Are you engaging in good medical teaching practice?

EthicsGood Medical Practice is a comprehensive description of the professional and ethical conduct required of a doctor in the UK.  It therefore provides an excellent framework to structure a review of performance.  In this piece I am going to start off by focusing on two key statements from the standards:

7: You must be competent in all aspects of your work, including management, research and teaching

39. You should be prepared to contribute to teaching and training doctors and students.

In a world where the collective knowledge of disease and treatment is greater than ever, active teaching ensures that the baton is continually passed on.  With classifications and sub-classifications totalling over 16,000 conditions with thousands of treatment options, it is no surprise that each doctor has increasingly become a unique specialist to a greater or lesser extent.  Engaging in the development of peers is a key to spreading what has been learned, again to avoid this being lost, but also to support increasing breadth as well as depth of knowledge.  The obligation upon every doctor to be active in the development of others is clear and explicit.

I’d like you to pause and consider exactly what you are involved in teaching.

Take the time to re-read the top level of Good Medical Practice listed below and consider the extent that you are actively supporting the development others for each listed attribute:

Domain 1: Knowledge, skills and performance

  • Develop and maintain your professional performance
  • Apply knowledge and experience to practice
  • Record your work clearly, accurately and legibly

Domain 2:  Safety and quality

  • Contribute to and comply with systems to protect patients
  • Respond to risks to safety
  • Protect patients and colleagues from any risk posed by your health

Domain 3:  Communication, partnership and teamwork

  • Communicate effectively
  • Work collaboratively with colleagues to maintain or improve patient care
  • Teaching, training, supporting and assessing
  • Continuity of coordination of care
  • Establish and maintain partnerships with patients

Domain 4:  Maintaining trust

  • Show respect for patients
  • Treat patients and colleagues fairly and without discrimination
  • Act with honesty and integrity

Are you engaged in teaching causation, diagnosis and treatment or are you engaged in teaching Good Medical Practice with all of the breadth that this implies?

If being ‘a good doctor’ demands more than just great ‘technical expertise’ it would follow that good medical teaching practice must also go beyond this focus.

The next question to consider is how you have developed yourself to be able to teach the essential ‘soft’ skills.  For example, is your personal comprehension of effective methods to break bad news developed, structured and up to date – or is it based purely upon your own opinion?  Are you capable of genuinely supporting another doctor’s ability to recognise why they may have upset a patient and help them identify how they can change their behaviour?

Committing to the development of others often means that we have to pay close attention to our own development and can drive us to structured learning of our own.

What steps are you taking to develop yourself toward good medical teaching practice?


Oxford Medical Training is the UK’s leading provider of high quality career development for doctors of all levels.  We specialise in advancing leadership, management, communication and teaching skills in the medical environment.