RCP launches guidance to promote learning opportunities for healthcare teams

The RCP's latest report, Never too busy to learn, helps healthcare teams make the most of daily learning opportunities in the workplace. 

The reportsupported by Health Education England, says that high-quality learning opportunities are essential for clinicians in training, both for the successful completion of their training and to ensure high standards of care in the NHS. However, that learning can be neglected due to being squeezed out by multiple pressures and insufficient attention to the learning opportunities provided by day-to-day practice

To overcome this hurdle, the report explains how to increase the use and effectiveness of opportunistic learning on the wards and in clinics, with an emphasis on team learning, whilst also valuing the power of individuals, and the importance of dedicating time to professional development. It includes over 20 inspirational case studies and reflections showing how this approach works in practice, ranging from making the most of pre-existing education settings like ward rounds and outpatient clinics, to creating new, shorter opportunistic ‘huddles’ and learning over the tea trolley.

The report emphasises the team nature of modern medical practice, as the traditional medical firm has evolved into multidisciplinary teams.

The report emphasises the team nature of modern medical practice, as the traditional medical firm has evolved into multidisciplinary teams. Any member of the wider team – for example a pharmacist, a nurse, a junior doctor – can lead a learning opportunity, it doesn’t have to be the consultant on the ward. Giving all members of the team opportunities to contribute offers variation and a fresh perspective on learning situations, which don’t necessarily need modern technology – simple human interactions can be just as effective in educational activities.

As a useful and practical resource, the report has the potential to greatly improve the frequency, value and effectiveness of opportunistic learning across the team, with consequent benefits for the quality of patient care. The report will not be a static resource, it will be added to with further good practice examples – healthcare professionals will be invited to contribute.

Dr Hussain Basheer, RCP education fellow, who compiled the report, said:

As the way we deliver healthcare and provide our service has evolved to meet increasing demand, with increasingly stretched resources, it is no wonder that trainees and trainers alike, of all professions, feel that time to learn and develop is being squeezed out. It is therefore a real pleasure to be able to share excellent educational practice that is being done, alongside the intense pressure of our workplaces.

[...] we hope they [healthcare professionals] will be similarly inspired or reassured that learning at work is possible, highly valued and, above all else, can be fun.

Dr Hussain Basheer, RCP education fellow

At least one of the themes, if not all, will resonate with healthcare professionals, and we hope they will be similarly inspired or reassured that learning at work is possible, highly valued and, above all else, can be fun.

Dr Emma Vaux, RCP vice president for education, said:

We work together and so as teams we should learn together. Today’s doctors have the potential to benefit not only from supervision and mentorship of more experienced doctors but also to learn with, and from, our team colleagues. This report describes a wealth of different ways to do this in practice and how those learning opportunities may be created.

Professor Sheona Macleod, deputy medical director for education reform, Health Education England:

Health Education England recognises the increasing pressures that clinical educators and healthcare learners are under. This new practical guidance is particularly helpful as it is set within the context of the multi-professional teams which now provide the wider experience and support that doctors in training received from the medical firm in the past.

It demonstrates how to make the most of every learning opportunity in the current environment in which healthcare professions work together for patients. We hope it will encourage all those who work in the NHS of today to see that there are still lots of enjoyable ways to learn.

Notes to editors

Health Education England recognises that doctors in training are the future consultant workforce, as well as an essential part of the current ‘junior doctor’ workforce. It is therefore essential that we continue to provide good training whilst meeting increased service need.

HEE has provided guidance on how to ensure that training, and patient and trainee safety, is not adversely affected when doctors in training provide additional support the NHS through winter pressures. This year, guidance to local providers from Postgraduate Deans and Colleges provides more information about proactive measures to manage the pressure of service during extreme winter pressures.

Royal College of Physicians (RCP)

The RCP's core mission is to drive improvements in health and healthcare through advocacy, education and research. We are an independent patient centred and clinically led organisation, that drives improvement in the diagnosis of disease, the care of individual patients and the health of the whole population both in the UK and across the globe.

Health Education England (HEE) exists for one reason only: to support the delivery of excellent healthcare and health improvement to the patients and public of England by ensuring that the workforce of today and tomorrow has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours, at the right time and in the right place.

  • HEE was established on 28 June 2012, working as a shadow Special Health Authority from 1 October 2012. It took on its full operational responsibilities from1 April 2013. It has five national functions:
  • providing national leadership on planning and developing the healthcare and public health workforce;
  • promoting high quality education and training that is responsive to the changing needs of patients and local communities, including responsibility for ensuring the effective delivery of important national functions such as medical trainee recruitment;
  • ensuring security of supply of the health and public health workforce;
  • appointing and supporting the development of Local Offices ; and
  • allocating and accounting for NHS education and training resources and the outcomes achieved.