London leads the world when it comes to medical and health education. In the capital there are five medical schools, three dental institutes, multiple schools of clinical academic disciplines and around 20 providers of Healthcare courses. There are over 62,000 students in medicine, dentistry and allied healthcare subjects. Embracing this pre-eminence and the diversity within it, London Medicine & Healthcare is a specialist division within the London Higher family.
London Medicine & Healthcare recently hosted a discussion meeting focussed on the experiences of medical and dental clinical academic trainees in London. Attendees included stakeholders and many trainees from London Medicine member institutions. Two reports have been published on this – “Taking on the Challenge”: The Experiences of Medical and Dental Trainees in London which sets out our findings and recommendations, and Clinical Academic Routes in Medicine & Dentistry: survey and interview findings which provides a more in-depth look at our research findings.
A ‘clinical academic’ is an individual whose role combines clinical work (such as working as a doctor in a hospital environment) with academic work (such as research, teaching and other responsibilities in a university environment). This dual role presents a challenge to clinical academic trainees – they need to achieve the same clinical skills and competencies as their peers who spend 100% of their working time on clinical work, while also successfully developing and progressing their university-based research. Managing and overseeing clinical academic trainees can also present challenges to HEIs, NHS trusts and others.
Clinical academic trainees were chosen as a focus for this project due to concerns about the pipeline for trainees, and also the recognition that it can be a complicated career path to pursue, with many potential challenges. The concentration of trainees in London provides an excellent opportunity to think innovatively about how clinical academic training routes function. Also, as a London-wide organisation London Medicine was well placed to investigate whether there are any pan-London actions that could be taken to ensure that individuals who pursue this career path are facilitated to develop their career.
Our key research objectives were:
- To explore how clinical academic trainee pathways are working in London for medicine and dentistry.
- To identify areas where pan-London collaboration could help to address or alleviate challenges faced by individuals pursuing clinical academic training in London.
To help us explore these questions we surveyed clinical academic trainees across London, conducted face to face interviews with 18 trainees, and also spoke to individuals from organisations including universities, NHS Trusts and Health Education England (HEE) who have expertise in the area of clinical academics.
Issues discussed included:
- Aspects where pan-London support or collaboration could enhance the trainee experience, such as events or networks.
- The role and responsibilities of academic supervisors in relation to trainees.
- Trainee experiences in dentistry: How can dental schools emphasise and encourage a culture of research? Does the current trainee pathway work well in dentistry?
- New trainees often encounter numerous administrative issues relating to their dual role, and these ‘little things’ can add up and cause major problems for trainees. Some signposting and/or a checklist of issues to consider could be very helpful.
Looking ahead, London Medicine is planning to support clinical academic trainees in London by:
- Holding a pilot ‘Welcome to London’ event for new trainees across the capital in Autumn 2018, jointly with HEE.
- Developing an admin checklist for new trainees.
- Showcasing the quality and variety of clinical academic trainee opportunities in London, through a series of case studies.
The work on clinical academics forms Theme 2 of London Medicine’s Vital Signs programme of work. Vital Signs is enabling London Medicine to have an opportunity to look in-depth at a ‘hot topic’ relevant to medical and dental education and training in London. Vital Signs Theme 1 ran during the 2016-17 academic year and focused on clinical placements in undergraduate medicine. The outcomes from Theme 1 can be found here, and it also includes information on how some of London Medicine’s recommendations are being put into practice.
Many thanks to my colleagues Nicola Berkley and Jane Knox for helping with this blog piece.