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Ged's blog on...great teachers

26 February 2014

Did you see the BAFTA film awards on Sunday evening? Dame Helen Mirren received the Fellowship of the Academy at the end of the night. During her acceptance speech she asked the assembled ‘great and the good’ of show business to raise their hand if they attributed their success to a great teacher. Every individual, without exception, raised their hand.

For me it is no different. I can remember, incredibly vividly, outstanding teachers and role models who have had a positive impact on all areas of my current working life: in an operating theatre, clinic, ward or indeed in my teaching and managerial roles. Very often it is not the factual information but the role modelling of good practice, compassionate relationship building, problem solving, enthusiasm and dextrous skill that changes us the most. Whilst you may say that this is unsurprising, what does surprise me is the apparent decline in the status of a good teacher during my working lifetime. This is despite the majority of people attributing their success to one or a number of teachers. Teaching has been relegated to the status of an afterthought in many clinical and clinical-support environments: neglected completely or forced into a quiet corner of the working week and reluctantly and didactically delivered by an overworked health professional.

Many professional groups have valiantly attempted to reverse the decline in quality teaching by introducing protected teaching times for learners, technology-enhanced learning and simulation packages etc. in an attempt to ‘protect’ teaching opportunities. Whilst these opportunities are an excellent addendum to one’s personal learning journey, for me the issue is much more about recreating a culture of learning throughout the whole of the health economy. To create this culture, surely we must start to recognise the role of teacher as being key to professional practice rather than a ‘hobby’ of the conscientious and committed. We need to think of ways that will recognise teaching excellence and quality as an essential service to the wellbeing of the population in the same way as we recognise and reward excellent surgery, ward management and financial management.

HEE and HENW are absolutely committed to re-establishing the healthcare teacher as the lynchpin of high-quality professional practice. Whilst achieving this key aim involves transforming the culture of health and social care delivery in all provider settings, we believe that making this happen is key to ‘futureproofing’ the wellbeing of our communities. Over the next few months we will be exploring a variety of ways of achieving this culture change and I will try and keep you informed about our progress in this blog.

Finally this month, I would like to pay tribute to all those vocational healthcare teachers throughout the North West. Their commitment and expertise never ceases to amaze irrespective of the prevailing environment. This time last year, I was fortunate enough to travel with four health professionals to observe them voluntarily teaching Maternal Acute Illness management to the post-conflict healthcare staff of Gulu in Northern Uganda. Their energy, commitment, professionalism, skill and drive to teach was truly astonishing and deeply moving and I am comforted by this experience because I know that they simply represented a North West workforce who are altruistically committed to providing an outstanding workforce for generations to come.

Posted by Ged Byrne, Director of Education and Quality, Health Education North West