Natalie Lafferty

Lecturer in eLearning at the University of Dundee School of Medicine


Perceptions of General Practice in #UKMedEd


General practitioners are often presented with greater scrutiny by the media. Classically referred to as the ‘Gatekeepers of the NHS,’ GPs are undoubtedly the face of healthcare to the general public and yet general practice is often not taken as seriously as hospital-based specialties throughout medical education.

Pursuing a career in general practice within the medical school culture is sometimes thought of as an ‘easier’ career path in terms of challenges or opportunities. In reality, GPs face daily challenges as the first port-of-call for health complaints and, often, social issues.

How can a career in General Practice be made more attractive?

Educational Processes:

General Practitioners are one of the most aptly named specialties, as true generalists not just in medical specialty, but also in responsibilities to patients. Systems block teaching processes encourage system-based thinking, and could inevitably reduce the prospects of generalism in diagnostic thinking.

What can medical educators and GPs do to encourage generalism and system integration?

We’ll be discussing all of this in this week’s #UKMedEd chat on Thursday 4 December at 4pm.  Leading the chat will be John Fyffe and Mei Lin Lee who are both undertaking an intercalated BMSc Teaching in Medicine at Dundee.   They’ve put forward this week’s topic based on their experience of the Dundee MBChB curriculum which incorporates General Practice and Primary Care (GPPC) as an integral, ongoing portion of the undergraduate course culminating in a weekly three hour session organised by the GPPC coordinators.  These sessions are often held in city and suburban practices and include tasks for General Practice education, but are subject to interpretation by the tutors themselves.

In contrast ward teaching, however, is integral to system-based blocks that run from years 1-3, involving students in Ward rounds and discussions at the time of the block.  Regardless, 40% of Dundee students follow into general practice.

With General Practice becoming a less and less popular career choice (Svirko, Goldacre, & Lambert, 2013), could a bottom-up approach changing the education help?  One of the questions they’ll be posing is what curriculum design changes could improve General Practice teaching?

We hope you can join us!

Svirko, E., Goldacre, M. J., & Lambert, T. (2013). Career choices of the United Kingdom medical graduates of 2005, 2008 and 2009: questionnaire surveys. Medical Teacher, 35(5), 365–75. doi:10.3109/0142159X.2012.746450




#UKMedEd chat 6 Nov: GMC State of Medical Education and Practice report 2014

This week’s #ukmeded chat will be discussing the GMC State of Medical Education and Practice Report 2014 and will be led by Rajiv Sethi a Year 4 MBBS student from King’s College London.

With the recent publication of the GMC State of Medical Education and Practice report 2014 ( #stateofmed ) we hope that chat will provide an insight into the views from across #ukmeded regarding optimal preparation for practice for medical students entering the foundation programme. Key points from the report include variation between medical school graduates with regard to how prepared they feel for Foundation year 1, ranging from 65% to 85% at UK medical schools. The report also highlights foundation doctor concerns on prescribing properly and communicating with patients. Our next #ukmeded chat will focus on the preparation for practice theme and the below questions:

How does your medical school prepare medical students for practice?

In light of the GMC report, are there any plans to change this or introduce new areas? E.g. focus on prescribing

How can we improve the medical student to junior doctor transition?

Do you think the timing of finals affects how prepared for practice graduates feel? Would earlier assessments for medical students lead to a better perception of their preparation for practice?

We hope you can join us at 9pm on Thursday 6 November.



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Responsible electives – #ukmeded Twitter chat Thurs 9 Oct at 9pm

This evening’s UKmeded Twitter chat is looking at electives. All agree electives can be fantastic – great learning, adventure, eye opening. But we also know they can be risky and sometimes dodgy on many levels. There is a move to try and improve them, especially for those in resource poor settings. Dundee Medical School is building a system of responsible electives and we are interested in views from the UKMedEd community about this. We have been granted an award that is being used to offer £500 bursaries to students from UK/Eire who wish to support this cause.  More details are on the website but 2 are available this month. The questions we’ll be asking/answering during the chat will emanate from the theme Electives in Resource Poor settings. Specific questions we’ll look at will include:

  • Should electives in resource poor be about more than clinical skills, and maybe specifically include promoting a sense of responsibility to help tackle health inequalities.
  • If so, how can educators help change students mind-set.
  • How can students prepare better for their elective, especially when planning to go to developing countries
  • Can electives nurture a commitment for students and (academics) to engage more in global health activities
  • Can Electives in resource poor settings be managed in a Fair Trade¹ way, perhaps?

Look forward to discussing these issues in tonight chat at 9.00pm UK time.

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New season of #UKmeded chats kicks off on 8 October

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The #UKmeded Twitter chats have been in hibernation for a while but Anne Marie and I are pleased to announce that we’re starting up again on Thursday 8 October.  We’ll be running at the usual time of 9pm UK time for an hour officially but we know the conversation often carries on beyond that.

The first topic up for discussion is responsible electives which will be led by Dr Jon Dowell and the responsible electives team at the Dundee Medical School.  All medical students organise some sort of elective during there studies and whilst some choose to undertake these in their home country many use the elective as an opportunity to experience in another culture including in resource poor countries.  Some students feel unprepared for what they experience in some cultures or uncomfortable about what’s expected of them by their host organisation and a number of medical schools are now looking more seriously at preparing their students for their elective experience.  We’ll be looking at issues around electives in more detail and be posting some more information ahead of the chat.

The following week on 16 October we’re delighted to welcome back Anya de Longh who will be leading the discussion on medical ethics along with Dr Julie Wintrup from the University of Southampton.  More info will follow on this.

If you’d like to suggest topics for future topics for the #UKmeded Twitter chats then do tweet me (@nlafferty) or Anne Marie (@amcunningham) with your ideas or go to our Google Form and tell us more about your idea there.  We welcome suggestions from across the health care professions, from practising health care professionals both at junior, mid and senior levels and patients.  If you propose a topic we’ll

  1. be in touch with you to arrange a date for the chat
  2. ask you to write a short blog post either on your own blog or on this blog with a brief outline of the topic and a few questions that will help get people thinking and help to frame the discussion
  3. encourage you to lead the chat – we will be on hand to support you so you won’t be alone.

Hope you can join us next Thursday.

Looking forward to some interesting conversations 🙂

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The paperless medical student – #UKmeded chat 16 January

The #ukmeded Twitter chats start off again this Thursday 16 January at 9pm UK time with Iona Campbell a 3rd year medical student from Dundee Medical School guest hosting the discussion on the idea of paperless medical students/schools.  Iona (@sepiaxtoned) sets the scene for the chat below.

UK medical schools are in varying states of paperless teaching and education, indeed system teaching can vary in adoption of paperless alternatives within one medical school.  For those unacquainted with the idea of ‘going paperless’ there’s an excellent article here:> PAPERLESS MEDICAL STUDENT < from Warwick medical student Joshua Harding.

Medical students are prone to information overload, with a barrage of lecture notes, seminar notes, clinical skills teaching, patient histories etc. a daily battle to organise and keep track of for the annual exams and medical school finals (#endofschoolquiz). With mobile and tablet based technology now commonplace in everyday life many students are using these at university. The wealth of mobile apps capable of creating, managing and storing data is well documented and reviewed. But how can medical schools further support this and encourage students who want to make the switch and go paperless.

Much like Joshua I’m a paperless medical student, I turn to paper and pen for exams and the final week-before-cram but to manage the vast information I’ve collected, synthesised and analyzed throughout the year I utilize a range of apps and programmes to keep track of things and maintain order in what can easily become a paper bomb that takes weeks to sift through.

Like many other paperless students I find frustrating issues easily resolved. For example, Dundee post lectures before the day in power point format, which I convert to plain background files and save as pdf format. I know many other students do the same and I wonder if perhaps medical schools ought to be catering for the paperless student as well as the laptop student.

Iona  will be leading the discussion on the following points

1. Should medical schools go paperless?

2. Should medical students expect medical schools to support paperless teaching/learning over traditional methods? (paper based study guides, OHP’s for small group work etc.)

3. What are the perceived challenges of going paperless?

4. What benefits does going paperless have?

We hope that you can join us and Iona on Thursday at 9pm and take part in the discussion.

You can read the transcript for this chat over on SYMPLUR

Also take a look at Iona’s reflections on the chat on her blog.

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Should we be using social media in medical education?

The #UKmeded chat tonight, 31 January 2013, will look at whether we should be using social media in medical education.

On the #UKmeded GDoc asking for suggestions for chat topics Anne Marie Cunningham has written:

I see lots of talk about this on Twitter, but I’m not sure how other students feel about this. Would it feel like a deluge? My past experiments to get students to engage in social media have not had a very big take-up so I think that often we need to get staff on board first. And we have to talk to people realistically about time management because for many the biggest worry is getting swamped with information.

Undergraduate students in most medical schools form their own Facebook groups but they see this very much as their own social space, even though they might share information about clinical attachments and share revision tips and resources etc around exam time.  Surveys I’ve read and conversations with students at my own school would seem to indicate that there’s generally a 50-50 split between students who don’t want medical schools interacting with them on Facebook and those that think we should because they dont like the VLE.

So are there other social media channels we should be using to support medical education at undergraduate and postgraduate level?  There are those, who are perhaps still relatively early adopters, using the likes of Twitter to support medical education but we are still in the minority.  Some staff are wary of using social media channels because of concerns about digital professionalism.  Also the assumption that all students are already making good use of technology and social media to support their learning is misplaced.  Yet those in engaging with social media and the whole free open access medical education #FOAMed movement recognise the potential for social media to support life long learning.

With all this in mind here are a few things to think about and stimulate discussion for tonight’s chat:

  • Should we be using social media to support medical education?
  • Do we need to be embedding the use of social media in the curriculum so that students are introduced to the benefits of social media and can see how these tools can be used to support learning as well as raise awareness of individuals’ digital footprints and professionalism?
  • Does using social media just add to the expectation that students expect instant responses to questions etc and make it more difficult for staff to switch off from work and add further blur to the work – personal divide?
  • How would medical students and trainees like to see social media used to support their learning?

Join the discussion at 9.



The Health of Medical Students – #UKMedEd Chat 29.11.12

This week’s #ukmeded chat is on the health of medical students and we’re delighted to have Dr Mhairi Hepburn (@DundeePsych) helping to lead the discussion.

Mhairi would like to leave the discussion as open as possible, but has posted a few questions to get you thinking:

Do medical students have different healthcare needs to other students?

How have your health problems affected your studies/work/approach to life?

What do you think medical schools can do to help students with health problems?

We hope you can join us at 9pm on Thursday 29 November.

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