Medical students get to sit in on GPs’ consultations, virtually

An initiative encouraging medical students to consider a career in general practice has brought the GP surgery into the classroom. GP Live, developed at Aberdeen University, uses video streaming so students can watch consultations moments after they happen, giving them a flavour of life as a doctor.

The system uses one of the university’s digitally enhanced learning spaces, where students use 55-inch displays and state-of-the-art web conference tools. Previously, medical would wait until a few years into their studies before experiencing a consultation; GP Live allows this to take place at  a much earlier stage.

It has been developed by Dr John McKeown, a senior clinical lecturer and GP at Cults Medical Group in Aberdeen. “The appeal is that they are seeing consultations that are almost live, and this adds a sense of immediacy that appeals to students who have grown up in an era where digitisation has made learning far more interactive,” he said. “We aim to make the sessions as engaging as possible by discussing the GP’s approach while the consultation takes place – for example how they communicate, the direction that they take the consultation, and of course their recommended course of action.

Dr John McKeown

“One of the main benefits is that we can discuss consultations that have taken place at a variety of practices where the issues may be very different. This means that students get a real insight into the challenges facing GPs who might operate in less affluent areas, or in remote rural locations. The system also allows us to work through a number of different consultations in succession, which very much mimics a typical morning for a GP.  This allows us to see the range of skills – interpersonal, diagnostic and otherwise – that they bring to a normal working day.

McKeown added: “Previously students would have had to wait until at least fourth year before they were exposed to this kind of teaching, but with GP Live we now have the ability to incorporate this into their studies at a far earlier stage. By the time our current first year students graduate there will be a pressing need for new GPs in Scotland, and this initiative is designed to show them what an appealing career it can be.”