Your career aspirations and options seem more varied than ever. You are more likely to gravitate towards so-called ‘portfolio careers’ and you may find that, by the end of your training, different roles in medicine are being carried out by different people in new jobs that hadn’t really been invented when you were starting out as a medical student.
For previous generations of doctors, no training in specific teaching skills was provided. Now, as one of ‘tomorrow’s doctors’, you are expected to embed teaching into all aspects of your clinical practice and clear standards are outlined for you. You can learn and perfect your approach to teaching, just as for all your other clinical skills.
Every doctor is expected to deliver teaching, whether to medical students, allied health professionals, or postgraduate doctors. You may already be involved in some teaching activities in your current role and you may be considering whether or not to develop these further as a bigger element in your career profile.
WHY DEVELOP YOUR TEACHING ROLE?
There are different reasons why you might wish to develop your teaching. They are all equally valid and they are not mutually exclusive!
If you need to teach
As well as being part of your ‘duty’ if you are a doctor, you may have been asked to do some teaching by a colleague or senior. Perhaps you are going to organise some bedside teaching for a group of undergraduates in your hospital. Maybe you have been asked to run a problem-based learning session because your supervisor is away, or it could be that you have a particular area of knowledge that you have been asked to give a talk on. You may have offered some interdisciplinary teaching to nursing or other colleagues in allied professions, or perhaps you have just started a new job in which some teaching is required in your contract.
These are great opportunities for trying out different teaching skills and for seeing whether you enjoy it and want to take it further (see Table 1 for entry-level opportunities). A good way to enhance your skills at this stage is a basic ‘teach the teacher’ course. These may be available without charge in your Trust or university, covering the teaching theories, principles and teaching tools you will need to be an effective medical skills teacher.
If you enjoy or choose to teach
Perhaps you love sharing your knowledge and helping others to grow and develop, or perhaps you really like the mechanics of teaching. You may have developed a particular interest in curriculum design or leadership or assessment – the last of these is an area that many forget or find difficult, but is key to effective learning.
There are plenty of other less ‘altruistic’ reasons for wanting to teach. It may tick an important ‘achievement’ box on your CV, may create job opportunities for you or may enhance your consultant or academic job application. In addition, it may just be that you would like to take on a role such as a teaching fellowship to get some ‘time out’ off the treadmill, for personal development or as an alternative to research.
There are several ways to get a more intensive ‘taster’ by taking on a job that has a large teaching component (Table 2). One day, you might suddenly find that you have taken on a role or developed your own niche where teaching is central to your identity or your job description and you couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
CAREER PLANNING AND QUALIFICATIONS
It is probably important to state here that this doesn’t have to be a career ‘plan’ in order for it to work for you. There isn’t an obvious ‘climb’ to a clear ‘summit’, unless that is what you want. You might realise that you have gained fantastic skills in the past that will prove useful to your teaching future, although you might also plan some skills development in advance.
The best things to do are to try out different techniques and get some feedback. Play with different ways of doing things and, if you can bear it, engage in a bit of learning theory. There is an evidence base to use, just as there is for your clinical practice. As you progress, think about ways in which your efforts can be more formally recognised or in which you can do more detailed training (Table 3).
In general, teaching may be a great way to add interest to your working week, whether or not you choose to take on the ‘label’ of educator or even educationalist. Whatever your motivation, developing your teaching skills and roles will broaden your CV and help you to understand your subject better. The key tips are the same as for any other area of career development:
- If something seems interesting, say yes
- If you have said yes, give it your wholehearted enthusiasm and your ‘best shot’
- You may never know where the road really leads but that is fine – there doesn’t have to be a plan and a route.
As with many things in life, the journey is as important as the destination. However, if you do decide that you know where the road is leading you, feel free to use some of the tips in this article as your SatNav. Good luck!
Maralyn Druce, Professor of Endocrine Medicine, Department of Endocrinology, Barts and the London School of Medicine