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Report & Video Of Ace National Online Conference 2021

The Meducate ACE National Conference attracted some great speakers
The Meducate Academy online AEC conference was a great success and attracted some great speakers

We began September with our first ACE National Online Conference held online using Zoom as the platform, and it went well.

We had six speakers talk about their personal experience of working with ACEs as part of their programmes of teaching. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, they talked at length about the real value of the ACE as a hi-fidelity simulated patient. As well as discussing the pros and cons of using ACEs and also about the students experience of working an ACE.

Professor Jim Parle started the proceedings with a brief chat about the development of the ACE role. Indeed, it was Jim who created the role of the ACE at the University of Birmingham many years ago alongside the ISU. Although retired, he still likes to play an active role in medical education, and it was an honour for us to have him as our keynote speaker.

Other speakers included James Ennis, the Clinical Lead at the University of Chester who also utilises ACEs in all of his teaching modules and is currently doing a PhD which takes a focussed look at the role of simulation in clinical teaching.

Director of Meducate Academy with Mark Reynolds
Founder and Director of Meducate Academy Bob behind the scenes with Mark Reynolds

Uzo Ehiogu, a teaching fellow and senior physiotherapist at the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in Birmingham, speaks about his experiences using volunteer patients and the ACE, and talks about the relative values of both when he is working with 4th year medical students from the University of Birmingham.

The current President of the Faculty of Physician Associates, Kate Straughton, shared her experiences of working alongside ACEs at The University of Birmingham on the PA Course there. She talked a little about her time as a student Physician Associate and how the ACEs helped her when she studied at Birmingham, where she is now a senior lecturer.

Peter Gorman was next up and he went into great detail about how he used ACEs to transform the way his University (Wolverhampton) coped with the demands that the Pandemic placed on the staff and the students. He also talked about the initiatives he came up with to keep the students engaged during this difficult time.

Finally, we heard from Sarah Baig, a Clinical Pharmacologist who used ACEs for the very first time at The University of Birmingham on the Independent Prescribing Course. New to the whole concept of the ACE, Sarah expressed how valuable the ACE can be compared to the run-of-the-mill role player when it comes to clinical examinations.

Host and Chairman Mark Reynolds
ACE Online Conference Host and Chairman Mark Reynolds

We want to say thanks to all the speakers and also to the delegates who attended. Some as far away as the USA! We know that some delegates would have liked to have attended but couldn’t, which is why we recorded the conference so that you may listen to the speakers at your leisure.

We are planning our next conference which is being held online again in March 2022, so look out for information on that soon.

We are also going to run an online conference in November aimed specifically at Physician Associates and how to approach physical examinations and how to prepare for the OSCEs. All Physician Associates students are invited and the conference will be free and will feature several speakers, including some of the speakers in this video. You will also have the opportunity to put your questions directly to each speaker. It will be a bit like Question Time but a lot more fun.

We will post specific dates for these events on social media and on this blog.

Watch the full video of the Ace National Online 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

Meducate Academy’s First National Online ACE Conference

Meducate Academy’s First National Online ACE Conference

Meducate Academy are pleased to announce their First National Online Conference on The role of the Associate Clinical Educator in Medical Education.

As I have said repeatedly, Simulation with an ACE plays a very important role in helping Medical Students, Physician Associates, Pharmacists and other health professionals in the application of their skills. This coupled with the use of other tools such as the Sim Man, anatomical models and volunteer patients integrate the teaching so that the students practical development is maximised. It prepares them to work with real life patients.

More often than not students only get to practice these skills on volunteer patients and mannequins. Neither of these can replace the type of feedback given by a human being in real time.

A few years ago this problem was addressed by Prof Jim Parle at The University of Birmingham on the Physician associate Course. He realised the importance of high quality feedback and created the role of the Associate Clinical Educator (ACE). The ACE, as we have previously said, is a highly experienced medical roleplayer who has been trained by clinicians to understand “how” the Systems examinations should be carried out. The ACE will then guide the student, allowing them to develop their skills in a safe and controlled environment.

It is also important to realise that as well as aiding the student in passing their OSCEs, the ACE role is there to help the student develop safe practice. This is a topic that is often not mentioned and this too will be discussed during the conference.

At the present moment ACEs are only being used by three institutions in the UK.

Birmingham University (In house through the ISU)
Chester University (Meducate Academy)
Wolverhampton University (Meducate Academy)

We are inviting clinical leads as well as those involved in simulation in the health professions to attend free of charge.

You will have a chance to listen to 5 key speakers who currently use ACEs alongside traditional methods of simulation and also get to see a brief example of how an ACE works with a student. This will be followed by a Q & A session with the speakers themselves.

The Line Up:

Professor Jim ParleProfessor Jim Parle

Professor Jim Parle will be speaking about the history of the role of associate clinical educator and his part in its development and what the future holds for simulation.

Jim Parle was Professor of Primary Care and was Course director for the Physician Assistant PGDip programme at The University of Birmingham. Although retired he continues to work tirelessly on a variety of projects.

Jim entered General Practice in 1982 and was Senior Partner from 1983 to 2000, continuing part-time General Practice alongside academia since then.  Jim’s main activity in his 20 years as an academic has been in education, leading on the introduction of a major community based teaching strand within the MBChB course; championing the place of non bio-sciences such as ethics and law and behavioral science in the medical curriculum; establishing the PA PGDip; and leading innovative educational approaches such as using lay women to teach medical students how to perform female pelvic examinations. His research interests have been predominantly in thyroid epidemiology and in education. He has received grants from, among others, the RCGP, PPP (now the Health Foundation) and the NIHR.

Jim had also led the development of community based experience for medical students, initiated (with Dr Sheila Greenfield), the innovative and successful intercalated degree in non-bioscience subjects; led the development of various types of simulation as enjoyable and effective learning methodologies for clinical skills and set up one of the first, and by most measures the most successful, postgraduate diploma in Physician Assistant studies in the UK. He was also chair of the UK and Ireland Board for PA Studies. He has been on the Steering Committee for the Biennial International Clinical Skills Conference series held in Tuscany, and chaired the Scientific Committee for that conference.

He is well known in the fields of thyroid epidemiology and, in education, particularly in the development of innovative approaches to learning clinical skills. He has spoken at numerous conferences on these issues (e.g. quinquennial thyroid conference, Buenos Aires, Ottawa conference on assessment, Toronto).

He recently stepped down as Chief Senior Examiner of the RCP Faculty of Physician Associate National Exam board.

James Ennis Course Director University of ChesterJames Ennis

James has worked in a number of clinical fields across the UK including general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, acute medicine and general practice. He has worked in educational institutes across England and is currently research active. His research interest is in the PA role in the UK and the use of simulation in medical education. Recent publications include:

Effectiveness of technology-enhanced simulation in teaching digital rectal examination: a systematic review narrative synthesis.

Physician associates: the challenge facing general practice.

Physician associates working in secondary care teams in England: interprofessional implications from a national survey.

James is currently the Course Director of the MSc Physician Associate studies at the University of Chester.

Kate Straughton President FPAKate Straughton

President of the Faculty of Physician Associates and Senior Lecturer at The University of Birmingham Physician Associate Programme.

Kate is a qualified PA, graduating from the University of Birmingham in 2009 and completing her MsC in 2017 from the University of Worcester. She has over ten years experience including working in acute medicine and neurosurgery. She has been working in PA education since 2014, with a focus on work-based learning and clinical placements. Kate is currently the placement lead for the University of Birmingham PA course, and also oversees the MsC ‘top up’ for PAs who wish to carry out some further research.

Uzo Ehiogu Uzo Ehiogu

Uzo is a Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist who led the Spinal Therapy Unit at London Bridge Hospital in London, England. In that role he was responsible for the specialist spinal rehabilitation of post surgical patients referred by orthopaedic, upper limb and neuro surgeons. He also acted a source of clinical expertise for lower quadrant related dysfunction within the department. He now heads up the training of 4th year Medical students in Musculo Skeletal Examinations at the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in Birmingham as well as working in a busy clinical role.

Uzo is a retired British Army Physiotherapy Officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He spent several years in the Royal Marines Commandos and qualified as a Parachutist before being selected for a Commission in the Army as an Officer. During his service in the Army he has worked in secondary care, primary care and occupational health environments.

One his most recent appointment was as the Rehabilitation Officer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst providing clinical and administrative leadership for a high performance musculoskeletal service. He was the clinical lead responsible for the delivery of a high class service in a premier military training establishment for injured soldiers. He led the  accelerated return to military training and work of patients with career threatening injuries requiring ongoing care and extended rehabilitation for periods of 4-8 months.

Uzo deployed to Afghanistan twice during his Army service years in support of British Special Forces personnel. He conducted specialist musculoskeletal clinics. This role required independent decision making regarding the clinical diagnosis and future management of high value personnel.  He has also worked as a Specialist Physiotherapist at Defence Medical  Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court.

Uzo has worked in the National Health Service as a Senior Physiotherapist where he developed a Pilates and Spinal Stability retraining service in East London England. He has worked for several football teams in Northeast London, England, most notably at West Ham Professional Football Club as the Youth Team Physiotherapist.

Uzo is a Bachelor of Applied Sports Science, and an accredited Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association USA. He is also a Bachelor of Physiotherapy and is in his final year of a Clinical Masters of Science Degree in Manipulative and Manual Physiotherapy. He is a keen researcher and reader and is currently involved in a year long prospective research project investigating lower limb injury risk profiling in British Army Officer Cadets.

Mark Reynolds Mark Reynolds (Host) Mark has been working as an ACE since 2008 having trained as a medical role player two years previously. Aside from teaching cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal examinations, his special interests in the ACE role include clinical communication, orthopaedic examinations and Mark is a leading educator in the male intimate examinations. Outside of the ACE role Mark is currently involved with various narration projects for the BBC Doctor Who franchise.

We look forward to you joining us on the 4th September 2021 at 12 noon and engage with our experienced clinicians who will talk about their experience of simulation in teaching practice and how the ACE has helped their students develop important clinical and communication skills.

Click here to register for Meducate Academy’s First National Online ACE Conference

From Comedy to Clinical Education: My Journey As An Associate Clinical Educator

Clinical Director James Ennis demonstrates an Elbow exam with ACE Mark Reynolds
Clinical Director James Ennis going through an Elbow exam with ACE Mark Reynolds

My journey as An Associate Clinical Educator started way back in 1984 when I enrolled on the Drama and Theatre Arts Degree course at The University of Birmingham. It was a massive departure from my previous life back in the North of England. I was a mature student and at least ten years older than my fellow students, and the real challenge was also having two small children in tow! The course was the best thing I could have done and has changed my life immeasurably.

I would never have imagined that many years later I would work as an associate clinical educator at the same university but this time in the Medical School and not the Drama department.

After qualification I was working as an actor in TV, Film, Theatre and Motion Capture. I served a fifteen year apprenticeship as a comedian on the alternative comedy circuit through the late 80s to the early noughties as part of a double act.

It was during my time as a comedian that I was able to develop skills as an performer and spent this time persuading the audience that we were funny. Working as a live comedian is the best place to learn to deal with an audience. If you don’t get your message across, you are told to “Get Off”. Not usually as politely as that!

In the background to this I was also building my skills as a corporate educator, motivational speaker, and a Trainer of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). NLP is something I continue to be involved with to the present day.

Associate Clinical Educators Bob Spour, Greg Hobbes, Mark Reynolds at The University of Chester
Working with Clinical Director James Ennis, and ACEs Greg Hobbes and Mark Reynolds at The University of Chester

In 2009 I changed direction and applied to be a Medical Role Player with The Interactive Skills Unit (ISU) at The University of Birmingham. This required a different set of skills and as well as acting I was also expected to give feedback to the medical students after having role played various scenarios with them. A different way of working for me, and I enjoyed it immensely.

It was during a GPVTS roleplay session that the Manager of the ISU, Karen Reynolds, approached me and asked if I would be interested in working as an ACE. This was a role developed by Professor Jim Parle of The Physician Associate Programme at Birmingham. I jumped at the chance and embraced this new venture. It would shape the course of my future career working with health professionals.

With the help of Jim Parle I embarked upon my new career as an ACE. It meant I could combine my skills as a communicator alongside my new growing knowledge of body systems examinations. Giving feedback on the students technique as well as their communication skills. I could now help the student on two levels. Having been a trained engineer in the 70s I took to the role easily, as body systems are not dissimilar to mechanical systems. I also took this approach whilst studying anatomy and physiology.

Over the next six months I bought books on body system examinations and practiced the techniques with Mark, one of the other ACEs. Together we made a formidable team and worked with The Physician Associates and their Clinical staff. The clinicians were always supportive of our efforts and always made us feel part of the team. They gave us insight into the methodology of examining the CV, respiratory, GI, cranial nerves, upper and lower limb neurology. We also helped the students’ approach to sitting the OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Exams). We were learning on the job and I spent many hours pouring over medical textbooks to enhance my knowledge in my own time.

In 2011 I was offered a chance to learn examinations of the musculo-skeletal systems, working for The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH). Training was carried out by Consultant Surgeon Mr Edward Davis and Consultant Physiotherapist Andy Emms. These sessions were well structured, theoretical and practical, and they guided us through the hip, knee, shoulder, spine, hand and ankle examinations in great detail along with supporting materials. This would be another string to my bow.

University of Chester. Riverside Campus
University of Chester, Riverside Campus

As time went on, I was fortunate to work with some great clinicians who were always happy to help and answer my questions. Some have even become friends as well as colleagues.

I now have the pleasure of extending my knowledge to other universities and institutions and find myself able to offer employment and training to other role players and actors wishing to embark on this amazing career.

I am also in the process of creating a course with a view to ACEs gaining accreditation for the role through one of our partners. I believe this is vitally important in maintaining high standards of teaching to the medical students. Many of the clinicians I have worked with over the years have offered their help in teaching new ACEs to the very highest level.

Who would have thought it would have come this far? It’s thanks to the people who gave me the opportunity to reach out to students and help them on their journey to becoming great clinicians.

The recent pandemic saw a downturn with employment in the field for many role players, but I was able to take up this challenge and run with it. Working in conjunction with Peter Gorman at The University of Wolverhampton and James Ennis at Chester University, we were able to teach online and take OSCEs from March 2020 right up to the present date. Thus ensuring the students had as little disruption as possible to their studies. Sadly, some universities did not embrace this way of working until much later. We were therefore ahead of the curve in adapting to the changing working environment and I was able to offer employment to some of my friends and colleagues.

It is during tough times like this that I fully realise the significance of one of my lifelong maxims:

There is no Failure. Only Feedback.

If 2020-21 was anything to go by, 2022 promises to be an exceptional year for Meducate Academy. This is how I see the future.

If you, like me, fancy a real challenge, come work with Meducate Academy and join us on the journey.

The Physician Associates Program And The Role Of The ACE

Bob Spour working with Clinical Lead Pete Gorman at The University of Wolverhampton
Working alongside Clinical Lead Pete Gorman at The University of Wolverhampton

Congratulations are in order to all of those Physician Associates who were successful in passing their recent National Exams.

The Physician Associates Program is a very intensive 2 year Post-Graduate course and requires great dedication, focus, resilience and determination to complete. It takes many hours of reading, studying and practicing hands on skills training to produce a competent and safe PA.

Image of the University of Wolverhampton from the PA Skills suite
The University of Wolverhampton from the PA Skills suite

Working in close partnership with The University of Chester and The University of Wolverhampton has shown me how demanding the course can be. I see it as my duty as an ACE to ensure that the PA student gets the support and the skills they need to progress in the profession

As an ACE it is also important to keep up to date with any changes that might be happening in the curriculum. Whilst this sometimes is a challenge, I am always grateful to the tutors for their continued support.

Just as the students work and study hard, I am conscious that Meducate Academy’s ACEs put in the same effort. We will therefore continue to work closely with Chester University and Wolverhampton University to produce high quality training programmes for both communication skills and systems examinations this year.

We are about to start producing video and online resources materials for our ACE training programme over the summer months. In less than a month our ACE Aide Memoire will be available to all of our staff here at Meducate Academy.

It's always fun working with ACEs at The University of Chester
Bob & Mark enjoy working at The University of Chester

Academy continue to invest in our ACEs and we are still working on gaining some type of accreditation for the role. Although we are seen as lay educators our ability to provide high fidelity simulations and clinical skills is well documented by the institutions we work with. It is about time this was rewarded with some type of recognised qualification. It also means that our partners know that they are getting the highest quality ACEs working alongside their clinical staff.

We have always been passionate about continued professional ACE training and we want the quality of that work to be second to none.

We will be rolling out a regular annual training camp for the ACEs. This means we have control over the quality of the people we provide to our customers. This of course will be dependent on social distancing rules being relaxed in the coming months.

If you want to work as an ACE and be part of the team at Meducate Academy enter your details in the landing page here and we will get in touch.

Incidentally we will also be hosting an Annual Conference in July 2021. The panel will consist of five speakers all senior clinicians in their own right who have an impressive track record on the UK PA programme. The topic will be the role of simulation in medical training, specifically focusing on the role of the associate clinical educator.

 

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.

Interview With James Ennis, Clinical Director (PA Program) At Chester University

Image of Bob ACE working with a group of physician associate students at a recent training course
Bob working as an ACE with a group of PA students at a recent training course giving feedback to students is a vital part of the ACEs role.

One of the greatest innovations the computer age has brought us is the opportunity for anyone to set up a podcast. Podcasts are great to watch or listen to when you are on the move and allow you to get information quickly from a variety of sources. We at Meducate have embraced that technology and are now producing a series of podcasts on Medical Roleplay and Associate Clinical Education (ACE). We will be talking to clinicians and simulated patients and, in some cases students, about their experience of working with us.

Image of Clinical Director (PA Program) at Chester University
James Ennis Course Director University Of Chester

Last week I interviewed James Ennis, Clinical Director of the Physician Associate Program at Chester University, who I have had a working relationship with for over 10 years.

You can listen to the podcast here, but I thought it would be good to give a very abbreviated version as a blog post for those who don’t have the time to listen.

BOB: Welcome to the Podcast, James.  First of all, thanks for coming on and agreeing to do this. I know you are very busy dealing with a multitude of challenges at the moment, but I’d like to get your view on what it’s like to work with medical role players and ACEs in this ever changing environment.

JAMES:  Thanks, Bob. It’s a pleasure to talk to you about this subject and get it out to a wider audience. As you know I’ve been working with Associate Clinical Educators and role players for the best part of 10 years and we’ve always had them within our curriculum both at Birmingham University and now at Chester. I think it’s an important aspect to medical education, and the feedback we receive from students about the experience is always exceptional. I’ve never once had negative feedback from a student regarding clinical educators or role players because of their ability to help the students relax and also give them constructive feedback about both their physical examination skills and their communication skills. It’s often the case that students can feel more anxiety when working with an academic clinician than with an external educator such as an ACE.

BOB: Yes, I’ve noticed how much more relaxed the students are with us and I guess it’s because we come in at their level in many ways and with our knowledge of systems examinations we can help them practice their techniques quickly and effectively without recourse to in-depth academic analysis. It’s hands on without too much theory, which a lot of students crave.

They really enjoy the hands-on skills we help them with, and even simple techniques like palpation and percussion are keenly rehearsed with us over and over. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can cause the most confusion and we are there to hold their hands, as it were.

I was obviously trained by Clinicians like yourself, but the students often comment on how knowledgeable we are in terms of our understanding of the examination process. We are also able to tell whether the student is gaining rapport with the patient and handling the patient in a respectful way. That and of course our extensive understanding on what is expected in OSCE’s.

As an ACE and role player, I and my colleagues must have been through 1000s of OSCE stations in our time. We have a good idea what an examiner is looking for, and this gives us a lot of credibility when students ask about OSCEs. It’s one of their big concerns, and having this knowledge helps us build trust with the students.

JAMES: Yes, I’ve noticed that when we work with you guys, you have this knack of reading the whole situation and responding appropriately. The fact that you have background knowledge of history taking and Systems Examinations, as well as a clear understanding as to what’s required in the OSCEs, has been tremendous in improving the students ability to, not just pass exams but turn out as very good, very safe clinicians. The feedback you guys give about excessive use of jargon is also important and can sometimes be missed by volunteer patients, for example.

Consulting with simulated patients when it might be called upon for them to perform intimate examinations, are made so much easier when working with an experienced ACE. That ability to help the student keep their sense of humour and deal effectively in a relaxed manner in what could be a very embarrassing situation.

Like I said you guys are an  invaluable resource. I don’t know how you how you found it over the years, but I think it’s grown into something far more meaningful than we ever thought it would be.

BOB: Obviously you have embraced the idea of using ACEs as part of your teaching methodology and you find them of great value in consolidating the students learning. Yet, there are only a few institutions that utilise our skills. Chester, Wolverhampton and Birmingham are the three I know of. Why do you think ACEs have not been used elsewhere, bearing in mind the high value you place on them?

JAMES: Ultimately if we’re going to be completely honest, I think a lot of it comes down to money and resources and availability, which is a real shame, because as we know working with ACEs really embellish and enrich the student experience, and we have both alluded to the fact that ultimately students retain information and learn faster when examining real people. People who can give extensive feedback in a structured way and link that to the real world. We were even talking about getting the ACE role validated, which I know you have been a keen advocate of. That would be icing on the cake as it were.

BOB: Yes, I for one would be very keen to have the role validated. I think academics would take us more seriously and once they had experienced working with an ACE, would then realise the value and they would then add is to their program.

JAMES:  Absolutely. We’ve spoken about this in the past and I think it needs to be a requirement and there is an important need to have some accreditation process or some monitoring, because it is actually a very robust system.

Academics who have not experienced working with an ACE might not be aware of the amount of training that goes into being an effective ACE, and I have seen the type of preparation ACEs go through, both as individuals and as part of the team. That’s the other aspect that needs to be mentioned. When you work with us at Chester, you really are seen as part of the team and are treated as such.

BOB: Yes, that’s true. We feel valued as much as other external educators, and we do appreciate it. It makes for a smooth working relationship and I think the students notice this too.

The recent Pandemic must have posed challenges for you as an educator and I know it has affected the amount of work we have had. Some Institutions were up and running, but most seemed to struggle with embracing the new idea of working online. What was your experience like?

JAMES:  Yeah, that’s a good question, actually. Obviously, we have had to change our approach to clinical practise and there have been significant changes in general practise in the community. We have had to work with video conferencing, telephone triage and consultations and we have found new ways to use these technologies with you guys at Meducate.

In fact, you were up and running as soon as the lockdown happened. This was great news for us, as we could use your services almost immediately and the skill and depth of understanding you brought to this new way of working was refreshing. Everything ran like clockwork. I can only say thanks and say that for those reading this Meducate can provide you with an excellent and very professional service.

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I would like to thank James for giving permission to abbreviate our podcast and in future posts will include more interviews with clinicians as well as ACEs and students.

Associate Clinical Educators On Film At Chester University

Course Director James Ennis performing a knee examination on ACE Bob
ACE Bob works closely with Course Director James Ennis whilst performing a knee examination for a training video at Chester University

It’s true to say that during the Covid – 19 crises our services have not been required as much as normal. Whilst many institutions seem to be struggling to embrace online teaching some have risen to the challenge and hit the ground running. We have been fortunate however, working with both Wolverhampton and Chester Universities on their PA Programs. This is great news as it helps keep our skillsets sharp and allows us the opportunity to embrace this new way of working.

Teaching online does have its challenges but I find it as easy as if we were working face to face with students in a classroom. The feedback we have received from students has been excellent and this gives us confidence that what we are doing is hitting the mark.

Working with students directly, and in particular with Physical examinations, has not yet been possible due to social distancing. This will change soon with September seeing us back in the driving seat working as ACEs.

James Ennis and Mark (ACE) preparing for a Lower Limb Neurology Examination that is being recorded for training purposes
Experienced ACE Mark assists James Ennis (Course Director Chester University) in performing a Lower Limb Neurology Examination

Many ACEs and role players are also trained actors which obviously ensures that scenarios are realistic and believable. We often get feedback from students saying how “real” they felt the interaction was, and because of our varied skillsets we often get asked to make training videos. These, more often than not, see us in consultations with us acting as patients, who might have challenging behaviours, as well as physical conditions and a comprehensive history.

Last week, we had a opportunity work with the Chester University PA Program when we were asked to take part in a filming session for James Ennis the Clinical Director at Chester University. We were tasked with developing a training video demonstrating a variety of typical Musculo-Skeletal Examinations (MSK).

We have been trained in clinical MSK examinations over 10 years ago by Professor Edward Davies (Consultant Surgeon) and Andy Emms (Consultant Physiotherapist) of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham. This means that our level of skill and knowledge of how to prepare the students to perform these examinations is text book.

We often help prepare PA students and 4th Year Medical Students when working for The University of Birmingham Medical School in MSK examinations and this has sharpened our skills. This experience has been invaluable to our education as an ACE, as well as us being able to take advantage of online resources that are readily available if you know where to look.

The requirement was for us to go through complete Hip, Knee, Shoulder and Lumber Spine examinations, which also included Upper and Lower Limb Neurological exams.

With the help of Scott Howard from simulation, we managed to film all of the sequences and we look forward to seeing them being used by all those on the PA program in the near future. What made it even more useful was that we were able to review our knowledge base, and have an opportunity to practice skills we have not used for 4 months. It was a win-win situation!

I was assisted as always by my travelling companion Mark, who made the journey up to Chester pass by in the wink of an eye.

If you want to find out more about the role of the ACE and how we can help your students improve their technique, contact is at Meducate Academy.