As a junior doctor, you’ll often have rotations where medical students are part of your team or attached to your ward. This guide gives tips on opportunities for you to develop your teaching skills and your clinical knowledge, and to add to the students' ward experience and learning.
Teaching medical students can sometimes seem a daunting task, especially if you're in foundation training and have only recently left medical school yourself. But teaching can be a fun experience which can improve your own knowledge and clinical skills. It can be spontaneous, such as when students want to know about specific topics or patients, or it can be planned to fit alongside an assigned consultant's teaching.
As a junior doctor you have lots of skills and knowledge to impart, and you may have a better understanding of what medical students need to know than some more senior doctors.
Teaching students about a particular topic can help you to learn more about the specialty you’re rotating in. Try to pick an area that is common on your ward, or which you are most interested in.
You can ask a specialty consultant to observe your teaching for a 'Developing the clinical teacher' (DCT) assessment, or offer to help with their teaching commitments by planning part of their tutorials.
Get to know one of the patients on your ward through observing the student practise their history taking, so that you are better prepared for talking to your consultant for a ‘Case-based discussion’ (CbD) assessment.
Foundation doctor skills teaching
Final year medical students often want experience of typical foundation year doctor tasks, such as filling in paperwork and discussing issues with colleagues. They may even have a requirement from their medical school to have forms signed off by junior doctors to check that they have competence in certain tasks.
Think about using mock or spare paperwork for students to fill in, or supervise them when fulfilling online tasks such as:
- writing in the notes on ward round
- blood test requests
- imaging requests
- specialty referrals
- discharge letter writing
- venous thromboembolism (VTE) assessments
- death certificates and cremation forms.
As a junior doctor, particularly in foundation training, you will find that you are very competent at many practical skills that students are not. Think about offering to observe the students, or to demonstrate the following tasks yourself:
- arterial blood gases (ABGs)
- urinary catheters
- nasogastric tube insertion
- urine dipstick / pregnancy test
- rectal examination.
History taking and examination skills
You can easily observe students practising their history taking and examination skills, especially if you need to review a sick patient on the ward or one who has just arrived.
Students’ clinical exposure on placement can shape their future career choice and, as a junior doctor, you can add a huge amount to their enjoyment and involvement, whilst being a role model for how to behave as a doctor.
Interpretation of investigations
You can try to see the students every week of their rotation, tackling a different basic investigation each time such as ECGs, ABGs, chest X-rays, basic blood tests, or lumbar puncture results.
In the middle of the night
Think of issues you’ve had to deal with when you have been looking after patients during on-call shifts. You can give basic advice about issues that can perplex students, or something that they might not have considered that they’ll have to deal with.
- prescribing when you know the medication names but not the doses that the patient is taking
- assessing a patient who has fallen on a ward
- assessing the fluid status of a patient when a nurse asks if they need further IV fluids
- when a nurse asks you to review a patient whose cannula or catheter has come out, and whether to replace it or not.
Remember that teaching doesn’t have to be didactic and lecture-based – that’s what university learning is for. Students’ clinical exposure on placement can shape their future career choice and, as a junior doctor, you can add a huge amount to their enjoyment and involvement, whilst being a role model for how to behave as a doctor.
Dr Kimberley Nettleton
Clinical teaching fellow (senior house officer), Warwick Hospital