Summary: Dr Deborah Murdoch Eaton reflects on a recent interactive session she facilitated with over 230 students and references some useful articles. Description: I was asked to do a session on “change and resilience” in the introduction day for our phase 3B students (midway through year 4 of a 5 year programme). It was one of those things I said “yes, yes fine…” when asked some months ago, and then as the time got closer, started to worry about what I had got myself into. And most specifically how to tread the balance between this talk not being perceived as “yet another soft fluffy session telling us to be reflective” against including some practical strategies, as well as the evidence for its importance (after all we are supposed to be nurturing the development of evidence based practice skills).

Lisalotte Dyrbe has just published an excellent article which provided one piece of very nice evidence on the impact of medical student “burnout” on their judgement. ( This together with the General Medical Council’s Dec 2014 report on suicide amongst doctors under investigation ( ), and recommendation 6 to Make emotional resilience training an integral part of the medical curriculum – gave me at least the “why” part of the session.

Eley (2013 Peer J1:216) provided a framework to discuss personality traits and resilience qualities. I found the literature on identify formation also valuable to discuss the impact of the “hidden curriculum” and promote critical evaluation of role models. This led nicely into challenging the culture of health care practice, particularly pertinent in the current stumbling NHS run-through model of care challenges. We also spent some time discussing the recent “je suis Charlie” events as demonstrating resilience on a wider scale.

But what was the most effective component that engaged the students? The part that I had planned least! I had given them blank pieces of paper to draw on, and a twitter hash tag. Their frank and challenging sharing of experiences, particularly in drawings and through the immediacy of twitter was wonderful. As someone facilitating this session with over 230 students, at times it was rather like trying to hold mercury in my hands! But a wonderful and stimulating reminder into the value of tapping into other mediums of expression and creativity to achieve an aim of promoting thought and critical reflection.

I am now going to lie down quietly in a darkened room.

Deborah Murdoch Eaton
Dean of Medical Education, University of Sheffield.