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Educating virtually

This article is one of a short series looking at how the RCP has worked with, for and on behalf of its fellows and members during the pandemic.

The start of the pandemic saw the RCP forced to cease all face-to-face education activities and exams, initially contacting all learners to cancel, re-book and refund, then quickly mobilising to support all those enrolled on long university programmes or those on programmes such as emerging women leaders.

Initial work to provide online materials and support soon became a flat-out effort over the next few months to deliver all content virtually.

Resources were developed to help during the first wave of COVID-19 via a continually updated new Learning & Development page, including: an update to Never too busy to learn; a new video resource Effective Remote ConsultationsRCP Medicine podcasts including covid specific episodes; on RCP OnlineED  new COVID-relevant resources, completed during lockdown: Delegating under pressure and a bundle of three bite sized introductions to leadership .

There was a brief return to face-to-face workshops in London and Liverpool in September, with full safety measures and social distancing, which was much appreciated and the Education team has been preparing to do the same this month, one year on.

Meanwhile, the RCP’s Assessment team worked unceasingly to support candidates during the cancellation of exams and as soon as they could went back into the workplace to run exams, to keep the medical and PA workforce progressing. They worked to adapt both PACES and written exams to be offered online and virtually where possible.

The RCP also continued to work on new programmes to support clinicians, including a new virtual PACES revision course and six-step programme for new consultants in much needed areas.

Throughout COVID-19, the Education team, as well as moving to provide content online, also wanted to provide help and support by being there to talk to.  

When the first lockdown prevented in-person events for the foreseeable future,  the Conference & Events team, worried about the RCP losing its connection with members during an increasingly difficult time, began looking for a platform capable of hosting live and on-demand webinars.

Although there were many platforms available, none was fully optimised for clinical learning and the needs of our physicians so development of RCP Player began. It was initially used to the provide the latest information on COVID-19, offering a variety of bite-sized e-learning videos and a ‘Doctors' Diaries’ series sharing physicians’ experiences of the unfolding pandemic.

Further development meant that by September RCP Player had been transformed from a simple website to a fully functional, interactive RCP-branded streaming service offering live and on-demand medical discussions and updates. The on-demand section has allowed delegates to return to content or to catch-up on events they couldn’t attend, and to still earn CPD points.

RCPOnline Education in numbers:

  • 8,299 users (March – November 2020), up 5,578 on the same period in 2019.
  • 327% increase in uptake of existing courses compared to 2019.
  • 998 sign-ups for new courses launched in 2020
  • Exams in numbers
  • 805 PACES candidates examined in two diets
  • 149 candidates for Diploma in Geriatric Medicine exams, 115 for written exams
  • Two Physician Associate national examinations in 2020 with 742 candidates for written examinations, 843 for OSCEs and 25 Recertification examinations