PCT uses drama for GP appraisal training
Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust (PCT) has used professional actors as part of a drama-based training workshop designed to help 50 GPs conduct more effective appraisals.
The south London PCT worked with training provider Steps Drama to develop the workshop after gaining a sense that the mandatory training it provided for its GP appraisers - on the practical aspects of the process - was insufficient.
"Some GPs see appraisals as a tick-box exercise or an intrusive chore necessary for revalidation," said Dr Chris Arulrajah, associate clinical director for primary care at Sutton and Merton PCT. "We wanted to address these concerns and supplement our standard training with something more interesting and dynamic. Steps's drama-based approach was ideal for this."
Topics covered in the three-hour workshop included the value and benefits of the appraisal process, how to facilitate and provide the right environment, how to raise and discuss difficult issues, the boundaries of the appraisal and the behaviour and approach required.
Steps researched GP attitudes towards appraisals and developed a range of role play scenarios. Set in a fictitious PCT, the interactive scenarios included a doctor trying to appraise a colleague who was cynical about the appraisal process; a senior partner trying to discuss a partner's time management and workload problems and a non-contentious appraisal in which the appraiser addressed the personal development plan section.
Each scenario was role played by two actor/facilitators from Steps. At certain points, one of the characters would freeze-frame the action and ask the delegates what he/she should do or say in order to proceed. The actor would then improvise the suggestions back into the role-play. In effect, the delegates coached the characters through the situations and they saw the resultant outcomes.
"Much of the learning came from the delegates analysing and summarising what they had seen," said Dr Arulrajah. "The actors took ideas directly from the participants and immediately brought them to life.
"The GPs were able to share their thoughts about the appraisal process and provide feedback on how it was being handled and how it could be improved. Steps are very professional and they really understand the underlying issues around appraisals. They've provided appraisal training to over 500 consultant medical staff in a range of NHS Trusts."
The workshop was initially delivered for 20 GPs from Sutton and Merton PCT and from the neighbouring Wandsworth PCT. This was followed by a second workshop for 30 GPs. Two further workshops will run, in February and March 2006.
One of the participants, Dr Simon Elliott, said: "I was impressed with the session. It was enjoyable, humorous and interactive. The scenarios they enacted were relevant to the situations that can be problematic in general practice appraisal.
"It was interesting to see how my colleagues and the actors dealt with certain issues and it made me look at how I might approach those situations. I think this training would be relevant to other PCTs. If you get people to enjoy it, you get them engaged and this helps to raise awareness of problems that could arise and how they might be resolved to best effect."
Robbie Swales, director of Steps, said: "Our professional actor/facilitators perform realistic role play scenarios to explore GPs' concerns about appraisals and create a debate through the characters. The delegates discuss and explore the issues without having to role play themselves."
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