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How reliable are questionnaires about what skills medical students learnt in Sheffield, or anywhere else? Sheffield used to have a system of social tutorial groups for students—perhaps they still do—in which a student from each year is linked with a medical school staff member for social and support activities. This might mean gathering for a meal, going out to the theatre, etc. It was an opportunity to meet students of other years, to learn what is in store, and to meet staff on a social rather than teaching footing.
On one occasion, I, a former teacher of psychiatry in Sheffield, noted that one woman, 4th or 5th year, was greatly steamed up. My psychiatric background suggested I look into what troubled her and she told me how the A&E sister had insisted on her taking blood from a patient when she had never done it before. My education background made me wonder how this could be and I asked the other students, who explained that they had all done it when they took blood from each other for biochemical and physiological investigations. I went back to her to ask how she had missed all this but her response was: ‘Yes, but they were students; this was a patient’.
Incidentally, since 1982, Sheffield had had a three-part preregistration year of four months each of medicine/ psychiatry/ surgery for a small number of students to ensure the acquisition and practice of an important skill, interviewing.