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Tips for passing the video module

The MRCGP exam assesses consulting skills by marking seven video consultations made with real patients in your surgeries, writes Dr Kamila Hawthorne.

The MRCGP exam assesses consulting skills by marking seven video consultations made with real patients in your surgeries, writes Dr Kamila Hawthorne.

For candidates with genuine reasons for not being able to submit a videotape, there is the option of sitting the simulated surgery module instead (Registrar, 19 January). If you pass the video module this will be accepted as evidence of competence in consulting skills for summative assessment (the single route method).

A workbook (supplied by the RCGP), and standard format VHS videotape have to be submitted for marking in April or October of each year. If applying by the single route method, these need to be submitted via your deanery. The workbook contains comprehensive advice on how to prepare, and sets out the performance criteria that must be demonstrated in order to pass.

How to learn from the experience

•Read through the workbook carefully, noting its requirements – note that one case should have psychiatric or social content, and one should be paediatric.

•Start videoing as soon as you have settled into your new practice (if you are a GP registrar) and are familiar with the processes of the practice. This will give you plenty of time to overcome your embarrassment of appearing on screen and the horrors of wrestling with unfamiliar IT equipment. Buy plenty of tapes – you need more than you think and it reduces the chances of running out at an important moment.

•Make sure the sound and visual quality is good enough for an assessor to be able to follow the consultation easily without having to strain to hear or see it.

•Follow the consent procedures as recommended in the workbook. Use the forms provided, make sure patients give informed consent and obtain this consent at the beginning and end of the consultation. Consent forms don't have to be submitted, but kept safely at your practice.

•Connect with your patients and put them at ease. Treat them with respect, make sure clinical examinations take place off screen, and think about the meaning of 'patient centredness', how you might elicit patients' concerns. Ensure patients are central in the decision-making process of management.

•Ensure you understand exactly what each of the performance criteria are asking for (check with your trainer, or someone you know who did well in the video module), and try to demonstrate this clearly in as many consultations as possible. Try not to make your consultations appear 'staged'. Markers often comment that candidates appear to ask standardised questions that don't seem to fit with the rest of the consultation, in order to 'tick the right boxes'.

•Start watching your own consultations as you produce them. Don't just collect tapes and hope you will find enough that will 'do'. Watch them critically, with the performance criteria to hand, and mark them yourself. Only seven consultations need be submitted, and you can choose your best. Remember consultations lasting more than 15 minutes are switched off. However good it may be, the ending will not get marked.

•Ask someone else (one of your peers or your trainer) to look at the consultations with you. Ask for their comments on how well you have attained performance criteria.

•Sit in with more experienced GPs and watch their consulting styles. Pick out the aspects of their consulting that fits in with a patient-centred approach and try to adopt them or adapt them for yourself.

•Check your workbook has been properly completed. The workbook is not specifically marked, but markers refer to it frequently.

Kamila Hawthorne is a GP in Cardiff and an examiner for the MRCGP – she is also a senior lecturer at the department of general practice, University of Cardiff

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