12 Tips for beginning a career in medical education

Interested in medical education? The journal Medical Teacher has started a “Twelve tips” series where they offer ideas & tips relating to medical education. The most recent one really resonated with me as I’m hoping to begin a career in medical education. The authors nicely outlined 12 useful suggestions in beginning a career in medical education. This was definitely not a post where I thought I could teach people about this topic…instead, I did what I do best – take other peoples ideas and broadcast them!

I’ve summarized them below (especially for those without access to the article). The bolded text is directly from the article, while the rest is my own take on it.

1. Reflect first on what you really want. A career in medical education is more than just “teaching”. I could involve research, assessments, curriculum design, administration, etc. Focusing on one area will improve your ability to become an expert and you’ll be able to demonstrate tangible skills. In speaking with mentors of mine, it appears this is one of the most crucial

2. Join a medical education society. Not sure the value of this but the others do offer some compelling arguments such as financial discounts and belonging to an education community. I havent done this so I can’t really provide much perspective.

3. Subscribe to a Journal. I’m lucky enough to use my educational access through my university so I dont have to do this. I’m not sure which journal I would choose if I had to since each Med Ed journal has different perspectives. One thing I do recommend is joining the eTOC (e-mail table of contents) for a few journals. This will alert you everytime there’s a new issue and you’ll be able to review the titles & abstracts. Great way to keep up to date!

4. Workshops. Great idea! Easy way to gain some experience by attending these. I just finished a simulation debriefing workshop last week and not only was it valuable, its also awesome for networking.

5. Higher Qualifications in Medical Education. The authors provide some additional context but basically depending on your centre and where you’re looking for a job, it’s becoming increasingly helpful to look into a certificate, diploma or master’s program. I’m currently enrolled in the Masters of Medical Education Leadership program offered through University of New England. I love the program since it’s distance-education. It has allowed me to integrate all that I’m learning into my current location in Auckland! But there’s obviously lots of considerations

6. Educational Research. Pretty self explanatory, if you’re interested in research then consider pursuing a project in education. Great way to find a mentor (see #9) and also gets you more involved. However, research isn’t for everyone and definitely not the only way to contribute to medical education.

7. Teach at every opportunity. Try something like One-Minute Preceptor!

8. Ask someone to watch you. It can be difficult getting feedback but this will only make you better.

9. Get an educational mentor. This can be difficult depending on your setting but hugley important. They can guide you through your career and provide you with ideas/comments about things you should & shouldn’t try.

10. Organize educational events

11. Develop your educational portfolio. I think increasingly this is becoming a key currency within academia (in medical education). There’s a bunch of ways to construct one. I’m just learning myself but a simple google or pubmed search should provide some ideas!

12. Explore your long-term goals. This is one of the reasons why a mentor is helpful! Also, it will help you decide on what opportunities are worthwhile pursuing and which ones are not.

Is there value in scientific meetings?

This short editorial published recently in JAMA raises the question of the utility and value of scientific meetings. Dr. John Ioannidis writes an interesting and provocative editorial about whether these meetings serve any valuable purpose. He describes some of the negative aspects

  • carbon footprint associated with international travel to these meetings
  • lack of stringent review of abstracts and subsequent low percentage that are published as full articles (researchers can easily get accepted partially completed articles that don’t tell the whole story…especially since most abstracts are less than 300words)
  • lack of evidence-base required by keynote speakers; instead they often speak based on opinion yet because they’re considered “experts” – of concern is that their influence can alter practice substantially and this may be despite lacking evidence
  • infiltration of drug/device companies and the potential for conflicts of interest within the conference

pretty sure this could be done online at a fraction of the cost…??

Instead the author argues that given our technological advancements, money used for conference planning that has little educational impact (e.g renting the venue, food, etc) could be better used to design high-yield educational materials. The author also suggests that conferences become subject of study and trials.

He raises excellent points and ones that deserve consideration. As we move to more accessible technology that connects us virtually instantaneously, there is reduced utility traveling 2 days of simply to hear a few poorly peer-reviewed lectures. Though if the parties are good, might be hard to turn down a good conference!

Crew (or crisis) resource management…a must for medicine

While CRM (or crew resource management) is well described in the aviation literature, it’s not nearly as well known within medicine. Interestingly, it applies extremely well since we (medical professionals) work in teams and often in high-stress situations where decisions involve life and death.

Graphic illustrating that pilot responsibilities increase near landing and subsequent reduction in the safety margin. Similar patterns occur in medicine when we approach critical events…though without CRM training, these high risk periods may not be managed as effectively as possible

This past week I completed a CRM course with fellow physicians, paramedics and pilots through the ARHT. I wanted to share with you a recent publication by one of my supervisors here in Auckland, and a staff physician I work with back home in Toronto.

Chris Hicks and Chris Denny recently published their findings from a study of CRM instruction implementation among emergency medicine residents. It’s difficult to believe that we continue to train and do simulation without some emphasis on CRM. It’s well documented (as I’ve mentioned in a previous post) that stress affects decision making (often negatively) and also adversely affects team communication. So why don’t we train to improve this?

This study examined EM residents in their clinical & team leadership performance before and after a CRM training day. Findings suggest that participant attitudes were positive towards the impact of CRM on team work and error reduction. In addition, while it didn’t reach statistical significance, post course nontechnical skills (leadership, communication, problem solving, etc.) improved after well designed CRM instruction.  Further study is required to assess what impact such training has on trainee performance but the findings are important. As trainees/staff become more experienced, the likelihood that they’ll make one serious error is less likely, but serious errors still occur. Most often, these errors occur as a result of multiple smaller (“less significant”) errors that compound and subsequently affected by poor communication, leadership and team work. As educators, we need to work help trainees understand where teams break down under stress and plan to correct this.