The Royal College of Physicians
This week I met with the Royal College of Physicians in London to discuss the NHS ePortfolio. After the many discussions I have had with trainees and trainers on this blog, on Twitter and in person I felt well prepared. I was sure the RCP should be taking a keen interest in the ePortfolio and it’s place in the wider context of Postgraduate Education, and through some brief email conversations I felt we were likely to have common ground. But as I walked through the falling leaves of Regent’s Park, I wondered what they would make of me and my graffiti-decorated blog…
It would have been unrealistic to expect to leave the meetings with all the answers, but I truly believe we have taken the first step towards a better solution. There are lots of details to work out, and I found myself discussing things like commissioning and procurement – yet another new language to learn! What was so positive was that there was an acknowledgement that trainees (and trainers) are dissatisfied with the ePortfolio, and that the concerns being raised are not idle complaining, but are educationally valid.
This is an important issue because it affects thousands of doctors, and because it relates to other areas of Postgraduate Training. The RCP wants to support trainees in their professional development and acknowledge that the ePortfolio is part of this process. There is also a realisation that technology has moved on, that the ePortfolio was not future-proofed, and that it is important to take stock and think about how to move forward. Financial contraints will impact on these plans and we need to be both realistic and imaginative in our decision making. The fact that the new RCP revalidation tools for Consultants have no interface or link with the trainee ePortfolio is another example of a lack of joined up thinking which we must avoid in future.
I was happy to hear that the RCP have almost finalised the details of the new ePortfolio User Reference group, which will have several trainee representatives. Hopefully this will not only impact on decision making, but also improve communication, so that we don’t in future have changes appear with no warning. It was also encouraging to hear more about the research being done on WPBAs/ SLEs. The RCP are putting considerable time and resources into reviewing the use and utility of WPBAs and the results of this research is likely to have a significant impact on the assessment systems for all medical specialties and shape training for the next 10 years. This is a great opportunity to engage with the College and have a real impact on Postgraduate Training.
There are many questions that do not yet have answers, in particular the question of funding and commissioning ePortfolio systems in the future. All doctors have a core set of common needs and I believe it is essential that we define these together and press for collaboration across Colleges, and open-ness in every part of the process. The Trainee Roadmap is a first attempt at this, and I encourage you to contribute. The RCP seem to truly be putting trainees’ needs at the heart of what they do, and are (slowly) responding to the concerns of the thousands of you who have visited this site. But the structures of these organisations are complex and my attempts to find a way through the committees and funding streams of the RCP, the JRCPTB and others is already bringing on a headache.
We need to make sure this stays at the top of the agenda for the College, and I look forward to follow-up meetings in the future. I hope the other Colleges are watching, and are considering their own strategies. Otherwise they may find their trainees asking questions they can’t answer….
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges Trainee Doctor Group
Coincidentally, in the same week I also went to give a presentation at the AoMRC ATDG (seriously, the number of acronyms in the world of medical education is mind-boggling).
There were many nods of assent as I described my frustrations with the current ePortfolio, and the demands placed on trainees and trainers to complete activities with little educational value. The representatives at the ATDG come from a wide spectrum of specialities including O&G, General Surgery, Anaesthetics and Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine, Pathology, General Practice, Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, Radiology and Medicine. Various ePortfolio systems are used by these trainees and some, such as the Haematologists, have to use two systems which, of course, do not talk to each other.
There was also great enthusiasm for sharing information, and for collaboration across Colleges. There was agreement that there are common needs for tools that support learning and professional development, capture workplace learning, log assessments, and provide evidence for appraisal. These needs are shared by doctors of all specialities and span the start of FY1 to retirement (in fact, since four UK medical schools use the NHS ePortfolio, these needs span Undergraduate as well as Postgraduate training). Technical aspects were touched on, and some absolutes were identified: such as a single sign on for all systems; a set of core standards for any ePortfolio used by doctors; and the need for flexibility for Colleges/Specialities and individuals. There was enthusiasm and hope for a future in which there is a simple but flexible ePortfolio system, with mobile support, that truly supports learning, and that makes people smile not scream when they login!
This committee is unique in bringing together trainees across specialities. It’s also full of lovely and enthusiastic people. The representatives are going back to their respective College trainee groups to gather information on what systems are used, and what trainees think of them. I hope we can then finalise a Trainee Roadmap and Core Requirements document, that will help us move forward.
Watch this space!