Teaching and Learning in Medicine
Abbott PA, Brooker R, Hu W, Hampton S, Reath J.
Phenomenon: Correctional health services can provide quality learning experiences for medical students and graduate medical trainees, including through motivating learners to work with people involved with the justice system, and promoting understanding of the social determinants of health. Approach: We conducted 38 semi-structured interviews to examine the views of learners and educators on how to promote high quality clinical learning in correctional settings, with a focus on the Australian context. Participants included medical students; general practitioners who had undertaken graduate trainee placements; clinical staff involved in teaching and clinical supervision; and graduate program medical educators and university teachers from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Data were analyzed thematically. Findings: Clinical placements in correctional settings provided learning about the health of people involved in the justice system, but also beneficial clinical learning for working with a wide range of patients with complex health needs. Valued learnings included managing complex consultations, mental health and substance use disorders, and overcoming anxiety related to interacting with people in prison. Learner concerns included limited patient contact time, apprehension prior to placements, and stress related to experiences during the placements. This apprehension and stress could be mitigated by orientation and debriefing, and by appreciating healthcare professionals in correctional settings as advocates for their patients. Clinical supervision was perceived to be demanding in this context. Independent patient interaction was not usually possible for students and there could be short windows of time in which to provide direct patient care, making pauses for teaching difficult. Insights: Clinical placements in correctional health services provide experiential learning of direct relevance to medical student, and potentially to general practice trainee, curricula which is valuable even when learners do not have particular interest in correctional health. Furthermore, these placements may increase the capacity of the medical workforce to provide skilled care to other underserved populations. High quality learner and clinical supervisor experiences, and program scale and sustainability, require enhanced learning support systems through partnerships between correctional health services and education institutions. Required supports for learners include orientation to security arrangements, debriefing sessions which assist learners to distill their learning and to reflect on challenging experiences, and alternative learning opportunities for when direct patient consultations are not accessible. Supervisor teaching supports include shared teaching approaches in the correctional health clinics and added student support from university-based staff.