Virtual learning environment as a tool to provide laboratory training for hematology registrars

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Published: 6 May 2015
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Dr Nita Prasannan - Guy's Hospital, London, UK

Dr Nita Prasannan speaks to ecancertv at BSH 2015 in Edinburgh.

Dr Prasannan discusses using a virtual learning environment as an innovative high quality tool to provide laboratory training for haematology registrars. She talks about the necessity to standardise laboratory training across the country, with shift patterns and centralisation of laboratories being defining factors that reflect unfairly in exit exams.

This initiative, the virtual learning environment, was funded by the London School of Pathology. The main reason for this initiative was we felt there was a huge variation in laboratory training for haematology registrars across the country. There have been numerous factors which have caused this, for example changing shift patterns, centralisation of laboratories, and this has been reflected in the FRC Pathology exam which is the exit exam for haematology registrars to become consultants. So this was one of the main reasons this initiative was started.

Why did you decide to get involved with this?

I have a long-standing interest in medical education; as a medical student my Saturday job was teaching GCSE and A-level students, so a group of ten students, at a supplementary education school. So I’ve always had an interest and then, as a haematology registrar, I’ve been co-ordinating the teaching rota for haematology registrars every Tuesday, so arranging regular consultant-led teaching for the registrars. Then this outer programme came up and so I applied for it and then I’ve done a six month post.

How do you see this informing future policy?

Just to talk a bit about the actual virtual learning environment. It has several aspects: it has an annotated image bank with more than 250 images. So it gives registrars an opportunity for self-directed learning, so recognising key features on blood films. You have access to this 24/7 so it can complement laboratory training at their local hospital. The other things we have on there is to help registrars with their on-calls when they start haematology, so common diagnostic challenges, what to do in the middle of the night if you’re rung by the lab and you have a patient who has an acute leukaemia. So how to get through those initial on-calls which can be very daunting when you start. The other thing is it teaches you basic skills so, for example, how to interpret bone marrow trephine which is also something that can come up in the exams as well. So the aim of this is to complement the curriculum delivery of laboratory training basically.

Have you received feedback on how it is working so far?

We have. We’ve used the virtual learning environment in small group and large group teaching environments. We have a London training day for haematology registrars where all the registrars attend; we used this at one of the training days and about 70% of the registrars looked at the cases pre-hand and they found it very useful and they felt the quality of the images was very good and very close to real life and we got very good feedback.

Do you think this is something that will be used in clinical practice?

I think it will help improve confidence amongst registrars in their laboratory skills and as a result this will come across in their ability to diagnose and consequently manage patients confidently and safely.

How many people have gone through this initiative so far?

At the training day we had 88 trainees, of which 53 looked at the cases pre-hand. So within London we’ve had a very good uptake of haematology trainees using the website and we’ve got feedback from biomedical scientists as well and they also found it very useful, 40 biomedical scientists.

What do you think you will be doing next?

I’ve just finished the six month outer programme and I’m actually now back on to my clinical job but I’m hoping when I finish my registrar training I’ll be able to use these skills to set up an educative programme for registrars to complement their day-to-day clinical practice.