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FFYFP Blog: “Hello from the other side” – Teaching tips for the new grad 

By Dr. Kristina Quan 

When I first finished residency, I found myself asking “how am I supposed to teach when I was the student yesterday?” Taking on learners early in your career can seem intimidating and daunting but it can also be very rewarding. Below are some helpful tips and reasons to teach that I have gathered from my mentors and students during my first few years in practice.  

  1. Academic appointment. Start the paperwork early to get your clinical academic appointments with the university. This will allow you to get paid and will keep you in the loop about other teaching opportunities. 
  1. Start with baby medical students. Both the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary have early family medicine exposures for first- and second-year medical students. These are low-time commitment options (usually half day clinics) if you want to try teaching. These students are very excited to see real patients and have so much to learn from you! 
  1. It is ok to say, “I don’t know.” We are in a profession of lifelong learning. It is impossible to have the answer to every question a medical student might ask. Take these opportunities to look up the answers together and give yourself a refresher on the topic. Medical students are a great resource to help keep you up to date on many topics. 
  1. Claim CME. You can claim MAINPRO+ ® CME credits for teaching learners. Each hour of focused teaching can be claimed for one non-certified credit. If you complete a Linking Learning to Teaching Exercise, it can count for 5 certified credits.  
  1. Sit down at the start of the rotation. Medical school and residency go very fast. Find out what the learner wants to get out of the rotation to help cater their experiences to what they need. 
  1. Set patient expectations. Tell patients and/or explain to them that this is a teaching clinic. Patients are more open to spending time with learners if they are given a choice and know what teaching entails. Some patients have never seen a medical learner and may think by seeing a student that they will not be seeing you as well.  
  1. Feedback. Give and ask for honest feedback early in the rotation. It is more helpful for the learner to know what can be improved for the rest of the rotation. Learners are not expected to be proficient physicians yet, but how they respond to feedback is very telling for the future. We have gone to school for years to become physicians, not teachers. Feedback only helps you get better as a teacher.  
  1. Review the day sheet. Plan which patients will be good learning opportunities for the student. Most times you will have the luxury of knowing the patient or what they may be coming in for. Give your learners some insight into what they may be walking in to. If the patient always has a shopping list of concerns, set boundaries for the student on how many problems you want assessed. This will help set expectations for the learner and keep your day running on time.  
  1. Procedures. Discuss procedures before you get into the room. Find out what the learner has done in the past and feels comfortable with. This will allow them to get hands on experience but know when you might need to step in to help without having them lose confidence in their procedural skills. 
  1. Pay it back. Early career physicians make some of the best mentors because you can still remember what it was like to be a learner. Some of the most valuable lessons are about the logistics and day to day tasks of being a physician.  Everyone has had a preceptor who has changed the course of your medical education. You could be that for the next student! 

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My name is Smitha Yaltho and I feel privileged to work as a family physician. Why? I believe that being a family physician has been the best job any physician can hope to have. I have personally grown in my own abilities and skill-sets with diverse opportunities in ambulatory practice, acute care and work in Facility Living.  Working in primary care has been exciting and has also afforded me tremendous opportunities for growth while still remaining stimulating in its complexity.  I believe that Family physicians are trusted partners in patient care –  every step of the way. 

Why are you volunteering to serve on this committee?
I currently have an interest in Physician Leadership and  trauma informed care.  I have served as a director with the Board of Directors with the Edmonton North PCN, Edmonton’s largest PCN. Thereafter, I have worked as the Director of Medical Services with CapitalCare (also based in Edmonton) for almost 6 years. It is my express wish that my contribution on the ACFP board of directors will highlight the excellence of family medicine that exists right here and now within the Alberta health care system. 

What about the ACFP’s work do you find most valuable?
Ability to highlight and further support the excellence of primary care right here in Alberta.