James the site has been development for some time: how do you feel the site has gone so far?
We’re really quite pleased about how the site has been used by medical students – we want to help people revise on exams – be it medical finals, an OSCE or an end of year assessment. We’ve resisted the temptation to use the site to market questions to lots of different users (e.g. doctors sitting their MRCP or General practitioners sitting entry examinations for interviews) – we stick just to medical student revision which makes things a lot simpler and our content much more focussed. We can remember what it was like doing those exams!
Have you enjoyed developing the content?
We’ve got MCQs, EMQs and short answer questions on examinations, and it’s been fun editing the questions whilst getting to know a new range of people associated in education. We tried to develop the revision site in the form that we would have wanted it when we were medical students. That’s why we’ve got the mix of videos, questions, MCQs, EMQs, even downloadable guides on exam technique etc. We really feel passionate about it: once you subscribe you get everything, and any new developments.
A lot of our users have made several great suggestions to improve the site. I like these ideas, it’s about the ethos that we’re looking to create, and we’re actively looking into them to improve things for the students.
People that know you tell us you just like to teach. Do you enjoy it?
I’ve played a part in a number of educational roles as a Specialist Registrar including work as a Royal College tutor, Clinical Teaching Fellow and Trust Medical Education representative. The people that help write for the site want to be involved in education: we do it for the fun of it. I like to teach – we regularly run morning sessions for doctors in training. Having regular contact with medical students on exams helps to keep things in perspective, and realise what a privilege teaching is.
What do you think the most common mistake made by medical students is?
It’s difficult to call it a mistake but when you consider how much pressure students are under its easy to understand why nerves can sometimes get the better of students when they are in an exam or an OSCE situation. Composure in this aspect is important. Helping students to prepare for this pressure cooker environment can be key. Consider the following:
“On examination there was a symmetrical peripheral inflammatory deforming polyarthropathy predominantly involving the metacarpophalangeal joints”
“On examination there was swelling over the metacarpophalangeal joints of both hands, which is warm to the touch”
“On examination there is disease affecting the hands, the metacarpophalangeal joints look red”
The findings may be identical, but calmness under pressure is important to learn as a skill. If you don’t present something you’ve seen, you don’t get marks for it.
What are your views on exam technique – is this just something you can learn?
Not really, its more complicated than that. The pressure from a medical exam, or medical finals and the revision leading up to that is intended to prepare medical students for the real world. In the United Kingdom, this is as a foundation year doctor, but students training anywhere from the US, Europe, Canada, United Arab Emirates, or India will be expected to perform under a difficult environment. So in part, preparing to present clearly in this stressful and high stakes environment is very important.
You scored 55/56 in the MRCP PACES exam, the second highest mark ever scored in the contemporary history of the exam. Is it just technique!?
The PACES exam is basically an OSCE style exam, and to pass any OSCE you need to adopt a sensible approach on examination and presentation. Knowledge is important, but any candidate needs to optimise their performance to get the best out of an examination/finals etc. I’ve taught many experienced junior doctors, and it is important to be able to demonstrate that you have good clinical skills.
Where do you See Medical Educator going in the future?
Medical educator isn’t just an exam revision site, or a multiple choice question site for medical finals: it’s a resource with videos, podcasts and more to help people get the most out of their medical training. We’re now on ITunes, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and a few other social networks. We want students to contribute to our content, we want to produce interactive OSCE stations, deliver more content from anaesthetics, emergency medicine and expand on exam content to date. We have lots of goals, but we’re young, flexible and highly adaptable. The team of contributors that we have assembled is willing to adapt. We’re willing to put educational theory into practice for the benefits of our own students.
What about the feedback from Medical Educator users?
Our feedback is encouraging: form our subscribers, over 95% would recommend us to a friend and the comments so far have been very kind. Our users understand what we’re trying to do, but I’d be the first to acknowledge problems with the site as it stands. We want to do more, and we’re not going to rest or let the site stagnate. We’ve not relied on exam sponsorship, large amounts of money, or support from the pharmaceutical industry. Whilst we would consider appropriate sponsorship, to date you won’t find any advertising on the site.
We try not to focus on the year of training; just on what constitutes good knowledge for a final year student. Our revision material is targeted at clinical problems that students will face in ‘real life’ along with what they will get in their medical finals. That goes for students from the UK, the US, Australia or anywhere else! We’ve had accesses from >100 countries and rising, so we have a good perspective on the international scene at the minute.