Postgraduate Medical Education : Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, University Hospital Bristol and Weston Trust
Higher Education : University of Bath Clinical Pharmacy programmes, the University of the West of England Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences.
Why did I start this journey in health and technology? I was born in 1984 and I have a career oriented towards one section of one profession. Why? It’s a good question and a strangely personal one. My mother was a health visitor and public health nurse. Whilst I was young spent a lot of my time on the computer. Messing around. For additional money I would help my mum out with her presentations or work. Formatting and writing stuff with her. I was decent with technology and I had a high literacy with health lexicon from doing this. This was before people were encouraged to pursue their interests into a profession. When I was growing up school was a lesson in compromising to the point you just faded into the background.
RCOG, Bath and the RCPCH
It made sense that once I graduated I go in this direction. It is in my heritage and to be fair health and education spending survived austerity to the point there were still jobs in these areas.
I have spent over a decade supporting the educational endeavours of health professional and professions. I love it. I am pretty decent at it and, as a learning technologist, working in health gives you a really good grounding in professional education. Things such as workplace based assessments, psychometrics, reusable learning objects, question design, competencies, electronic portfolios have all become mainstream educational strategies. I encountered them all earlier in my career as they are staples of health education.
Health gets there first BUT also with minimal fuss. This is part of why I love the discipline so much. You get genuine drivers for change and people who have multidisciplinary working in their veins. You get internal exemplars who aren’t in competition with a programme but have the same topics/goals. OTs can learn from paramedics. Nurses can learn from physios. They share so much but also have their own unique cultures. There is such a high level of multi-professional working and knowledge sharing. It makes life so much easier.
For example, in the summer of 2019 I ran a ‘taster’ session for how one might want to do an OSCE. 12 people from different professions came and we stress tested a workflow using Blackboard Rubrics within the Grade Centre and Panopto to gives students grades, feedback and a recording of their assessment within 12 hours. People shared experiences of doing OSCEs and discussed what would and wouldn’t work. A summary can be found in this video. We piloted using the rubrics with Physiotherapy in the summer of 2019. The module leader has happily attended meetings with Optometrists within the Faculty for a slightly different use. This was so successful we will conduct larger pilots with other health cohorts in 2020 and purchasing new equipment to support this (Surface Go). This use of the rubrics is the first time for the University. We are presented it at a community of practice event in December 2019 and we planned to feed into a larger project in 2020. Then the pandemic happened.
However, sometimes it is hard to make these natural bedfellows works together. We seem to constantly make anatomy and physiology or research methods learning objects. The Faculty should be in a prime position for using and producing RLOs. However, we are so big it is like herding cats. Some disciplines don’t like other disciplines for frankly epistemological reasons. The more senior I get the more respect I have for clinic or ward managers who have to make these components work.
Unlike some of my erstwhile colleagues I never have to ‘push’ anything. I never have to persuade or cajole or dictate. In health related disciplines there are extrinsic drivers that emanate from the professions. We look at alternative delivery methods because we have pressure from employers. We look at online examinations because of pressure growing student numbers. We live a very future facing ontology as standard and again it makes life so much easier.
The flipside of this is we ran a multi speed Faculty. One team looking quite far off into the future and the another having shorter horizons. This was helped by having such a tech focused Secretary of State for Health. It gives a frame for change even if, like me, you don’t personally like Matt Hancock. Things such as the Topol report really do bring tech back into the conversation.
For example. Elsewhere in the portfolio I have discussed my involvement designing AV and digital learning in a new clinical teaching space. This involved trying to capture the perceivable future endeavors of the whole Faculty. So I had to design with people with a lot less ambition for tech and other people who had some wild ideas for what they wanted. We could have ended up with an A board tethered to a VR headset. Part of my role has to intersect Ed Tech values into a general overview of health education. Without being too tech specific or too discipline specific. It’s a fine line.
Another obvious positive for working in health and medical education is they tend to fund things. So I have a decent budget and my staff are well appointed for development opportunities. What we do have to be mindful of, more than other departments, is snake oil sales people. You have to root yourself in the professions to not get enchanted by new things that don’t deliver value.
Virtual, augmented reality
For example 1. I attended a JISC event in south Wales in summer 2019 called ‘Connect More’. There was a conversation about 360 video and VR. There was some sentiment that VR was the only way to give to certain experiences to students. ‘How else are you going to get them inside an ambulance environment?’ someone asked me. For me, I am yet to see a VR experience that is a substitute for real world skills training. It is a bad way to spend that money. ‘We own an old ambulance’ I replied. As an institution we choose to spend our money on simulated real world environments like old ambulances and clinical wards. As a cost value analysis for entry level training I can’t see it ever being any more than a story to put in the local newspaper.
For example 2. At ALT-C 2019 I spoke to one of the VR exhibitioners there. We had a long conversation about skills training vs empathy VR experiences. I tried the product and was impressed by some elements but not by others. We agreed to disagree and arranged a coffee in Bristol. I got a sense that they saw a market for certain functions of it whereas I saw something different as potential within the technology.
My point is, there is a lot of gimmicky products available for health, we have money, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy them if you think the outcomes aren’t great for your student.
After the acute phase of the pandemic I felt the need to stretch my legs and be free of the shackles of line management. I felt it a little weird that I considered myself a health education specialist but had never actually worked in the health service. My role at UWE had a particularly unappetising 12 months ahead of it so I rolled the dice and managed to get a great role within a local trust. Back to my roots of postgraduate medical education.
It was a culture shock to say the least. I missed the bit where people were banging on pots and pans but certainly banged my own head against many a brick wall in my first few months of the role. It is incredibly difficult to do anything and none-clinical practitioners have a very high appreciation of quite low quality work. I miss the shared endeavour that responding to the pandemic gave bureaucracies. Yet learning to deliver and perform in this environment was a new challenge and one that has sharpened my skill set as a practitioner.
I think across this portfolio I have shown a passion for my subject matter but also a wide array of experiences within Health.
Notable Health Related projects
- Designing new clinical learning spaces at Glenside.
- Designing and supporting Distance Learning MSc programme in Environmental Health, Rehabilitation and Nuclear Medicine.
- Launching ROCG ePortfolio for specialty training.
- Managing quality assurance for questions for new RCPCH examination.
- Supporting the creation of Virtual Patients for Prostate Cancer UK
- Developing the Open course for the Centre for Appearance Research
- Supporting the creation of a new Optometry programme
Meeting the Core Principles
A commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning. I have never lost my desire to have a play around. I follow the Pedagogical Panda on twitter, it is a daily reminder that the pedagogy is important as well as the technology. In health we are looking at using the same technologies for teaching as we do for therapeutics. We use VR for example to teach students about dementia but we also have a taster event where we use VR as an example of a therapeutic technology. Improving health outcomes by giving novel experiences to patients. In this regard we are looking at the interplay between not just technology and learning but technology, learning and practice. At the NHS it has been taking a step back in terms of innovation and learning how to apply first principles to undynamic organisations. Where learning would be gold standard and using technolog in a way that is not actively annoying end users would be a step forward.
A commitment to keep up to date with new technologies. In health we have recently had the TOPOL report. This has opened practitioners minds to the need to be open to technology for work AND study. My usual vampiric CPD regime revolves around stealing good ideas from peoples CMALT submissions. Recently, this has been supplemented by higher demand for niche innovations in health. VR in particular for both therapeutic use AND use in learning has been a big growth area recently. One specific to health and medical education. More recently it is a balance between understanding where the sector is at with its endeavours (post pandemic programme design) and actual innovation. So attending events such as the University of Kents Digital Education Webinars and the AMEE Escape Room talks.
An empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues from different backgrounds and specialisms. Health in particular is itself a broad set of disciplines and epistemological traditions. We are forming a School of Health to further integrate our Allied Health Professions and Nursing and Midwifery departments. We are blessed to have a Faculty that also contains social science and applied science within our ranks. I am blessed to be able to hold events where we blend these traditions.
A commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice. Events like taster OSCE and the technical services conference (both outlined above) show my dedication to sharing practice to both the technical and academic communities I am a part of.