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Why I chose… to spend a year learning about GP education


Niki Hempton

Age: 30

Role: Portfolio GP. Previously educator fellow, Severn School of Primary Care (September 2012-13)

Location: Bristol



I graduated from Bristol University and, after the foundation years, spent a year in New Zealand working in obstetrics & gynaecology and psychiatry.

I returned to Bristol in 2008 to undertake my GP training and was fortunate to be appointed a leadership scholar with the Severn School of Primary Care while I was a trainee, which ignited my passion for medical education.

Why I chose this work

At the end of my training in 2012 I was relieved to not to have any more exams but I didn’t like the thought of spending more than 30 years in the same job. So how was I going to maintain my enthusiasm to address the patients’ ideas, concerns and expectations when one ten minute consultation blurs into the next? Having variety in my working week was going to be key to a fulfilling career in general practice.

In September 2012 I was appointed as an educator fellow, a 12-month one-session-per-week post, designed to provide training to any GP interested in working in medical education. The fellowship was funded by Health Education England.

The aim was for me to gain experience in medical education and undertake tasks discussed between myself and the associate dean. There were educator fellows for each patch of the Deanery, and each of us had slightly different roles.

In medical education there is a drive away from traditional teaching towards small-group work and self-directed learning. As a facilitator for the ST3 group (meeting weekly), I would introduce a topic and then facilitate discussion by asking questions, ensuring all members of the group were involved.

I also got the chance at one annual event to ask trainers to discuss how best to prepare trainees for real-life general practice. I used my own experience to prompt them to come up with ideas.

Taking an active role in other aspects of education work, including practice visits, recruitment and trainers workshops gave me insight into the challenges facing deaneries in ensuring high-quality training posts survive, and maintaining good relationships with secondary care.


Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the role was that of the pastoral care involved. By providing a listening ear I was often able to give support to trainees in difficulty or signpost them to more appropriate team members if needed. I felt a great sense of satisfaction when the group received their Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT), having witnessed some of the difficulties the trainees had had to cope with over the year.


At first it was daunting to work with ST3s, just days after receiving my CCT, and I worried about whether the trainees would take me seriously. But I was relieved to find that they embraced the fact that I had only just finished my training and I often used to answer queries about some of the more practical aspects of training (the e-portfolio or exams).

One of the most challenging aspects of the job was time management. For much of my time as fellow, I was also working six sessions per week in a busy practice. Although the fellowship was only meant to be one session, there were often other educational activities to get involved with and I often found myself working two or three sessions per week because I wanted to make the most of the experience.


As a result of the challenges, I have learnt to improve my time management skills and ensure that I am being efficient in what I do.

I have also learnt the importance of saying ‘no’ once in a while to ensure a healthy work life balance.

My fellowship has come to an end, but I hope that deaneries will continue to recognise the value of NQGP as educationalists within their teams, to help address the wide and varied learning needs of their trainees. I have gone on to work with medical students.

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