In the USA the issue of indiscriminate use of expensive, sophisticated, and time consuming test in lieu of, rather than in addition to, the clinical exam is being much discussed. The cause of this problem is of course multifactorial. One of the factors is the decline of the teaching of clinical skills to our medical students and trainees.
Such problems seem to have taken hold in developing countries as well. Two personal anecdotes will illustrate this.
In the early nineties I worked for two years as a faculty member in the department of ob & gyn at the Aga Khan University Medical School in Karachi, Pakistan. One day, I received a call from the resident in the emergency room about a woman who had come in because of some abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. While the resident told me these two symptoms her next sentence was: “… and the pelvic ultrasound showed…” I stopped her right in her tracks before she could tell me the result of the ultrasound scan. I told her: “First tell me more about this patient. Does she look ill? Is she bleeding heavily? Is she in a lot of pain and where is the pain? What are her blood pressure and pulse rate? How long has she been having these symptoms? When was her last menstrual period? What are your findings when you examined her ? What is the result of the pregnancy test?”. The resident could not answer most of these basic clinical questions and findings. She had proceeded straight to a test which might or might not have been necessary or even indicated and she was not using her clinical skills or judgment.
In another example, the resident, also in Karachi, called me to the emergency room about a patient with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. He told me that the patient was pale, and obviously bleeding inside her abdomen and on the verge of going into shock. The resident had accurately made the diagnosis, based on the patient’s history, examination, and a few basic laboratory tests. But when I ran down to see the patient, he was wheeling the patient into the radiology department for an ultrasound. "Why an ultrasound?" I asked. “You already have made the correct diagnosis and she needs an urgent operation not another diagnostic procedure that will take up precious time before we can stop the internal bleeding.” Instead of having the needless ultrasound, the patient was wheeled into the operating room.
What I am trying to emphasize is that advances in technology are great but they need to be used judiciously and young medical students and trainees need to be taught to use their clinical skills first and then apply new technologies, if needed, to help them to come to the right diagnosis and treatment. And of course we, practicing physicians need to set the example. Or am I old fashioned and not with it?
Medico legal and other issues may come to play here and I am fully aware of these. However the basic issue of clinical exam is still important.
Those wanting to read more similar stories can download a free e book from Smashwords. The title is: "CROSSCULTURAL DOCTORING. ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH." You can access the e book here.
Commencing the first clinical year is a milestone. Things will now be different as your student career steers straight into the unchartered waters of clinical medicine. New challenges and responsibilities lie ahead and not just in an academic sense. After all this is the awaited moment, the start of the apprenticeship you have so desired and laboured for. It won’t be long before these clinical years like the preclinical years before them, will seem just as distant and insular, so why not make the most of it?
The first days hold so much excitation and promise and for many they deliver, however, it would be wise not to be too optimistic. I am afraid your firm head standing abreast the doors in a prophetic splaying of arms is an unlikely sight. In this new clinical environment, it is natural to be a little flummoxed. The quizzical looks of doctors and nurses as you first walk in, a sure sign of your unexpected arrival, is a recurring theme. If the wards are going to be your new hunting ground, proper introductions with the medical team are in order. This might seem like a task of Herculean proportions, particularly in large teaching hospitals. Everyone is busy. Junior doctors scuttling around the ward desks job lists in hand, the registrar probably won’t have noticed you and as luck would have it your consultant firm head is away at a conference. Perseverance during these periods of frustration is a rewarding quality. Winning over the junior doctors with some keenness will help you no end. What I mean to say is that their role in our learning as students extends further than the security of sign-off signatures a week before the end of the rotation. They will give you opportunities. Take them! Although it never feels like it at the time, being a medical student does afford some privileges. The student badge clipped to your new clinic clothes is a license to learn: to embark on undying streaks of false answers, to fail as many skills and clerkings as is required and to do so unabashed.
Unfortunately, the junior doctors are not there purely for your benefit, they cannot always spare the time to directly observe a history taking or an examination, instead you must report back. With practice this becomes more of a tick box exercise: gleaning as much information and then reconfiguring it into a structured presentation. However, the performance goes unseen and unheard. I do not need to iterate the inherent dangers of this practice. Possible solutions? Well receiving immediate feedback is more obtainable on GP visits or at outpatient clinics. They provide many opportunities to test your questioning style and bedside manner. Performing under scrutiny recreates OSCE conditions. Due to time pressure and no doubt the diagnostic cogs running overtime, it is fatefully easy to miss emotional cues or derail a conversation in a way which would be deemed insensitive. Often it occurs subconsciously so take full advantage of a GP or a fellow firm mate’s presence when taking a history.
Self-directed learning will take on new meaning. The expanse of clinical knowledge has a vertiginous effect. No longer is there a structured timetable of lectures as a guide; for the most part you are alone. Teaching will become a valued commodity, so no matter how sincere the promises, do not rest until the calendars are out and a mutually agreed time is settled. I would not encourage ambuscaded attacks on staff but taking the initiative to arrange dedicated tutorial time with your superiors is best started early. Consigning oneself to the library and ploughing through books might appear the obvious remedy, it has proven effective for the last 2-3 years after all. But unfortunately it can not all be learnt with bookwork. Whether it is taking a psychiatric history, venipuncture or reading a chest X-ray, these are perishable skills and only repeated and refined practice will make them become second nature. Balancing studying with time on the wards is a challenge. Unsurprisingly, after a day spent on your feet, there is wavering incentive to merely open a book. Keeping it varied will prevent staleness taking hold. Attending a different clinic, brushing up on some pathology at a post-mortem or group study sessions adds flavour to the daily routine. During the heated weeks before OSCEs, group study becomes very attractive. While it does cement clinical skills, do not be fooled. Your colleagues tend not to share the same examination findings you would encounter on an oncology ward nor the measured responses of professional patient actors.
So ward time is important but little exposure to all this clinical information will be gained by assuming a watchful presence. Attending every ward round, while a laudable achievement, will not secure the knowledge. Senior members of the team operate on another plane. It is a dazzling display of speed whenever a monster list of patients comes gushing out the printer. Before you have even registered each patient’s problem(s), the management plan has been dictated and written down. There is little else to do but feed off scraps of information drawn from the junior doctors on the journey to the next bed. Of course there will be lulls, when the pace falls off and there is ample time to digest a history. Although it is comforting to have the medical notes to check your findings once the round is over, it does diminish any element of mystery. The moment a patient enters the hospital is the best time to cross paths. At this point all the work is before the medical team, your initial guesses might be as good as anyone else’s. Visiting A&E of your own accord or as part of your medical team’s on call rota is well worth the effort. Being handed the initial A&E clerking and gingerly drawing back the curtain incur a chilling sense of responsibility. Embrace it, it will solidify not only clerking skills but also put into practice the explaining of investigations or results as well as treatment options. If you are feeling keen you could present to the consultant on post-take.
Experiences like this become etched in your memory because of their proactive approach. You begin to remember conditions associated with patient cases you have seen before rather than their corresponding pages in the Oxford handbook. And there is something about the small thank you by the F1 or perhaps finding your name alongside theirs on the new patient list the following morning, which rekindles your enthusiasm. To be considered part of the medical team is the ideal position and a comforting thought. Good luck.
This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, Freshers 2013 issue.
Our University is embarking on a Project of web-based education for General Physicians in Pakistan and the whole region in the form of recorded videos. The videos shall cover a pertinent area of interest or knowledge considered important to a GP.
The recorded lectures shall be presented as groups of class-room lectures put together as modules. Each module shall carry weightage of certain CME credithours when the required percentage of a pass are achieved by answering the post-test questionnaires. Some thirty to forty
such modules are in plan to cover all the essential clinical areas and core competencies required in a GP for safe, evidence based practice in the community. This is the level I activity and forms a mandatory course or review material for all grades of General practitioners.The lectures
are being delivered by local expertise and expected to include international ones in due course of time. More and more are being contacted and those,who agree to join and participate in the programme are welcome regardless of their speciality and parent institution and location and free from any obligation.
A second level entry and access shall be provided to the successful participants to get trained for professional membership and fellowship programmes either developed locally or in collaboration with international institutions. Will it be successful in attracting and enrolling enough FPs and GPs locally and internationally? If so how?
Dr.Syed Shakeel Ahmad
Coordinator e-CME Programme
and Pakistan College for General Practitioners Pakistan
As part of my 5th year Senior Clinical Project I developed a psychiatry e-learning module in the form of a virtual patient on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), constructed using a PowerPoint template from the e-learning department at Cardiff University. This consisted of a simulated ADHD case, with the student taking the role of a General Practitioner and Specialist Paediatrician involved in the patient’s care.
During the course of the module the user is required to make clinical and therapeutic decisions regarding the patient, with educational material revealed to them as they complete a selection of multiple-choice questions on the disorder. The module has since been made available as a resource for future students via blackboard, which can be found at:
Before developing the module, I conducted a thorough literature search on ‘e-learning and medical education’, in order to access current literature and gain an insight into some of the educational theory surrounding the subject. A combination of textbook research, published literature, and national guidelines were then used to establish an extensive knowledge of ADHD from which the module content could be derived.
I strongly believe my learning resource will help improve future students' understanding of the disorder, which only forms a small part of the current fourth year psychological medicine curriculum.
This post describe the creation of a Stroke Summary video.
The aim of this project was to assess the attitudes of medical students towards the use of video animation in medical education. An educational tutorial was produced outlining the basic principles of stroke. This aimed to provide a summary of different aspects relating to stroke, outlined in the Bristol University curriculum. This intended to be a short, concise animation covering stroke presentation, definition and recognition, with an overview of the blood supply to the brain and the classification of stroke presentation used in clinical practice. This was followed by some key facts and a summary of different management stages. After the video animation was produced an assessment of student’s attitudes using an online questionnaire was undertaken. This consisted of ten short questions and an open text feedback for additional comments. The video was then edited with reference to feedback given by students and the results analysed.
This report will outline relevant research and project work that lead to this assignment being undertaken. A description of the method followed to generate the video animation and to collect feedback on students will be outlined followed by analysis of results. This will then be discussed in relation to previous work and research.
There are a number of reasons this project has been undertaken. On a personal level, I have a long-standing interest in teaching and medical education. As part of a previous project I created a series of audio tutorials in cardiovascular medicine and assessed student attitudes to audio learning. The findings of this report showed that a large number of students found these audio tutorials useful and would like more of these available to supplement their learning. One of the questions given to students at this time assessed how useful they found different types of educational material. This project showed students reporting audio tutorials more useful than previously thought, while also reporting that they were not readily available. Although a video tutorial was not provided to them at this time, feedback questions assessed attitudes to video tutorials as a learning resource. Students reported low availability and felt they would be more useful than audio tutorials. Some results from this project are shown in figure 1.
Figure 1. Results from previous research by Buick (2007), showing attitudes of students towards different learning tutorials. The majority of students report audio tutorials to be ‘quite useful’ or ‘very useful’. Video tutorials are thought by students to be more useful that audio tutorials, however there is a large proportion that do not have access to these learning resources.
As a number of students reported an inability to access to video tutorials, it was thought that creating a video animation tutorial followed by assessing students attitudes would be a useful follow up project. If this is found to be a useful resource, other students may generate video tutorials in the future. Therefore student feedback also assessed attitudes towards authenticity, relating to who generates the tutorial and whether they find the ability to feedback a useful tool.
Medical education is widely researched globally, although it is not often a consideration for those studying medicine. Those involved in teaching and educating future doctors have looked at different methods of passing on knowledge. A high quality medical education given to future healthcare professionals is important. It is widely accepted that a better knowledge results in better care for patients and education is at the centre of any healthcare system. This is reflected in the cost of educating medical students and training doctors in the UK. In the 1997 it was reported by the Department of Health that estimates of 200 million pounds would be spent per year for an increase in 1000 medical students being trained in the UK. This suggests that the cost of training a medical student is in the region of £200,0001.
Medical education in the UK is split in two halves, with undergraduate and postgraduate training. The Department of Health has recently invested millions of pounds into the development of online tutorials for postgraduate training posts in a number of different specialities. Justification for is given by reducing the cost of training through the use of standardised online tutorials. This will be a more cost effective method than the standard in hospital teaching. This approach has not been undertaken for undergraduate medical education. Universities are seen as primarily responsible for undergraduate training. Many of these institutions have used the Internet to aid teaching and have produced video tutorials. However, as reflected in the previous project (Buick, 2007), resources are often limited and students do not feel they have ready access to these educational tutorials.
The benefits of different types of learning resource have been researched. These include online audio downloads (Spickard et al, 2004), practice exam questions and interactive tutorials (Hudsen, 2004). Research showing the benefit of video was shown by Balslev et al (2005) comparing video and written text while teaching a patient case. Balsley et al (2005) found those who learnt using a video presentation rather than those given written text showed a significant increase in data exploration, theory evaluation and exploration. However, there is little research looking specifically at video animation for explaining conditions. Animation software is now available on personal computers and is also possible using Microsoft PowerPointTM, which is the most widely used presentation software.
It is clear that recent trends show training can benefit from this type of learning resource. Generation of high quality video tutorials can help students learn while reducing the cost of training. It is for this reason that more material is likely to become available, either from funded production supported by external organisations or by the trainers and trainees themselves who have technology able to produce material such as this on their home computer.
Ethical and Legal Issues
During the development of this video some ethical and legal issues arose that had to be addressed before a final video could be made. When considering what imagery would be used in the video, I wanted to include pictures of clinical signs relevant to the audio narration. However, taking images from the Internet without prior consent was not thought to be ethical and therefore clinical signs were displayed graphically through drawings and diagrams.
Plagiarism and copyright were some of the legal issues surrounding the presentation of medical information. Narrated information was generated using a number of information sources, none of which were exclusively quoted. Therefore an end reference list was generated showing all supporting information sources. Images used in the animation were either self generated or taken from sources such as Wikipedia.org. This resource supplies images under a free software license such as GNU general public license2. This allows anyone to freely use and edit images while referencing the original source.
Skills Needed To Develop This Video Animation
To generate the video a number I had to develop a number of new skills. Unlike previous work that had been undertaken this media was generated using animation software. To use this effectively I had to research the different functions that were available. To do this I combined reading books aimed to teach beginners such as Macromedia Flash 8 for Dummies (Ellen Finkelstein and Gurdy Leete, 2006) and online sources such as www.learnflash.com . To generate voice narration, another program was used that allowed editing and splicing of audio tracks. This was then split up into a number of narrated sections and added to the animation.
To produce the tutorial the first stage was to construct a script for narration. This involved outlining the areas to be covered. The main headings used were:
Stroke definition This gave a clinical definition and a lay person recognition mnemonic called FAST which is used to help members of the general public recognise stroke.
Pathophysiology This covered blood supply to the brain. This combined diagrams of the circle of Willis, with images of the brain. Arterial blood supply were then displayed over the brain images while relating this to the arterial vessels leaving the circle of Willis
Classification Students at Bristol university are asked to understand the Oxford / Bamford classification. This was covered in detail with explanations of clinical signs that may be seen and graphical representation of these.
Prevalence This section covered prevalence, national impact and cost of stroke in the UK.
Management In this section management was split up it to immediate management, medical management, in hospital care and some of the procedures considered for different cases.
Risk factors for stroke and research into this was also written up and narrated. However at a later stage this was not included due to time constraints and video length.
An audio narration was generated using software called ‘Garage Band’ which allows audio tracks to be recorded and edited. The narration was exported in 45 sections so that this could then be added to the animation at relevant points.
The animation was made using Adobe Flash. This software is used for making websites and animations used for Internet adverts. It has the facility to export as a ‘flash video format’, which can then be played using a media player online. This software generates animation by allowing objects to be drawn on a stage and moved around using command lines and tools. This was used as it has the ability to animate objects and add audio narration. It also is designed for exporting animations to the Internet allowing the material to be accessed by a large number of people.
A short questionnaire was generated which consisted of ten questions and placed online using a survey collection website (www.surveymonkey.com). Students were directed to the feedback questionnaire and allowed to submit this anonymously.
Adapting the tutorial
Some feedback constructively suggested changes that could be made. The video was updated after some concern about the speed of narration and that some of the narrative sections seemed to overlap.
Analysis and Report
The results of the feedback were then collected and displayed in a table. This was then added to the report and discussed with reference to research and previous project work.
Students were allowed to access to the video animation through the Internet. After uploading the video an email was sent to students studying COMP2 at Bristol University. These students are required to know about aspects of stroke covered in this tutorial to pass this section of the course. The email notified them of the options to view the tutorial and how to give feedback.
In total 30 students completed the feedback questionnaire and out of these 4 students provided optional written feedback. The results to the questions given were generally very positive. The majority of students showed a strong preference to video animations as a useful tool in medical education. The results are displayed in Table 1 below.
TABLE 1 shows the ten question asked of the students and to what extent they agreed with each statement. Results are given in the percentage of students who chose the relevant category.
Four written comments were made:
"Really useful presentation!! Would be much better if someone proof read the whole thing as there are some spelling mistakes; also if the pauses between facts were longer it would be more easier to take in some facts. Overall, really nicely done!!"
"Some of speech went too quickly, but good overall"
"Very clearly written with excellent use of images to match the text and commentary!"
"The Video was excellent."
Student attitudes to this video tutorial were very positive. This was in contrast to the attitudes previously shown in the audio tutorial project (Buick, 2007) where video tutorials were not thought to be a useful resource. These results support recent developments in the generation of online video training for doctors by the Department of Health and previous research by Balsley et al (2005).
Question one showed that the majority of students strongly agreed that the stroke video would be a useful resource. Questions two, three and four aimed to establish what aspects of a disease were best outlined using a video animation. Results showed that students agree or strongly agreed that defining the condition, pathophysiology and management were all well explained in this format. Interestingly, a large majority of students (70%) felt pathophysiology was best represented kinaesthetically. This may be due to the visual aspect that can be associated with pathophysiology. Disease processes are often represented using diagrams in textbooks with text explaining the disease process. Using computer technology it is possible to turn the text into audio narration and allow the user to view dynamic diagrams. In this way, students can better conceptualise the disease process, facilitating a more complete understanding of disease and its clinical manifestations.
Question five aimed to highlight the benefit of visual stimulation as well as audio narration as a positive learning method. All students agreed or strongly agreed that the combination of these two aspects was beneficial.
Question six showed a very strong response from students wanting access to more video tutorials, with 70% of students strongly agreeing to this statement.
It is often the case that students take part in generating teaching material, and some students may be concerned that this material is inaccurate. However, many students do not think that this is a significant problem. This is reflected by the spread of student’s opinion seen in question 7, where there was no clear consensus of opinion. It may be that as students learn from a number of different resources, that any inaccuracies will be revealed and perhaps stimulate a better understanding through the process of verifying correct answers and practicing evidence based medicine.
Question nine and ten show that most students value resources that allow sharing of educational material and feel they could help others learn. They would also value the option to feedback on this material.
The written feedback showed positive responses from students. However there was feedback on some aspects of the video that they felt could be changed. The narration was delivered quickly with few gaps between statements to keep the tutorial short and concise, however this was thought to be distracting and made it less easy to follow. Following this feedback the narration was changed and placed back on the Internet for others to review.
Further research and investigation could include the generation of a larger resource of video animations. My research has suggested that using animation to cover pathophysiology may be most beneficial. The software used to make this video also allows for the incorporation of interactive elements. The video produced in this project or other videos could have online menus, allowing users to select which part of the tutorial they wish to view rather than having to watch the whole animation, or they include interactive questions.
Strength and weaknesses
Strengths of this project include its unique approach to medical education. There have been few animated videos produced for undergraduate medical students that use this advanced software. This software is used by professional web developers but can be used effectively by students and doctors for educational purposes to produce video animation and interactive tutorials. For these reasons, I passionately believe that this technology could be used to revolutionise the way students learn medicine. If done effectively this could provide a more cost effective and engaging learning experience. This will ultimately benefit patients and doctors alike. This material can be place online allowing remote access. This is increasingly important for medical students studying on placements who are often learning away from the university setting.
Weaknesses of this project include that of the work intensity of generating animated video. It is estimated that it takes around 6 to 9 hours to produce a minute of animated video. This does not include the research and recording of narration. The total sum of time to generate material and the additional skills needed to use the software makes generation of larger numbers of videos not possible by a small community of learners such as a university. Although it was done in this case, it is difficult to edit the material after it has been created. This may mean that material will become inaccurate when new advances occur.
The feedback sample collected was opportunistic and the response rate was low. These factors may bias the results as only a subsection of opinions may have been obtained. These opinions may not be representative of the population studied or generalisable to them. It was difficult obtaining a professional medical opinion about the video in the time that I was allocated. However this has been organised for a later time.
Knowledge and skills gained
During this project I was able to learn about stroke its presentation, classification, management and risk factors. I read texts, which summarised stroke and research into risk factors and management of stroke. The challenge of usefully condensing a subject into a short educational tutorial was a challenging one. I feel I improved my skills of summarising information effectively. I gained knowledge of some of the challenges of undertaking a project such as this. One of the largest challenges included how long it took to produce the animation. In the future I will be aware of these difficulties and allow for time to gather information and generate the material. I also learnt the benefit of gaining feedback and allowing for adaption to this. It took more time to respond to feedback but this resulted in a better product that other students can use.
I also reflected on the impact of stroke itself. Stroke has a major impact on patients, health care and carers. Much can be done in the recognition classification and management. A better understanding benefits all areas and I have gained a better knowledge and the importance of helping others gain a good understanding of stroke.
I learned how to generate a video animation for the use of teaching in medicine and combine this with audio presentation. I learned how long it can take to generate material like this and the skill of organising my time effectively to manage a project. I can use this skill in the future to produce more educational material to help teach during my medical career. I also gained skills in learning how to place material on the Internet for others to access and will also use this in the future.
Previously evidence has shown the use of videos in medical education to be beneficial. It has normally been used to demonstrate clinical examination and procedures this study suggest there is a place for explanation of pathophysiology and disease summaries. However, there has been little research in to its use for graphically representing condition summaries. Computer technology now allows people to generate animation on their personal computer. It is possible that over time more students and doctors will start producing innovative visual and audio teaching material. This project indicates that this would be well received by students.
Planning the Medical Workforce: Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee: Third Report December. 1997 Page 40.
The GNU project launched in 1984.
Balslev T, de Grave W S, Muijtjens A M and Scherpbier A J (2005) Comparison of text and video cases in a postgraduate problem-based learning format Medical Education; 39: 1086–1092
Buick (2007) Year 3 External SSC. Bristol University Medical School.
Spickard A, Smithers J, Cordray D, Gigante J, Wofford J L. (2004) A randomised trial of an online lecture with and without audio; Medical Education 38 (7), 787–790.
Hudson J. N., (2004) Computer-aided learning in the real world of medical education: does the quality of interaction with the computer affect student learning? Medical Education 38 (8), 887–895.
Ellen Finkelstein and Gurdy Leete, (2006) Macromedia Flash 8 for Dummies. Wiley publishing Inc. ISBN 0764596918
Who are we?
This society has been formed by a core group of clinical year medical students at the University of Birmingham. We are hoping that lots more healthcare students at UoB will join us soon. This society is open to any student who has a keen interest in healthcare management – Nurse, physio, BMedSc, Medical student, Business student, dentist and pharmacist are all welcome.
Why do we exist?
Healthcare has become more complex. To ensure that patient’s receive the most effective treatments then healthcare services need to be organised effectively. This might be your role one day and you won’t receive any formal training in management theory or on team working and leadership skills from the University – knowledge that is essential to providing the best care for our patients.
Studies have shown that clinicians who have received management training and who take an active role in managing the departments they belong to have achieved significantly decreased complication and mortality rates.
What do we plan to do?
1) Raise awareness amongst healthcare students about the opportunities to be involved in healthcare management in their future careers.
2) The society hopes to act as an intermediary between healthcare students keen to make contacts with likeminded individuals in other course and years. We intend to have regular social events that allow everyone to practice their essential networking skills while at discussions over coffee, nights out, games of golf or away day visits to conferences and organisational visits.
3) The society will be holding lectures given by eminent professionals from all areas of healthcare management – The NHS, DoH, Armed forces, private organisations, think tanks, consultancy firms and leading researchers.
4) The society aims to help students foster essential leadership and team working skills that will be required in their future professional roles. These skills will be developed informally and during seminars and workshops. These skills will then be put to the test in high stress situations like Paintballing, laser tag and outdoor activities.
5) The final main aim of this society is to help students make contacts with clinicians and researchers who are working on improving healthcare systems and who need healthcare students to help with research. We hope to develop a network of contacts who are willing to provide research and audit opportunities to keen students.
Are you interested in joining the Birmingham Students Medical Leadership Society?
Then please email the committee at: email@example.com
Or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/676838225676202/
Or come find us at the MedSoc Freshers fair in September.
The Student medical leadership society (SMiLeS) useful resources!!!
Why is it important?
student BMJ 2012;345:e5319
Foundation year opportunities
Future career opportunities
Free Learning/ Relevant organisations
Did you know that you may not just work for the NHS, but also help to run it? The new Medical Leadership Society aims to foster leadership skills in healthcare students through talks from NHS leaders, the DoH and even the Armed Forces.
We provide a way for you to learn about being a leader and influencing policies in the NHS, and our talks and events will serve as an excellent platform for you to start making influential contacts within areas that interest you. You’ll also practice those leadership skills in an array of activities, including paintballing and laser tag!
Like may of you who work for a hospital, HMO or other organized medical care, I have often been frustrated by the rigidity and dullness of administrators. Many of them go by the rules and seem to be unbending.
Once in awhile one comes across some one who does not fit into that category. A personal example will illustrate this.
After I had retired from my academic position at the University of Miami I was doing intermittent "locums" work. I had just finished a six month assignment in Okinawa, Japan and was in my traveling mode. I needed to find my next "job" and had applied to an add from Mount Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, Alaska. That Indian Health Service Hospital was looking for an obstetrician and gynecologist. I was interested, applied and was invited for an interview.
I liked the job and they must have liked me as I was offered a two year contact. However as a new hire they offered me only two weeks of vacation and one week of Continuing Medical Education leave. For someone with my seniority, I thought that that was insufficient and said so. I left Sitka in a sad mood as I really would have liked that job, but was not ready to accept their offer of only two weeks of vacation time. I was told that that was the Company's policy, and that they were not ready to start a precedent.
Some days later, I received a phone call from the medical director of the hospital. She started off by apologizing again that she could not offer me more vacation, as that was the Company's policy for new hires. Right away I felt discouraged, but then she added: "We really would like to have you work for us and what I can do is give you two addition weeks of unpaid leave and raise your salary by two weeks (which, by company rules she was free to do). I was elated and accepted the offer for two years. We liked it there so much that we ended up staying seven years.
I thought that this hospital administrator was using her authority to make a very creative and imaginative decision. We all benefitted.
There should be more administrators like that.
Those interested in reading more about my experiences can download an e book for free from Smashword at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/161522 or just Google: "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path".
In a recent article in the BMJ the author wonders about the reasons beyond the rising trend diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The article attempts to infer reasons for this. One possible reason was that the diagnostic criteria especially DSM may seem for some to be more inclusive than ICD-10. The speculation may explain the rise of the diagnosis where DSM is used officially or have an influence. In a rather constructive way, an alternative to rushing to diagnosis is offered and discussed in some details.
The tentative deduction that the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) may be one of the causes of rising diagnosis, due to raising the cut-off of age, and widening the inclusion criteria, as opposed to International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10), captured my attention. On reading the ICD-10 diagnostic criteria for research (DCR) and DSM-5 diagnostic criteria, I found them quite similar in most aspects, even the phraseology that starts with 'Often' in many diagnostic criteria, they seem to differ a bit in age. In a way both classification, are attempting to describe the disorder, however, it sounds as if someone is trying to explain a person's behaviour to you, however, this is not a substitute to direct clinical learning, and observing the behaviour, as if the missing sentence is 'when you see the person, it will be clearer'.
El-Islam agrees with the notion that DSM-5 seems to be a bit more inclusive than ICD-10. A colleague of mine who is a child psychiatrist and she is doing her MSc. thesis in ADHD told me, that DSM-5 seems to be a substantial improvement as compared to its predecessor. The criteria - to her - though apparently are more inclusive, they are more descriptive with many examples, and she infers that this will payback in the reliability of the diagnosis. She hopes gene research can yield in biological tests for implicated genes and neurotransmitters in ADHD e.g. DRD4, DAT, gene 5,6,11 etc. One child psychiatrist, regretted the fact that misdiagnosis and under-diagnoses, deprive the patient from one of the most effective treatments in psychiatry. It is hoped the nearest forthcoming diagnostic classification (ICD-11), will address the issue of the diagnosis from a different perspective, or else converge with DSM-5 to provide coherence and a generalised newer standard of practice.
The grading of ADHD into mild, moderate, and severe seem to blur the border between disorder and non-disorder, however, this quasi-dimensional approach seems realistic, it does not translate yet directly in differences in treatment approaches as with the case of mild, moderate, severe, and severe depression with psychotic symptoms, or intellectual disability. The author states that one counter argument could be that child psychiatrists are better at diagnosing the disorder. I wonder if this is a reflection of a rising trend of a disorder. If ADHD is compared to catatonia, it is generally agreed that catatonia is less diagnosed now, may be the epidemiology of ADHD is not artefact, and that we may need to look beyond the diagnosis to learn for example from environmental factors.
Another issue is that there seems to be significant epidemiological differences in the rates of diagnosis across cultures. This may give rise to whether ADHD can be classified as a culture-bound syndrome, or whether it is influenced by culture like anorexia nervosa, or it may be just because of the raising awareness to such disorders. Historically, it is difficult to attempt to pinpoint what would be the closest predecessor to ADHD. For schizophrenia and mania, older terms may have included insanity, for depression it was probably melancholia, there are other terms that still reside in contemporary culture e.g. hypochondriasis, hysteria, paranoia etc. Though, it would be too simplistic to believe that what is meant by these terms was exactly what ancient cultures meant by them, but, they are not too far. ADHD seems to lack such historical underpinning. Crichton described a disorder he refers to as 'mental restlessness'. Still who is most often credited with the first description of ADHD, in his 1902 address to the Royal College of Physicians. Still describes a number of patients with problems in self-regulation or, as he then termed it, 'moral control' (De Zeeuw et al, 2011).
The costs and the risks related to over-diagnosis, ring a warning bell, to enhance scrutiny in the diagnosis, due to subsequent stigma, costs, and lowered societal expectations. They all seem to stem from the consequences of the methodology of diagnosis.
The article touches in an important part in the psychiatric diagnosis, and classifications, which is the subjective nature of disorders. The enormous effort done in DSM-5 & ICD-10 reflect the best available evidence, but in order to eliminate the subjective nature of illness, a biological test seems to be the only definitive answer, to ADHD in particular and psychiatry in general. Given that ADHD is an illness and that it is a homogeneous thing; developments in gene studies would seem to hold the key to understanding our current status of diagnosis.
The suggested approach for using psychosocial interventions and then administering treatment after making sure that it is a must, seems quite reasonable. El-Islam, agrees that in ADHD caution prior to giving treatment is a recommended course of action. Another consultant child psychiatrist mentioned that one hour might not be enough to reach a comfortable diagnosis of ADHD. It may take up to 90 minutes, to become confident in a clinical diagnosis, in addition to commonly used rating scales. Though on the other hand, families and carers may hypothetically raise the issue of time urgency due to scholastic pressure. In a discussion with Dr Hend Badawy, a colleague child psychiatrist; she stated the following with regards to her own experience, and her opinion about the article. The following is written with her consent.
'ADHD is a clinically based diagnosis that has three core symptoms, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity in - at least - two settings. The risk of over-diagnosis in ADHD is one of the potentially problematic, however, the risk of over-diagnosis is not confined to ADHD, it can be present in other psychiatric diagnoses, as they rely on subjective experience of the patient and doctor's interviewing skills. In ADHD in particular the risk of under-diagnosis is even more problematic. An undiagnosed child who has ADHD may suffer various complications as moral stigma of 'lack of conduct' due to impuslivity and hyperactivity, poor scholastic achievement, potential alienation, ostracization and even exclusion by peer due to perceived 'difference', consequent feelings of low self esteem and potential revengeful attitude on the side of the child. An end result, would be development of substance use disorders, or involvement in dissocial behaviours.
The answer to the problem of over-diagnosis/under-diagnosis can be helped by an initial step of raising public awareness of people about ADHD, including campaigns to families, carers, teachers and general practitioners. These campaigns would help people identify children with possible ADHD. The only risk is that child psychiatrists may be met with children who their parents believe they might have the disorder while they do not. In a way, raising awareness can serve as a sensitive laboratory investigation.
The next step is that the child psychiatrist should scrutinise children carefully. The risk of over-diagnosis can be limited via routine using of checklists, to make sure that the practice is standardised and that every child was diagnosed properly according to the diagnostic criteria. The use of proper scales as Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in its two forms (for parents SDQ-P and for teachers SDQ-T) which enables the assessor to learn about the behaviour of the child in two different settings. Conner's scale can help give better understanding of the magnitude of the problem. Though some people may voice criticism as they are mainly filled out by parents and teachers, they are the best tools available at hands. Training on diagnosis, regular auditing and restricting doctors to a standard practice of ensuring that the child and carer have been interviewed thoroughly can help minimise the risk of over-diagnosis. The issue does not stop by diagnosis, follow-up can give a clue whether the child is improving on the management plan or not. The effects and side effects of treatments as methylphenidate should be monitored regularly, including regular measurement height and weight, paying attention to nausea, poor appetite, and even the rare side effects which are usually missed. More restrictions and supervision on the medication may have an indirect effect on enhancing the diagnostic assessment.
To summarise, the public advocacy does not increase the risk of over-diagnosis, as asking about suicidal ideas does not increase its risk. The awareness may help people learn more and empower them and will lead to more acceptance of the diagnosed child in the community. Even the potential risk of having more case loads for doctors to assess for ADHD may help give more exposure of cases, and reaching more meaningful epidemiological finding. From my experience, it is quite unlikely to have marked over-representation of children who the families suspect ADHD without sufficient evidence. ADHD remains a clinical diagnosis, and it is unlikely that it will be replaced by a biological marker or an imaging test in the near future. After all, even if there will be objective diagnostic tests, without clinical diagnostic interviewing their value will be doubtful.
It is ironic that the two most effective treatments in psychiatry methylphenidate and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) are the two most controversial treatments. May be because both were used prior to having a full understanding of their mechanism of action, may be because, on the outset both seem unusual, electricity through the head, and a stimulant for hyperactive children.
Authored by E. Sidhom, H. Badawy
The original post is on The BMJ doc2doc website at
BMJ Article: (http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6172).
Badawy, H., personal communication, 2013
El-Islam, M.F., personal communication, 2013
Thomas R, Mitchell GK, B.L., Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: are we helping or harming?, British Medical Journal, 2013, Vol. 5(347)
De Zeeuw P., Mandl R.C.W., Hulshoff-Pol H.E., et al., Decreased frontostriatal microstructural organization in ADHD. Human Brain Mapping. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.21335, 2011)
Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013
Diagnostic Statistical Manual-IV, American Psychiatric Association, 1994
International Classification of Diseases, World Health Organization, 1992
There are roughly 7000 medical students graduating each year from 33 medical schools in the UK. Medical degrees take either 4, 5 or 6 years depending on the route you take.
The government via the Student Finance Company will pay for your tuition fees for the first 4 years of any undergraduate degree. After this the NHS will pay for the last year or 2 years of the undergraduate medical tuition fees.
The maintenance loan depends on family income. The figures aren’t easy to find for the background of most UK medical students but a ‘guestimate’ based on my medical school is that 50% went to a private school, 30% went to selective state schools and 20% went to a comprehensive. Of the private school kids probably about half had a scholarship or bursary. So, a rough guess would be that 70% of med students come from a “middle class” family who have a decent income but not huge wealth and are therefore eligible for a ‘maintenance loan’ above the minimum. This majority therefore rely on there loan to get through the year.
An average student income is between £1000 and £1500/term (£1200 average-ish). Most university terms are 10 weeks, hence average income is about £120/week. As a preclinical medical student this is fine and we are on par with everyone else. As soon as we become clinical med students the game changes!
Clinical years are far longer, more like 40 weeks a year rather than 30. Students are on placement, have to dress professionally and travel to placement daily. This adds additional costs and requires the money to stretch further. Doubly bad!
Once, the NHS starts paying the tuition fees, the Student Loans Company starts reducing the maintenance loan, by half! Why?
A final year student or a 4th year who has intercalated now has to survive at University for one of their course’s longest years with half the money they had previously. >40 weeks on a loan of roughly £1500/year. This situation is pretty much unique to medical students.
Some students are lucky enough to have parents who can afford the extra couple of thousand pounds required for the year. Some students get selected into the military and get a salary. A greater proportion find part time jobs to help cover the cost and the rest have to resort to saving money where they can and taking out loans.
When I was a member of the BMA medical student committee I did a project as part of the finance sub-committee investigating the loans available for medical students. Many banks used to “professional development loans” which allowed medical and law students to borrow money for a year before they had to start repaying the loan. Hardly any banks now offer this service, so the only loan available is an overdraft or a standard loan that requires you to have a regular income.
This means that final year medical students with limited family support may have to live for a year on less than £2000. Does this seem fair? Does this seem sensible government policy?
Medical students are 99% guaranteed to be earning over £25 thousand pounds within a year. We will be able to repay any loans. So why isn’t the Student Loan Company allowing us to continue having a ‘normal’ maintenance loan? And why aren’t banks giving us the benefit of the doubt and helping us out in our time of need?
When I was on the BMA MSC there was talk of having a campaign to lobby government and the banks to rectify this situation but I can’t say I’ve been aware of any such campaign. Are the NUS, BMA, UKMSA or anyone else doing anything about this?
Please do leave a comment if you do know if there has been a progress and if there hasn’t why don’t we start making a fuss about this!