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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Why I chose...to work as a GP assessor

Being an MRCGP examiner is stimulating, Dr Mei Ling Denney writes, but you need to be able to work flexibly to do it

Name: MeiLing Denney

Age: 54

Title: MRCGP examiner and GP

Location: London, and Edinburgh

Background

I’ve been in MRCGP examiner (and jobbing GP) since 1996. Shortly after joining the practice I took on the teaching of undergraduates in our surgery, and then went on to become involved in assessing the undergraduate OSCE exams in Cambridge.

As MRCGP examiner, I was involved in three out of the four modules-written paper, videos, and oral exams. Examining for ‘old’ MRCGP, I worked with other examiners creating marking schemes for the written papers, marking videos together in a conference centre, and conducting oral exams, which required both quick thinking and focus to assess candidates, with only four minutes per question.

The new MRCGP replaced the old one, and the summative assessment, and I became particularly involved in the development of the CSA. All of us did a considerable amount of work for this, and it was a very exciting and stimulating time. Currently exam lead for research and development, I’m really lucky to be able to participate in discussions about the development and quality assurance of all aspects of MRCGP, including exam blueprinting and GP curriculum.

My assessment work has expanded into other fields over the years, and I’ve been involved in exams with a range of other medical specialities and one or two outside medicine. I’ve also been involved in MRCGP international, which has taken me to various destinations in the Far East and Middle East, widening my cultural experience.

Why you chose this work

My practice was a training practice, and all partners were involved in the training. I soon became involved in the Summative Assessment licensing exams then, marking GP trainee audits, projects, and videos. I found it really interesting to see the spectrum of ability amongst GP trainees, and enjoyed attending the deanery calibration sessions where had to justify our decisions to others.

My senior partner in the practice was an MRCGP examiner, and he encouraged me to also take up this role. Examining was a natural progression for me from being involved in training, and it still enhances my clinical work and vice versa. I welcomed the opportunity to become involved in postgraduate exams, and the College exams which then became the ones for licensing for general practice. It helps the College to be able to work flexibly, but there is also a degree of flexibility in it in that I can choose the dates that I am examining to fit in with other work and home commitments.

Advantages

It is a real privilege to belong to the MRCGP panel of examiners, all of whom are enthusiastic, committed and have a wealth of experience and expertise between them. They are welcoming, supportive and constructively critical when needed.

Examining is intellectually stimulating and challenging, and provides much variety in my life. I really enjoy observing and assessing the candidates, and working with others to quality assure and refine the exam processes. It is a real opportunity to think about what we are really trying to assess through the CSA for safe independent practice as a GP.

Every working week for me is different, and this stimulus helps keeps me fresh and enthusiastic for dealing with the patients in the practice. Training and assessment of GP registrars is an important role and one of the ways we ensure that patients are treated by competent and caring doctors. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t enjoy my work, whether it be clinical, teaching, or assessment, and I feel I am really very lucky to be able to say that.

Challenges

One needs to be flexible to being an examiner in terms of the time commitment of 12 days a year, and have tolerance and understanding in one’s life partner as well as one’s colleagues. The time and flexibility needed for both GP training and examining has led to changing from partnership to being a GP locum.

Not everyone has positive views of the exam, and there has been some difficult press over recent months. It’s useful to be able to take a balanced view and understand how both sides see the situation - working as a deanery educator helps.

If you live a considerable distance from London, you can end up spending quite a lot of time travelling, which can be tedious at times. But there are worse places to be than London, and the commute helps me get through quite a few good novels.

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