UCL Medical School Change Day took place on 8th June, and was a successful push to involve the wider public in the training of medical students. The event was organised as a joint effort between students, staff and members of the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) team at UCL Medical School.
The day merged medical student training with public expectation through the hashtag,“#DesignMyDoctor”. This innovative thought process acknowledges that the public should be able to influence their future generation of doctors by expressing which qualities they value most in a doctor. Part of the event was aimed at addressing the public’s often vague understanding of how medical students are trained, whilst the other part focused on how public involvement in training could impact on patient empowerment. First and foremost, it was a chance to open discussion between the public and medical students about the NHS.
Change Day involved meeting both patients and staff at UCLMS’s three core teaching hospitals: The Royal Free, The Whittington and UCLH. Stalls held at each site acted as hubs where staff could make pledges and patients could share their stories. The main question directed to all was: “What qualities would you want to see developed in your ideal doctor?”, and the question directed at staff was: “What small change would you make, to make your patients’ experience better?”. Patients were enthusiastic about sharing their own experiences and each narrative held its own lesson. Visitors responded well to a cardboard cut-out doctor, which was overflowing with comments by the end of the day. Talking to staff, as well as patients, highlighted the variety of medical professionals that work to deliver the best standard of care.
A common theme was the value of compassionate communication. One patient stated that she wanted her ideal doctor to “Listen, admit if baffled, be honest, be willing to try alternatives, and always learn new information”, whilst another reminded us that patients are informed to varying degrees about their conditions: “It is important to be able to gauge patient understanding and deliver the right amount of information according to how much the patient understands”. Based on previous experience, one patient said “I’d like to be told exactly what is going to happen, however graphic, and why”. The feedback suggested that despite variation in how much information patients tend to be given, overall patients prefer more information to be shared. In the current high pressurised climate of the NHS another patient remarked: “Remember that patients are the job and not an obstacle, good doctors show empathy and understanding”.
The day was rounded off with an exhibition open to the public, which summarised feedback. There was also a talk by Dr Damon called “From fear to fun”. He reiterated the importance of patient narrative and how each unique backstory influences our impression and attitude towards healthcare. There was also a showing of a video compilation made by one of our medical students highlighting how much NHS staff care about the treatment patients receive, and later, staff made pledges to enroll in training courses and to strive for inclusivity and equality of treatment. One doctor pledged to “Spend more time with patients – come back after my duties are completed” – a reminder that even the smallest of changes can have a meaningful impact. Lastly, Sandy Mehta, deputy director of procurement, reminded us that doctors and medical students need to be aware of non-clinical aspects of medicine, such as the financial costs of equipment.
One piece of advice given to medical students was to “Use your time wisely and effectively. You’re paying fees- demand more when enough is not delivered!”. The types of doctors that students become is highly influenced by the training received. Taking forward all the information garnered from this event, UCL medical school are hoping to scrutinise what areas of medical education can be enhanced to incorporate values highlighted by patients.
In November, the NHS will be holding their own change day, which will be less student focused, but will still follow the same aims of improving healthcare and patient experiences. The day is to encourage staff working in the NHS to pledge to make small changes to their practise in order to enhance the patient experience.
By Haleema Chowdhury and Sabina Shamsad