A New Look at Medical Education in the Tees Valley; in Association with Durham University

Article excerpt

Byline: By ANDREW RUSSELL, LYN BRIERLEY-JONES and KAREN WALLER

DURHAM University started its MBBS Phase I medicine programme - a joint venture with the University of Newcastle - at Queen's Campus in 2001.

Inter-professional and inter-agency working is an increasingly important part of medical practice, and requires an appreciation and understanding of how health and social care takes place in non-clinical settings.

We decided to introduce students to some of these settings in a concrete and practical way, at an early stage in their medical education, through the provision of a community placement scheme.

During their first term, students are introduced to the wide range of health and social care providers operating in the local community in the Tees Valley. Each student is placed with one of a range of community-based voluntary and statutory organisations, who they work with on a regular basis - around 60 hours in total - for a year.

The aim of the placement is for students to gain an insight into the work of their assigned agency, its client group and the community it serves, through doing work that is of benefit to the organisation concerned.

The scheme also gives students the chance to apply and develop 'campus-based' skills (such as communication, ethical awareness, cultural competency, personal organisation, time management) in community settings.

The approach students are encouraged to adopt for their placement is modelled on participant-observation, a research method characteristic of social anthropology. It involves long-term, in-depth fieldwork involving careful observations of life in what are often challenging situations.

At the end of their placement, students write up their experiences in a 3,000 word, ethnographic study which is a form of writing giving the chance to display detailed observational skills and an appreciation of the richness and vitality of everyday, 'real life' experience. …