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Introducing the work of the Education & Training Section

The role of education and training

One of the Medical Council’s primary responsibilities is the quality assurance of medical education and training in Ireland. Education and training lays the foundation for a medical career, and further postgraduate training deepens and maintains the doctor’s competency. Good education and training of doctors has a central part to play in patient safety and the quality of patient care.

Accreditation - the setting of standards for medical education and training and then monitoring their implementation - is at the core of the work of the staff of the Education and Training Section, whose responsibilities span undergraduate, intern and postgraduate education and training. We work closely with the Professional Development Committee (PDC) of Council, its Sub-Committees and Working Groups, to develop and implement Council policy in these areas.

The necessary criteria, standards and guidelines have been developed and approved by Council, and a programme of accreditation to assess compliance with these criteria, standards and guidelines continues. The purpose of all monitoring is a practical one: to investigate whether the education and training being delivered is satisfactory, and to encourage even higher standards. In all the work of the Section, we are conscious that the aim is to make a real difference to the quality of the education and training provided.

Undergraduate

We are responsible for managing visits to (six) medical schools to ensure that (nine) programmes of basic medical education and the medical schools which deliver them are operating to the relevant standards. Council standards are based on the international best practice “Global Standards” of the World Federation for Medical Education. Our role involves liaising with medical schools in advance of visits, forming visiting teams which consist of Council members and external assessors drawn from Ireland and overseas, dealing with the relevant documentation, and taking part in the visit. Following each visit (which lasts between one and three days and includes inspection of clinical training sites), E&T staff draft the report, incorporating the visiting team’s findings, feedback from the medical students, and interaction with the representatives of the Medical School. The schedule of inspections continues in Ireland this autumn: a number of Irish medical schools also run programmes in overseas locations and these sites are visited periodically to ensure that standards are being maintained.

Guidelines on Conduct and Behaviour for Medical Students have been produced to underline the importance of professionalism even before qualification as a doctor, and E & T staff make regular presentations to medical students, with Question & Answer sessions.

Intern

The intern year is a key “bridge” between graduation and further postgraduate training, and there has recently been significant progress in strengthening the framework and content of this first stage in a doctor’s career.

38 clinical sites - all the sites in the State that train interns - were inspected this year for the 2010-2011 intern intake. These inspections were to ensure that the sites (hospitals and general practices) provide a satisfactory environment for intern training. E&T staff liaise with the clinical sites in advance of inspections, form inspection teams, take part in the visits and take responsibility for drafting the relevant reports of the inspections and coordinating subsequent action.

Postgraduate

We co-ordinate the formal accreditation of postgraduate training bodies in Ireland. Each training body must undergo a rigorous accreditation process to ensure that Council’s standards for programmes of specialist training and the bodies which deliver these programmes are met. This process has strong parallels with that for undergraduate education, as it involves self-assessment by the body being accredited, which is then “tested” by Medical Council review. As with undergraduate accreditation, E&T staff are responsible for the effective organisation and administration of all stages of this process.

Examinations

We are responsible for organising the exams which doctors may be required to pass before they can register with the Medical Council. The exams include computer-based assessments (which can be taken overseas as well as in Ireland) and tests of clinical competence, which simulate the type of challenges doctors would meet in their practice in Ireland. This activity involves liaising with medical schools and postgraduate training bodies to arrange venues, ensuring that all the necessary arrangements are made, overseeing the smooth running of the process on the day of the examination, processing exam results and informing candidates of the outcomes.

Pre-Registration Examination System (PRES) and Examinations for the Supervised Division (ESD) assessments have been held in recent weeks, with seven ESD assessments being held in ten days in August to facilitate the registration of doctors recruited by the HSE from India and Pakistan.