All clinicians are teachers: Dr. Raymond Yap

Colorectal and general surgeon, Dr Raymond Yap, completed his Master of Surgical Education in 2017. He says that “all clinicians teach” but formal training has helped him improve his practice.

Dr Yap’s work and academic pursuits have taken him far afield – from the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, to an international fellowship at AdventHealth Orlando.

His love of teaching led him to the University of Melbourne’s Master of Surgical Education, which he completed in 2017.

Currently working as a colorectal and general surgeon at Cabrini and Royal Melbourne Hospitals, Dr Yap continues both his research and clinical education practice.

“All clinicians teach,” he says. “We start teaching all the way from our internship – so over a decade ago for me – and continue throughout our career.”

He says that while teaching is commonplace, formal teaching training is highly beneficial for clinicians.

“The analogy I always use is that clinicians are like parents – every parent is expected to teach their child something to support their child’s education, but we don’t expect parents to teach a room of 30 students, to come up with curriculum plans or formulate protection policy, or any of those types of things – that’s in the realm of professional educators.

“I think that’s where surgical educators come in: We are there to provide some curriculum development, some backbone, some structure.”

He says while this may “not be a perfect analogy”, he believes there does “need to be more support for surgeons, and clinicians in general, to improve their teaching”.

His minor thesis in the Master of Surgical Education focused on the use of virtual reality in colonoscopy simulations.

“[Since studying] I have been thinking about what VR can do in terms of teaching and training – although the fidelity of a lot of the systems is not quite there yet,” he says. “The more reading I did, I had the realisation that virtual reality is a really interesting and lovely tool – but at the moment its realism is probably not high enough that it exceeds other ways to teach people on more low-tech systems.”

Aside from the research component of the course, he found it a useful insight into practical aspects of teaching, such as curriculum and study plan development.

“One of the aspects of the course that was particularly helpful was understanding that although surgical education as an academic pursuit is relatively new, there has been a lot of literature and research done in the area,” he says.

It was useful to “be guided through that by the lecturers and the educators, as well as your peers and your own reading, to understand where surgical and surgical education practice sits amongst all of that today”.

He appreciated the fact the course is surgery-specific: “If you did a more general clinical education course, it would probably be less useful. There are aspects of surgery that are different to clinical education, say of medical students or non-procedural trainees – where you have a more limited range of procedures you teach them.”

He says the course “has a very broad remit” within the scope of surgical education: “When questions about accreditation come up, or quality assurance, which is topical at the moment, or questions of clinical audit or even questions regarding proctoring – all those come under the broad sense of education, so those aspects are covered in the course and can be drawn upon to inform your decisions.”

Dr Yap recommends the course to people who are considering taking the next step within surgical education or looking for a more formal role.

“There is value in doing it at any scope of your training, whether you are a registrar, a fellow or a consultant, but everyone will gain different things – depending which part of the spectrum you’re on,” he says.

“It’s been one of the most enjoyable parts of my clinical education. I think people that come to it with an open mind and realise there are different philosophies and ways to look at the world, will really enjoy it.”

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