call motivational interviewing.

Finally, everything you achieve is an outcome. If you are successful in your endeavours; that is an outcome. If you don’t succeed, that is still an outcome. Whatever we do results in an outcome. In order to achieve desirable outcomes we need to effectively model what works and then go out and do it! Rehearsal through role-play is the key to achieving positive outcomes when taking a history. You will always get what you ask for! Ask in the correct way and you will achieve your goal.

Whilst all of the above should be noted there are other important considerations that a clinician should be aware of in history taking.

I asked the students to remember the following when taking a history.

  • Presenting complaints – This is a list of the main symptoms or problems.
  • History of presenting complaint – This is an in-depth description the the presenting compliant.
  • Previous medical history – This is a comprehensive list of the all the illnesses, conditions and operation the patient has had in the past.
  • Drug history – A list of all of the patients medications and any allergies they may have.
  • Family history – Ask about conditions that run in the family.
  • Social history – This includes information about home, occupation, hobbies and habits. This would include smoking, drinking and illicit drug use.
  • Systems review – This a checklist of closed questions for every organ system in the body.

Using open and closed questions is an important skill. Closed questions at the start of a consultations encourage short yes and no type answers. Not good for building rapport in the opening stages of a meeting. Open questions encourage the patient to talk and that can be useful. Save the closed questions for gathering a quick response.

Engaging The Patient Both Verbally And Non Verbally Is Crucial For Building And Maintaining Rapport
Engaging The Patient Both Verbally And Non Verbally Is Crucial For Building And Maintaining Rapport

A common question I get from students is what factors hinder good communication? The list is extensive and I’ve seen and heard them all, but here are a few.

A badly worded introduction where you don’t clearly say your name. Not remembering the patients name, embarrassment, lack of curiosity, not asking the right types of questions, not making the right amount of eye contact, misreading body language, making assumptions, not listening actively, missing cues, not knowing how to deal with an answer, an over talkative patient, misunderstandings, making assumptions about the patient, stacking questions, judgemental behaviours. There are so many!

At the end of the session I gave students strategies to go away and practice. We always have opportunities every day to practice our communication skills. Unless you’re a hermit of course!

Check out the interactions between Mark and Bob on the video and if you are an actor interested in becoming a medical role-player and want to take it to the next level get in touch and join our growing ACE team. We will be posting dates for the next ACE training soon.

Meducate Academy Is Moving

Clinical training room at Wolverhampton University

Meducate Academy is moving, in many senses of the word…

Almost three years in the business and despite the impact that Covid-19 has created, Meducate Academy seem to be leading the way in the education of health-care professionals by Lay Clinical Educators and Simulated Patients.

The past week has seen us providing our services to one of our partners, The University of Wolverhampton. Under the direction of Pete Gorman Clinical Lead we supplied Associate Clinical Educators on their Physician Associate Programme. Working with three experienced ACEs we covered scenarios including the management of Mental Health issues, dealing with an anxious patient presenting with STEMI and a session on how to examine a patient with thyroid problems

These scenarios were designed to challenge the students both in their ability to take a focused history and a perform a focused cardiovascular and thyroid examination, including testing them on their ability to read an ECG correctly.

We ran the sessions as a mock OSCE over ten minutes, but unlike an OSCE we were able to give feedback to the students for twenty minutes each. The days were long but productive and very rewarding, plus the feedback given by the students was also excellent.

The students had worked with us previously, so they were not surprised by the level of challenge and the way we approach the delivery of Clinical Examinations. They were all PA students in their second year, so the pressure was put on them to perform at the highest level. Most of them didn’t let us down, and they thanked us for the work we had done last year.

Unlike volunteers and real patients, an ACE working alongside an experienced clinician can make a significant difference to the development of a PA student.

It is sessions like this that allow the students to make their mistakes in a safe and supportive environment. The ACE always gives feedback in a structured way, including information on the students ability to build rapport with the patient.

We will be following these sessions up next week with Mock OSCEs under actual exam conditions using seven of our most experienced ACEs. It should be an enjoyable week!

Next month we will also work with The University of Chester on their PA programme, but this time we will work online using Microsoft Teams. This is a different type of teaching and requires good camera skills. More of that in another post.

Working online presents us all with a variety of communication challenges. Lousy cameras, dodgy Wi-Fi and misunderstandings about how to use the system. The Internet can seem to have a life of its own at times. We have contingency plans for events like this.

We have even run online sessions to help students and our ACEs use the technology more effectively. Most of the online work we do focuses more on History Taking as it’s virtually impossible to do physical exams online.

Working online presents its challenges, but we have been working online since the start of the first lockdown back in March earlier this year. We more or less have it sorted!

Embracing the new technology meant we had to invest in state-of-the-art cameras, lighting and sound equipment to ensure that our customers get the very best experience.

It also means we can film training material and create Podcasts for use by our clients for future use when the Covid-19 pandemic is all over.

Those of you with a keen eye will see that our address has also changed.

We have now moved our offices from Shenstone in Staffordshire to a Birmingham city center location, situated at Grosvenor House in the Jewellery Quarter in St Paul’s Square. Having a central location makes it easier to train upcoming ACEs and meet potential clients. We are near to Central Station and on the major route into Birmingham from the M6.

All this and more to come. Including a proposed webinar where we invite senior Clinicians and Associate Clinical Educators together with students to talk about how to approach OSCEs. We are also currently filming and building a library of systems exams so students can have access to the latest examination methods being used in the OSCEs.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us make this journey.