Some reflections on medical education at the end of a plague year


A year ago I was in the UK.  Some years the cycles repeat themselves like ecclesiastical dates or  “terms” in the academic year but, sometimes, something happens and nothing is ever quite the same again.  I’m sure the daffodils are flowering again in Finsbury Park but medical practice and education are still in a state of flux.

This post was part written at the end of August and, like many things in this year of Covid, it got postponed.  August was an upside-down month for me.  My usual August for the last few years has involved attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (where my daughter performs) followed later by an event with a different vibe – the AMEE conference somewhere in Europe.  So, there I was with no presentation to prepare, saving money by registering online and hoping the technology worked.  I saw a few interesting sessions and came across some relevant online posters when browsing but the vibe was certainly different.  A few months later saw me having to change a 1.5 hour workshop at another European conference into a 45 minute presentation.  Not sure if anyone saw it.

I was indeed fortunate to continue being involved with writing and delivering some online modules for a Certificate in Clinical Teaching and Supervision during the year and I was able to do that from home.  Currently these can be found at  and the twitter link is ModulesInClinicalTeaching @GPCertModules  The last module was on e-learning and teaching.  Later in the year we started some online live webinars – so a few new skills acquired!  Those deadlines provided some structure.   In fact the third Zoom online, on the topic of Feedback, is happening on March 9th (more information at

In between, I read a lot, ensured I did more daily walks than usual and set myself some drawing projects.

What is happening to education and training in the glow of corona?  I guess the answer to that is not yet complete, it’s not the same in every country and probably will continue to change, depending on what is happening in each country regarding Covid-19 (and now the vaccinations).

This year has revealed (in Australia) the significance and extent of casualisation in Universities.  One might speculate in what ways this influences the quality of education, training and the morale of teachers and researchers.  It’s an issue that won’t go away but may eventually become unquestioned and something to just “live with” (as some say), but perhaps it warrants a few minutes’ thought.  Moving from face-to-face to online is different from moving distance learning to online.  At many levels the effect of the virus has been unequal and the enormous work of changing courses to online at short notice also fell unequally.  Of course, let’s not forget that more workers in the arts sector also lost their jobs and, for some, their careers in one fell swoop.

We all knew that we were moving slowly toward more online and less personal contact but this suddenly accelerated and I reflected on educational aspects of that in my last post in May.  It’s had its challenges but it’s also been interesting.  There will no doubt be lots of presentations at next year’s medical education conferences about what worked and what didn’t.  As educators we are hopefully moving from getting it done, to doing it well (but what are we measuring?)  There are lots of “tech” things happening and that provides opportunities to some.

We changed our ways of engaging and communicating and some words and phrases got used a lot more frequently or developed different meanings: zooming, you’re muted, podcasts, WhatsApp it, virtual conferencing, breakout rooms, asynchronous webinars etc.

Other training organisations were already losing funding in many instances, and is it possible that online training may be seen as a panacea, not just to the viral context but to the economic context?  However, it is not often acknowledged that to do online “well” is not necessarily cheaper.

Will education be changed for good (or for the better)?  Will we reassess the place of interaction and the interpersonal in health professional education – but also in the area of health care generally?

I have no answers to any of this but I confidently predict some interesting PhDs and books in the coming years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.