Reflections as the RCPI Institute of Medicine turns two

By Prof Anthony O'Regan - 25th Oct 2022 | 216 views

Institute of Medicine
Prof Anthony O’Regan speaking at the RCPI inaugural Institute of Medicine Summer Symposium in 2021

As the Institute of Medicine prepares for its Winter Symposium in January 2023, it is a good time to reflect on the past two years.

The Institute of Medicine (IoM) at the RCPI is the largest postgraduate specialist training body in Ireland, with over 1,000 trainee doctors and 1,100 consultant trainers. 

The motivation to establish the IoM in 2020 was to put better structure and governance around medical training across the 18 specialties we represent. 

There were three key motivations behind the Institute’s establishment. 

Governance 

There was a clear and visible need for a more accountable reporting structure for training so that trainees, trainers, and training sites have clarity around where to get their questions answered rapidly and accurately. The IoM aims to provide this expertise on a continual and accessible basis. 

Best practice training 

Secondly, the IoM has endeavoured to put a structure in place to continually review and improve the quality of training to the best international standards in a strategic manner. I think it is clear that our training programmes produce good doctors. The question we must ask is whether we are providing training at the best international standards for our trainees? Without having an institute that really focuses on those specialties, it was hard for us to validate and actively plan the process going forward. 

Professional guidance 

Our third aim is to look at whether we are providing professional education and guidance for doctors around the country. That is complicated because the scale and scope of our specialties is broad. They all have their own professional societies. There are clearly areas in which we need to have a voice and a strategic plan outside of training. These relate to the broader lifelong practice of medicine. 

Our major focus for the past two years has been on medical education and continuous professional development. Shortly after the Institute was established, the Covid-19 pandemic emerged. It was fortunate that we had launched the IoM as this allowed us to rapidly mobilise resources to deliver a series of Covid-19 webinars. This was an early example of how the Institute could be efficient in responding to those unpredictable demands and events that really matter to our members. 

The motivation to establish the IoM in 2020 was to put better structure and governance around medical training across the 18 specialties we represent 

Uniting specialties 

Medical training and education have a huge cross-over in the skills needed to practise medicine. 

The IoM’s aim is to learn from each specialty and bring that learning across 

all 18 it represents. What we learn from an issue in one specialty can be applied within other specialties across the entire domain of medical training in Ireland. 

Benefits 

Our benefits are always evolving as the needs of our membership evolves. Our key mission is to deliver world-class training to the future medical workforce in Ireland. The better our training, the better it is for patient care. 

As the leading provider of medical education in Ireland, we provide avenues to help our doctors keep up to date with continuous professional development (CPD). We not only provide educational events, but we also, via an agreement with the Medical Council, manage the process of annual CPD compliance for our specialties. 

Reflecting on achievements 

After rolling out a new institute like this, it is hard sometimes to look at what you’ve really achieved. The Covid webinar series was a big highlight for me. At the time we delivered these webinars each week, we might have had 1,000 listeners and the feedback was important and very positive. It really highlighted to me that we can reach a membership if they are engaged and if the topic is relevant. 

We also learned that virtual education is something that works, so that allowed us to explore better virtual education platforms for the future. 

We continue to deliver much of our CPD opportunities online in response to feedback. We will, however, also explore increasing face-to-face opportunities for learning into the future. 

Secondly, we’ve established a governance model that I believe is working. 

Each committee has an important role and engages effectively. This is a particular area in which the Institute has evolved over the past 18 months and is embedding a responsive and accountable process for our trainees and members. Weekly meetings between the administrative staff and the officers of the Institute enable rapid decision-making and the timely addressing of problems and concerns. 

Looking to the future 

We have defined our strategic goals for the year ahead: 

  • We want to review and enhance our training in general medicine. 
  • We want to deliver state-of-the-art training programmes. 
  • We want to understand our future workforce demands for each specialty so we can plan training accordingly. 
  • We want to lead on training medical educationalists. 

The next five years 

A strategic project to review internal medicine training is currently underway and represents the foundations of our training experiences. Our biggest challenge as a College is that we are centralised in developing our training programmes; however, we know training occurs all around the country. What we need is to ensure that the training sites have the resources to deliver our curricula. It’s important that the trainers have the time, facilities, and the support structures. We need to make sure our training programmes suit the evolving workforce. As a College, we’re also systematically reviewing ways to regionalise training to provide more certainty and security for our trainees and their families. 

To deliver on this five-year plan, right now, we are focused on making the centralised structures as efficient as possible. We’re assessing and reviewing resources at training sites nationwide. There are a lot of training sites, so that’s a big undertaking. But it is a key strategic aim and aligned to the broader postgraduate training agenda. You can’t train without the time and resources. 

The IoM Winter Symposium 

There are so many opportunities to engage with the Institute of Medicine. Our ‘Hot Topics’ webinar series has been a big hit providing access to world-leading experts discussing practical and relevant issues to our membership. The series runs throughout the year. 

Our Winter Symposium will take place in January 2023. Organised by Prof Ed McKone, Director of Education and Training at the Institute of Medicine, and Prof Margaret O’Connor, an IoM board member, the Symposium provides a platform to look at international challenges and best practices in medical education. 

More details will be available soon. 

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