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Covid Update for Year 1 &2 Family Medicine GP Tutors

Firstly, thank you continuing to teach our medical students in these unprecedented times. The combining of statutory regulations and the ongoing uncertainty brings many challenges for the delivery of this year’s Family Medicine modules; we have no option but to run it differently. Having spoken formally and informally to many GP tutors, the priority has to be to keep patients, staff in GP practices and these junior students safe above all.

I recognise that a new mode of delivery will be difficult for all but want to state at the outset my intention to be as flexible as possible for individual tutors and practices. If the situation changes, of course the plans may need to be amended. Students have also been made aware of this possibility. Some of you have understandably expressed concern that these future doctors will have reduced time in clinical environments including General Practice due to the pandemic. I share these concerns but offer some reassurance that the priority has been given to more senior medical students, years 3 and up, to be in clinical environments as much as possible. With all necessary guidance in place, I aim to try to replicate some of the great experiences for this year group of students whilst recognising that much of the richness won’t be possible. I have no doubt though that as a group of engaged tutors you will do the same.

So as September approaches I was keen to give you a brief outline of the plans. We will of course go into this in more detail at our planned (virtual) meeting on Wednesday 9/9 pm. I am finalising the revised study guide which will also be of assistance. At present, we have no choice but to plan to deliver the module fully virtually, in other words via Zoom. I understand that for some of you, setting up this mode of delivery will seem daunting, but we are preparing specific documents to help and we will address this in detail at the tutor meeting. Practices can make the case to the board for a Zoom licence (I know that whether they are used regularly in a practice is system dependant), so I wanted to give you early warning about that. Some tutors may already have Zoom accounts and be happier using these. It might be worth thinking now how this will work now as practices will have to set up these (5) tutorial links themselves. Student etiquette and behaviour over these platforms will be of vital importance. The Centre for Medical Education is currently considering a code of conduct around this and again I hope to be able to share more in September, for your reassurance.

For Year One

There will still be five tutorials over Zoom which you will have to set up and these will run similarly to how they have in previous years. The main difference in this year will be the “contact” that the students with have with their patients/families. The patients/families I am asking you to recruit this year will be those who would be happy to be contacted by the students by video conferencing. We will discuss the details of how this would world technically at the tutors meeting (and this will of course be in the study guide). I thought it would be useful to have prior notice of this when you are consulting in the next few weeks, so that anyone with whom you consult virtually, you might consider asking to be involved. I entirely accept that this will be a different cohort of patients/families that you might usually chose for the students in terms of health or technical literacy and possibly even age. However, we never chose patients for Family Attachment based on their diseases but based on their willingness to take part. Six months ago, I might have said that this model could not work but we as GPs and even patients have embraced this form of consultation out of necessity and it is how many consultations are taking place across the health service at present. To make this work I am very happy to offer whatever flexibility is necessary – the pairs may need to

be trios, I have suggested that less visits is acceptable this year – as always it would be good if the patient/family could be free on the afternoon of the second visit but again it is not insurmountable if not. Their report should be written as normal based on whatever experience they have.

For Year Two

With regards to the content of these tutorials, Sessions 1 (introduction) and Session 5 (assessment) will run in a similar way as before, over Zoom. There will be no log books this year for ease. Sessions 2-4, where the students usually rotate around the practice team and consult with patients, will not be feasible. I am drawing up a number of teaching plans for Session 2-4, based loosely on the usual General Practice Experience ethos of learning about how the Primary Care team meets patient needs – the MDT, the different modes of consultation, the patient experience. I will supply brief PowerPoint presentation for these as my experience of too many slides over Zoom is that it is less engaging than seeing the face of experience who is delivering it! You are welcome to use any or all of these, or indeed use the time to address other teaching ideas (which I would be happy to discuss with you).

I have held off sharing these ideas until now in the hope of greater clarity but I believe we are at the point of having to settle on plans to allow you to make the necessary adjustments to what you usually do. There will be more information about at the meeting in September, but in the meantime I am happy to chat to anyone with any concerns or ideas.

Enjoy what remains of the summer and I look forward to seeing you all virtually in a few weeks

Best wishes

Dr Grainne Kearney

Lead for Year 1 & 2 Family Medicine