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Training A New Generation Of Associate Clinical Educators

Group image of ACEs at Meducate Academy's first training day
All of the ACEs at Meducate Academy’s training day in Birmingham on 19th June 2021

Meducate Academy have been working tirelessly with a view to creating more high quality ACEs, to help with the growing interest in the role we play. There seems to be a shortage of high quality ACEs and as our workload seems to be increasing, we conducted our first training programme on the weekend of the 19th June in Birmingham.

We have recently been busy over the past three weeks with the buildup to the OSCEs and of course the ongoing work with Chester and Wolverhampton Universities. It has been a successful time  for all involved and our ACEs have had their work cut out for them.

Working alongside clinicians, we have been assisting in the teaching of physician associates in:

  • MSK
  • Cranial Nerves
  • Gastro Intestinal
  • Respiratory
  • Cardio Vascular
  • Blood Pressure Measurement,
  • Peripheral Pulses and Nerves

We have also roleplayed a variety of exceptionally challenging scenarios, assisting the physician associate with a methodology of history taking, which enables them to become empathetic and safe clinicians.

We support and have continued to work closely with Matrix Education on their programme of weekend training courses.

Meducate Academy recently conducted our first training programme on the weekend of the 19th June in Birmingham.

The session was led by ACEs with the curriculum for the day previously scrutinised by two senior clinicians. Once they were satisfied with the content we gathered the delegates together in central Birmingham for the big day. There were 13 potential ACEs who had committed themselves to the training, who all turned up on time, ready for a very intense but enjoyable day.

The delegates were provided with a comprehensive manual/Aide-mémoire outlining the Gastro intestinal, Cardiovascular and Respiratory systems examinations.

It was important that we paid particular attention to the expectations of the role of the ACE, as none of the delegates had ever worked in this way before.

Medical mannequin
Whilst medical mannequins are useful, they can’t give structured feedback

It was explained that the ACE is not simply a body to practice on, but a high-quality expert patient capable of giving quality feedback about the process of the examination to the Physician Associate Student. We stressed this throughout the day because if the ACE can’t deliver this type of information correctly the student may well as have a mannequin to practice on!

The ACE is essentially an ‘expert’ patient who knows how a student should perform several of the primary systems examinations. It is our role as an ACE to guide the student from start to finish, creating a safe and effective clinician in a supportive and friendly learning environment.

The ACE does not get involved in diagnosis, or the theory behind the examination. We leave that to the clinician, who is usually present throughout the lessons. 

We are there to teach the physician associate student HOW an examination is carried out, and not WHY…

The delegates had traveled from all over the UK and the course was provided free to all those attending. It was satisfying to see how motivated and engaged they all were as we took them through basic jargon and vocabulary, peripheral pulses, blood pressure measurement and of course the main body systems.

Obviously, a day is not enough to encapsulate everything that is required of an ACE, so it was made clear that this was the first step on the road to becoming an Associate Clinical Educator.

Regarding attendance on future Meducate Academy courses (which will also be monitored by experienced clinicians and ACEs) we explained to the group that they will also be expected to shadow the more experienced ACEs before moving onto working autonomously. The new ACEs would also have an informal evaluation conducted by a clinician before being allowed to work as an ACE with Meducate Academy.

Clinical Lead Pete Gorman and Dr Banu Deniziri with newly qualified Physician Asscoiates Zaki and Asim
Clinical Lead Pete Gorman and Dr Banu Deniziri (Wolverhampton University) with newly qualified Physician Asscoiates Zaki and Asim

We want to ensure that our clients get the very best from Meducate Academy. I feel training programmes like ours go someway to developing a model that will provide the client with consistently high quality ACEs.

As has been mentioned on previous posts we are still endeavouring to get some sort of accreditation for the role of the ACE. This may take some time, but we are working on validation of the role with a couple of our university partners.

On another note, I have just had news that one of our partners, The University of Wolverhampton, has just repeated last years success at the National Exams and their last cohort achieved 100% in the written and 88% pass rate in the OSCEs.

It’s nice to know that our ACEs played a small part in that success and I would like to thank them for the hard work and dedication over the past 12 months.

Following up on this, Clinical Lead Peter Gorman has offered to take part in a podcast for Meducate Academy to talk about his innovative approach to preparing Physician Associates for their National Exams. Bookmark this blog and look out for the podcast video which will be posted in the near future.

Meducate Academy ACE Recruitment & Training Programme

Meducate Academy ACE recruitment and training programme online

Meducate Academy recently embarked upon a continuing ACE recruitment and training programme with candidates who had expressed an interest in our ACE training schedules. We emphasised that the role we play is vital in ensuring a clinician is safe to practice with an actual patient and how much commitment is required to fulfill the role of an ACE.

Saturday 15th May 2021 was a very busy day at ‘Meducate Towers’ as we embarked upon our continuing ACE recruitment and training programme. After an initial online webinar a few weeks ago we set Saturday as the date to bring in those candidates who had expressed an interest in our ACE training schedules.

After an initial conversation, in which Mark and I outlined our background and history, we then went on to explain the role of the ACE in medical training. We went onto describe the body systems and how the student clinician would examine a patient. What then followed was a typical ACE hands-on session, with Mark playing the Physician Associate Student, and I as the ACE/simulated patient giving feedback.

This was a great opportunity for the candidates to see how much knowledge is required in order for them to fulfill their role with Meducate Academy. I think it surprised those watching just how much skill and knowledge is necessary to perform the task. Though we did explain that we have been in the role for twelve years, emphasising that this was not our expectation of them at the moment. ACE Training is an ongoing process and even Mark and I are still learning and developing our roles as ACEs.

As you can see from the heavily edited video above, Mark was playing a poorly prepared student. This was an extreme example which gave us the opportunity to show how the ACE needs to be alert when working in a situation with a below standard student.

We explained that the student does not expect us to give feedback on the students’ medical knowledge, or on their diagnosis, but on their technique when performing the examination. Of course, we would also comment on the students’ communication skills if we had any concerns.

Our role is to ensure that the student is safe to practice with a real patient and make a valuable contribution to their profession.

After the demonstration was over, we then went into an Q & A session, which included questions on the duration of training and how their assessment will be carried out. We explained that although the initial training is quite short, we will expect them to shadow an experienced ACE until we feel they are ready to take on the role. We emphasised that the part we play is vital in ensuring a clinician is safe to practice with an actual patient, and so stress was placed on the role and how much commitment is required to fulfill the role of an ACE.

Our customers are highly skilled professional educators and we expect the same high standard from our ACEs.

We are currently working on educational materials for the ACEs, and this is being done in conjunction with senior clinicians who are overseeing the development of this information. These instructional materials include training videos, handbooks and regular telephone or internet support along the way.

Meducate Academy has also been working recently with PAs at Wolverhampton and Chester Universities, and we received welcome news that many of our students had passed their National exams. Good news indeed.

Last weekend Mark and I worked with Matrix Education, again helping student Physician Associates get ready for their upcoming exams. It was great to touch base with students from every part of the UK and a pleasure to work with the team at Matrix, as always. I recently did a podcast with founder of Matrix Education Sofia Hiramatsu and we will be posting a video of the podcast next week on this blog.

I have also spent some time with Wolverhampton University developing their Golden 2 sessions on a weekday evening. If you have ever taken part in OSCEs, you’ll know that one of the vital parts of an OSCE station is the 2 minutes that the students have to read the question.

Sometimes, students find this really difficult and often miss the obvious. With this in mind, Peter Gorman of the Wolverhampton PA Program has put together sessions based purely on “how to read the question”. His approach has been really successful. Helping the student get to grips with being able to answer the question effectively, and I can’t believe someone has not attempted this before. Maybe they have!

It has been an honour to be involved in these sessions and I have seen this approach help struggling students turn a corner in their development. I intend to write something with Pete about this in the next few weeks.

The month ahead looks busy, so I would like to thank all those who attended the Webinar on Saturday. We are currently putting dates together for the initial 2 day training course.

If you are a role player who wishes to take your medical roleplay to the next level, we are always on the lookout for new people, so get in touch.

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.

My Top 10 Tips For Failing The OSCEs

Image of long haired and unshaven medical student
Here are my top ten tips that will assure you fail the OSCEs

The idea for this post developed over the past ten years of my involvement in the training of Physician Associates, Medics, Pharmacists, Dentists and other health professionals. Ten years of working as an ACE and role-player observing those same students pass and fail their OSCEs every year.

I have also spent ten years mentoring and coaching students from all walks of life, at various levels of their education in order to help them become a success.

I have consequently developed strategies and models to help students become safe and competent health professionals. I have seen how successful many of them have become, time and time again.

Over that time, I have also made a careful study of underachievement. The students who fail. I have therefore reached a shocking conclusion that many of the students who fail, share the same strategies on a daily basis that leads to a state of total and absolute failure.

It takes an awful lot of work to fail this well. Often a lot more work than it takes to succeed.

Successful people always reveal that they never feel that they are working for a living.

They’re invariably optimists.

Failures are invariably pessimists.

They usually hate their work.

I have learned a lot from failures.

Failure is a choice… It takes conscious effort!

As I have said, I have studied success too and I know those strategies well. I guess if you know specific strategies for success and do the exact opposite, you’re well on your way to being a spectacular failure.

So, here are my top tips, my step-by-step approach to help you fail the OSCEs majestically.

Of course you could also do the exact opposite… But that would be crazy!!

So here we go:

STEP ONE

If you want to ensure that you fail the OSCE then you must definitely never ever think about what success could mean for you. Avoid, at all costs, positive role models and avoid successful people.

Never define your goals or find your purpose.

STEP TWO

DO NOT turn up early or even on time for lectures. In fact make sure you miss as many as possible. Forget to set your alarm and enjoy those extra minutes in your lovely warm bed. You deserve it after all. It’s been a tough week!

STEP THREE

If you insist on revising, remember to never revise in a structured way. Never plan you day around your study time.There are more important things to do. Tidying up your room, washing the dishes, the laundry or catching up on the a Netflix series that you missed first time around.

STEP FOUR

As the OSCE dates get closer never try to be optimistic about this approaching nightmare. Do anything but think about those exams.

Reaffirm on an hourly basis, that it’s going to be difficult. Maybe even impossible. OSCEs are difficult and scary.

STEP FIVE

Repeat Step Four the night before the OSCE and stay up late. Never get an early night and always panic. Lots of panicking!

“DO NOT REMAIN CALM.”

STEP SIX

You have somehow made it to the OSCEs and you are at your first station. Whatever you do… DO NOT READ THE QUESTION PROPERLY! Tell yourself that those two minutes are going to fly by, so only give it a quick scan.

STEP SEVEN

Never tidy up your appearance. Do not iron your clothes and always wear something inappropriate. You washed your hands earlier in the day, so do not use the hand gel when you enter the room.

STEP EIGHT

When you enter the room, lack confidence. This shouldn’t be difficult if you have followed the previous seven steps. If you look scared, you may win a sympathy vote. Mumble your name incomprehensibly and as fast as you can to save time.

STEP NINE

Forget to take notes. If you have been stupid enough to have wasted time making some outside the station… NEVER refer to them again. Remember to leave your stethoscope and watch at home. You can borrow them from the examiner, anyway!

STEP TEN

Have no structure when performing a systems exam. You’re a free spirit and want to show your improvisational skills to the examiner. When taking a history, DO NOT make eye contact. DO NOT listen for cues and always use jargon. Keep saying: “OK. OK. OK.”

Finally. Thanks for coming this far with the article. You have succeeded at something! Best that you forget everything I have said and now delete all the above from your memory. That would just take up valuable space.

This is by no means a complete guide for failing the OSCEs. That would take a book and you probably wouldn’t be bothered to read it, anyway. Avoid books, research papers and journals related to medicine. Hello magazine has more pictures in it, is more interesting and wastes a bit of time.

Answer the Question: Common Errors When Sitting The OSCEs

Image of man writing on exam paper

As a roleplayer and ACE for more than ten years one of the most common errors I see students make when taking part in their OSCEs is failure to read the questions correctly.

It is more common than you may imagine and not enough time is spent on this aspect of their education. Pete Gorman, course lead of Wolverhampton University, spends one evening of the week working online with his PA students looking at what he calls the “Golden 2 Minutes”. Meducate Academy are currently working as partners with him on this aspect of their training.

That’s how important it is.

At the start of OSCEs we have stations and on each one of them there is a question. The students have two minutes to read this question before they enter the station.

A nail biting two minutes for unprepared students!

What students do in that two minutes is crucial to their success when they sit down with the “patient’ they are about to see.

It is often the case that a student, who feels they have performed badly on a previous station, carry this negative state onto the next question. When they arrive at the next station this inevitably clouds their judgement and therefore their ability to read the question correctly is compromised. Their heads are filled full of ideas about how they might have done better on that last station and this attitude has a definite influence on their state of mind when they sit down and look at the new question. This is the time to let that last experience go, to draw a line under it and clear their mind.

I often tell students to have a delete button in their head so that no matter what they did on the last station, positive or negative, is erased.

Deleted. They don’t need it.

They need clarity of mind to enable them to read the next question now placed in front of them, to take a couple of deep breaths and relax. Then read the question.

So the first thing they need to do is to read the question carefully. Ask themselves what type of question it is. Quickly skim through it to pick out it’s main features.

Is it a procedure, an examination or a history? How much detail do they have?

Quickly make a few relevant notes. Look at the patient information of which there may not be much, but if they concentrate and read the question there may be clues.

Age of patient, gender, ethnicity, marital status and their occupation?

Is there any information about previous medical history, or the medications they are currently on?

I know all of this may seem obvious, but when the red mist of fear comes down and clouds judgement it’s easy to lose sight of the basics.

Think about your strategy for diagnosing the likely outcome. What are the red flags and if this is a mental health problem remember to do a suicide assessment.

All of these things are basic to good structure and in the heat of the moment it’s so easy to skim through the question and think you have it right. Read the question carefully. It is that simple.

I remember one student who hadn’t read the question carefully after a perfect introduction and performed a respiratory exam on me when she was supposed to be performing a cardio vascular exam! Ooooops! Needless to say she failed that station.

Check out some of our videos on our YouTube channel to give more guidance. I will be posting more later in the month.

An Interview With Matt Chapman Managing Director of Meducate

Image of Matt Chapman Managing Director of Meducate Academy
Matt Chapman Managing Director of Meducate Academy

Matt Chapman is Managing Director of Meducate and is a founding member of the company. In this post, Matt talks about his vision for the company and how Meducate differs from other companies he has worked for over the years.

“I’ve been involved with Meducate from it’s inception over 2 years ago and the big thing that stood out for me was how engaged the students were with the ACEs and the methods we use. Feedback was always phenomenal  something I hadn’t experienced in any other business before. There’s always a grumpy customer that you have to deal with in any business, but with Meducate it was always positive feedback.

“Every time we engage with an institution and their students, they give us 5 stars across the board.

“When we first met and you talked about the concept of Meducate  you were already doing corporate training with me and when you told me about the potential of the ACE role in medical training, I suspended my judgement on how good you said the work was. I remember coming on the first session with one of our earliest customers at Wolverhampton and it was all true. Not only were you and the other ACE enjoying the day but so were the students. Id never seen that level of engagement with anyone in business before. 100% of the class were involved and craved more! That is when I knew we could make this work. In business we always want a win-win situation, and this seemed to be the right type of service to offer. That and the fact that we are almost the only people to be offering this service.

“The fact that this had never been picked up on before and was an open market surprised me. I know there are lots of role play companies out there offering medical role players, but the role of the ACE is unknown. My only concern was, would we have enough ACEs to cover the 40 + institutions that may need our services. Our answer came with the pandemic. This gave us time to regroup and begin training role players in the skills required for them to perform as an ACE. We did this with the help of some senior academic tutors and experienced clinicians who work in the health care sector. Again, this was another of Meducate’s strengths. Our ability to contact the right people is paramount and we are even in discussions to validate the role of the ACE with two Universities keen to promote what we do.

“I was asked recently what drives me in business and I remember we were talking about values and how you see the work we do at Meducate. One of the core values I have always had was with having the ability to measure and monitor every aspect of the customer experience. That would be at all levels. So how well do we handle incoming calls and meetings with potential clients? Feedback from students is something I have already talked about, but what do the clinicians think? How do they feel about utilising ACEs in the educational process and how valuable are they? The answers coming back so far have been outstanding.  I really believe in giving the customer what they want and will always work with them to achieve their goals.

“I have always believed in being transparent with the people who work for us and the customer. Keeping everyone in the loop on a regular basis makes for a happy and fruitful relationship.

“What has been difficult, but I have now adapted too, is the sudden changes a client might make at the last minute about the type of training they want delivered? I was surprised by how flexible our ACEs were. They were able to shift gear quickly and improvise, effectively delivering exactly what the customer wanted. This I believe is one of Meducate’s great strengths and is due to the intensity, passion and abilities of the people we have working with us.

“With regard to the abilities of the ACEs I would like to mention that we update the ACEs skill sets every 6 months and will run regular training days to help the ACE with any areas in which they might feel weak. We want everyone to feel like they’re part of a family and if we all look after each other, we will all prosper. It’s a continuing process that we can’t let slip. As times change, we must change, as we have all recently experienced, and we were quickly working online in March of this year. I don’t believe any other organisation reacted that quickly. We were already prepared to provide online trainings anyway, so it was simply a matter of contacting our customers and setting it up.

“In closing, I would just like to say that I feel we are a very under-used resource, but we have professional credibility with several universities using us and several ACEs with over 12 years’ experience. If you want to test us out, why not call us or email or call us for a 5 minute conversation?”

Click here to view the full video podcast of the Matt Chapman interview on the Meducate Academy Channel at YouTube