Almost exactly one year ago, in what feels like another world, we wouldn’t have dreamt that the majority of the Simulated Patient sessions we’d be facilitating would be online. Yet, that’s now the case, and at the 1 year anniversary of ‘Going Online’ it felt like a moment to reflect and look back.
Partnerships are tested most during times of crisis. At PEEL Roleplay we are proud of the way our close collaborative relationships have delivered solutions for our clients during this difficult year. As lockdown became inevitable, a close dialogue was maintained as we made provision to continue medical education, despite the restrictions and future uncertainties. Initially there were inevitably cancellations but, remarkably quickly, we were exploring how sessions could be re-scheduled, delivered in a different way (e.g. one to ones with students etc.) and of course emulating the real patient experience in parts of the NHS, with online consultations.
Our close relationship with the University of Exeter Medical School brought particularly early discussions about the move online. Our first teaching session was delivered barely a week after lockdown began in April 2020, with many hundreds of teaching hours being delivered over the subsequent months. These weeks were also used to initiate the planning for online assessment, with our first, wholly online OSCE taking place with Exeter in early June 2020.
In a similar manner, our excellent relationship with the University of Liverpool meant we quickly began planning assessments, with trials during summer 2020 and culminating in entire summative Year 4 OSCEs (including Sequences 1, 2 and a resit) being delivered to a very (measurably) high standard in November 2020. After careful deliberation, the OSCE was delivered to a blended model (candidates, examiners and clinical stations all examined on campus with SPs joining by video link from home), a venture which required a great deal of technical and logistical planning and which would have been impossible without the fluid, two-way communication we enjoy through our close collaborative partnership.
We have been delighted to continue working and to be able to provide sessions for our dedicated and highly skilled SPs who, like our clients and the whole of the PEEL Roleplay team, have shown amazing flexibility, commitment and resilience of the past 12 months. Gradually, face-to-face teaching is beginning to come back, but “blended learning” – a mixture of online learning and face-to-face learning – is, we’re sure, here to stay and we look forward to making it an excellent experience for everyone.
A note from Daphne Franks, PEEL Roleplay Trainer, Facilitator and Simulated Patient.
“Are you really going to make us sit two metres apart?” asked the student.
This was in a university teaching session almost exactly a year ago. Early March 2020. Another world.
“Yes, I’m afraid I am,” I said. “We’ve been told that’s what we need to do.”
At the end of the morning we all walked out of that familiar room in that familiar building – and, to our amazement, we have not yet been back. We have gone online.
Some medical schools were really quick off the mark to embrace this new way of teaching and learning. Peel Roleplay were quick to adapt as well.
It seemed like no time at all before Zoom, Teams and Collaborate were all very familiar to me and suddenly, after years of travelling round the country, I was being both a Simulated Patient and a university tutor in my own living-room. I was fortunate in that my husband is a computer consultant so we had very high-quality equipment and an excellent connection – but most Simulated Patients got onboard with it all very quickly.
We could tell that the medical schools had put a tremendous amount of effort into learning the platforms. I was astonished by quite how well it has worked.
For OSCEs, click on one link and you’re in the Simulated Patient briefing. Click on another, and you’re in a room with the examiner and someone else who’s in charge of monitoring it all. Keep your camera off and listen in – – and then, when the examiner and student are ready, switch your camera on and appear in the “room” – – and off you go!
Another surprise was how much you can observe, both in exams and in teaching sessions, even when the student is on a screen. Whether the student gives a friendly, thorough greeting. Words and phrases. Body language. Questioning styles. Giving information in manageable “chunks”.
I miss seeing students in person, of course. In teaching sessions, I miss coffee breaks and the conversation (okay, and the biscuits). But actually, it’s still possible to build bonds, and to discuss very serious topics, and to have banter as well.
By Jessica Wright, Managing Director at Peel Roleplay