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Gynaecological teaching associates

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0412468
  1. Lucy Cowdrey, medical student1
  1. 1Guy's, King's, and St Thomas' Medical School, London

They have been branded as hired prostitutes, lesbians, and women do-gooders, but gynaecological teaching associates provide UK medical students with experience in gynaecological examinations and are being used in an increasing number of countries. Lucy Cowdrey finds out more

Three years ago, two family planning doctors decided to take action against the inadequate teaching of gynaecological skills at Guy's, King's, and St Thomas' Medical School in London. Paula Baraitser and Sally Pickard knew about the Gynaecological Teaching Associate (GTA) system which had been operating for years in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Scandinavia, and wondered if the same structure could be applied in the United Kingdom.

GTAs allow medical students to do bimanual pelvic and speculum examinations on them while giving constructive feedback on the students' communication and practical skills. During the examination, they can guide the students about what they are doing right or wrong. They also work with the students though role play--for example, how to sensitively explain and discuss the smear test and bimanual examination.

Personal training

Part of the GTAs' training is to talk about their own personal experiences of going for smear tests, and the best and worst communications that they have received from healthcare professionals. GTAs study different aspects of gynaecology for two months, including studying diagrams and photos of normal and abnormal cervixes--although they do not teach students the pathology.

Paula Pheby, 25 years old, who used to work in IT, was one of six women selected to be trained for the scheme at Guy's, King's, and St Thomas', after responding to an advert in her general practitioner's surgery.

“We had a brainstorming session to develop a role play,” Pheby said, “We shared our personal experiences of going for a smear test, and we felt that certain aspects could have been explained better. So …

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