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Teaching is an integral part of the job for most consultants and yet few have received any kind of formal training in how to “teach”. Most consultants have been involved in teaching junior staff for many years, but with the development of Calman training, expectations of structured, well organised, postgraduate education are rising. Some Royal Colleges are suggesting that trainees will only be placed with consultants who have undergone formal teacher training. Others are suggesting that a fixed quota of continuing medical education (CME) credits (perhaps 10%) should be related to teacher training activities. As medical student numbers increase, more consultants are being asked to teach undergraduates. The new service increment for teaching contracting arrangements mean that expectations of undergraduate teaching quality are also higher than in the past and, as with postgraduate training, monitoring and review of the teaching provided is becoming the norm. Teaching in the broadest sense involves many other activities; it may range from teaching patients and their relatives about health and illness in order to increase understanding and improve compliance with treatment, through to making presentations to trust boards and service purchasers about the effectiveness of one’s own particular service in order to gain additional funding or at least protect current income.
Many of the available teacher training opportunities focus on the planning and delivery of lectures, seminars, and small group tutorials, with less attention paid to clinical bedside teaching. However, medical students and trainees need to acquire clinical skills as well as knowledge. The only way they can acquire these is by observation of experienced clinicians and opportunities for observed practice followed by constructive feedback and more practice.1 2 Clinical skills centres can provide opportunities for practising skills away from wards and patients but, at some stage, students have to start examining patients …
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