Friday, 1 May 2015

Scottish Clinical Skills Network (SCSN) annual conference 2015: The great and the challenges (by M Moneypenny)

Easterbrook conference centre, Dumfries
Disclaimer: The author is vice-chair of the SCSN

The great

The SCSN conference provides a unique opportunity to network with like-minded people from across Scotland and further afield (there were delegates from England, Finland and the US). Although email has made the world smaller, as a speaker at a recent conference said: "Emailing is not 'having a conversation'". The SCSN conference allows everybody the opportunity to have a conversation, to explore areas of mutual interest, strengthen old ties and make new ones.

The three keynote speakers approached clinical skills from very different angles and all three were worth the trip alone. Professor Hugh Barr, President of the Centre for Advancement of Interprofessional Education, discussed interprofessional learning and teaching, the real benefits it provides and the challenges faced by those of us who deliver it. Professor Ken Walker, chair of the Scottish Surgical Simulation Collaborative, discussed the need for innovation in a training unit, but cautioned against "too much storming, and not enough norming and performing." Professor Jennifer Cleland, chair of council at the Association for the Study of Medical Education, talked about moving away from prior academic attainment for medical school admission as it is a poor predictor of post-graduate performance. She informed us that attempts to widen access to medical school have failed and she also discussed the differences between values  (enduring beliefs) and personalities (enduring traits). 

The social programme was the right mix between entertainment and networking, with whisky tasting, recitation of Burns' poems and a thought-provoking speech considering what "The Bard" would have thought of the plight of the people trying to reach European shores from North Africa.

The challenges

Strength through
The strength of the network lies in its bottom-up grassroots nature, attracting members who are interested in clinical skills from across Scotland. The scope for collaboration is enormous. However the majority of the presentations and posters showcased research from a single institution. When research was collaborative, the most common partnership was between institutions in the same city (e.g. University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, University of Glasgow and NHS GG&C). Notable exceptions were collaborations between the University of Aberdeen and the University of Ottawa, and a multi-agency exercise between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service and Yorkhill Children's Hospital. With a little planning it should be possible for much of the research to be carried out in multiple centres. This would take a bit more work but it would also make the results more robust, reduce the risk of repeating a similar (under-powered) study and improve the chances of asking the right questions in the first place. To encourage collaboration, future abstract submissions could have a  weighting for multi-centre studies.

Minor IT issues meant that some speaker's slides were not displayed correctly and a laptop failure meant that some speakers were unable to display their slides at all. A policy of requesting all slides to be uploaded on the first day and a back-up laptop should be able to minimise these problems in the future.

Final thoughts

One of the most well-attended Scottish health conferences in recent years, the get-together in Dumfries shows the continued relevance of the SCSN to the development and promotion of clinical skills training. The next conference is in Aberdeen on the 20th-21st April 2016. See you there?

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