The highlight of the year 3 GP placements is the Academy Day, which is intended as a fun day for the students, consolidating and celebrating their learning and representing the icing on the cake of the teaching block. One of the major challenges Simon Thornton and Ciaran Conway (year 3 GP leads) faced in 2020 was how to translate the Academy Day into a virtual session without losing that sense of inspiration, entertainment and of marking an important occasion. They ran the session successfully through Microsoft Teams, and plan to run the day the same way next year.
The Academy Day differs greatly from the other GP days. The morning is a simulated surgery, where six actors drop into the virtual surgery with different cases, and the students have a safe space consult under the supervision of their GP. All the cases tie into the previous sessions throughout the term. In the afternoon, students attend sessions with guest speakers.
Setting up a virtual Academy Day was a huge logistical challenge. Students went into the channel associated with their GP practices. The actors playing the role of patients visited a different GP channel every 20 minutes; the students and GPs stayed in a channel and and the actors moved around. according to a timetable, Simon and Ciaran sent the actors alerts via Teams to remind them when it was time to move on. Some cases were pretend face-to-face, but many were written as remote consultations.
Having all the surgeries in one Teams space but in separate channels gave a macro view of what was going on across the practices. This made it easier to identify any issues and message everyone simultaneously. Simon and Cieran were able to tag (@) the whole Team in a message. Everyone got a pop-up saying ‘one minute to go’ or ‘time to change practices’, much like a conference.
The morning sessions were not without issues -the biggest problem was that some of the actors had trouble getting onto Teams. Otherwise, Simon and Ciaran found these sessions went well. The virtual format allowed them to bring actors to all the practices. Previously this would have been challenging due to the wide geographical distribution. It would not have been practical to have Bristol-based actors travelling out to the Cotswolds, for example. Simon and Ciaran spoke of the very real validity in doing these sessions online, as a lot of consultations are currently remote. When the students have qualified, it’s something that they are going to be doing more and more.
There was an unexpected bonus to the afternoon sessions. Simon and Ciaron were able to get some outstanding external speakers, who would not have been available for in-person visits. In January 2021, the President of the Royal College of GPs spoke to the whole year group, giving them an hour and a half with an interactive session and Q and As. In May the students had Dr Austin O’Carroll, an international expert in homeless health, who called in from Dublin with an incredible talk which produced some inspirational feedback. It would not have been possible to fly Dr O’Carroll over to give an hour and a half talk, but this was possible via Teams.
Despite some of the inherent challenges, Simon and Ciaran plan to keep the Academy Day online next year, because it gives them extra scope with the actors and with the speakers who can participate.
- Have a dress rehearsal. Next year Simon and Ciaran plan to run a mock Academy Day to iron out potential technical difficulties for the actors.
- Remember not everyone is tech savvy. You may need to provide additional support. For example, to use Teams on a mobile, you need to install the app.
- Use the technology to its advantage. The notices in Teams were crucial in running the Academy Day successfully.
- Be inspired. Simon and Ciaran agree that approaching an outstanding range of guest speakers encouraged and motivated their students and took the Academy Day to another level.