So you got the short straw? Are you looking forward to organising the training day like you are to writing your CTR (Hint: neither of these tasks are fun). But the reality is that you are unlikely to go through your higher training without having to organise one. This is a guide to helping you to think about and get going on organising your day.
A long time before…
Firstly, book a room. It sounds deceptively easy doesn’t it? In reality this will need to be done between 6 and 9 months in advance. Why? Because you’re not the only group of people who want to have a day of learning or meetings. A lot of regular meetings will block nook a room a year in advance. Rooms are generally in short supply irrespective of whether it’s a large teaching hospital or a smaller DGH. You need to find out who to contact and then be charming (it will definitely make a difference if there are no official rooms left). Clearly you will need a room big enough for the size of your group. Having people stand at the back of a crowded room is not a great reflection of the day. AV facilities should be available but it’s worth checking first. If you’ll need internet (to open emailed presentations) double check that it will be available, and the trust doesn’t block the site you want to access.
Three to Six Months before…
If the event has just been assigned to your hospital’s group of trainees, make sure you assign someone to lead. This does come second, but only because the first is time sensitive. Having someone volunteer to lead means that someone is taking responsibility for the day and can be the focus for getting everything done. It’s hard work and a thankless task. Get the other trainees on your site to help. Delegate roles like sponsorship or room booking to them. It’s a good way of spreading the work and the stress but it only works if people are willing to lend a hand
Get a consultant to help and to give ideas for the day. This is a really good way of making sure that the quality of your day is high, and many areas specify that a Consultant should supervise the day’s training. Their suggestions may cover good topics or questions that need answering. They may even be able to suggest inspirational speakers who would be good at delivering certain talks. You may even ask them to cover a section of the day. They will have plenty of experience in teaching and the right consultant will be an invaluable asset to you.
You will no doubt have been given a theme already. Consult the syllabus to know what’s expected. You can use the day to stimulate debate on interesting questions e.g when should we CT scan trauma patients? Or simply ask for a talk on a subject that you and probably your colleagues won’t know much about. Remember that consultants and senior registrars are the target speakers. It’s a difficult balance between covering the curriculum so that people pass FCEM, covering what people actually need to know for shop floor practice, and being interesting – try and get at least one session aimed at each area.
You can have a mix of Emergency Medicine speakers and specialty speakers. A good talk is a good talk whoever gives it. Often a specialty speaker can deliver a viewpoint or topic from an angle that you won’t have been exposed to previously. An Emergency Medicine speaker is more likely to present the information in a way that is congruous with your training and requirements. You can email all speakers (including those from EM) the relevant parts of the curriculum.
What’s the best format to deliver the teaching? Often this will depend on what the topic is on. A training day on major incidents is crying out for a mock major incident, rather than a whole day of lectures. If covering equipment, then practical hands on small group sessions are best (but hard to organise because of space). A session on SAQs or OSCE stations can be a useful, realistic way of delivering content that is directly useful to that big quiz at the end of your training (aka FCEM).
Getting Things Done
If you want to get anything done, always go and ask in person. People will always find it harder to say no to your face. And you are much likelier to convince them, or get ideas or get one of their colleagues to help out. At least double the time that you think that you will need to organise everything.
For sponsors, ask consultants for contacts they may have. Locum agencies care often a good source of sponsorship. Drug reps may offer sponsorship, but some participants will have ethical concerns about this. Always drive a hard bargain, which should include breakfast snacks, lunch and coffee. In return they must get their pound of flesh, which normally means a small talk to the assembled group. Remember you may well be judged on the quality of the lunch you provide as well as the content of the training day…
A Week Before
Just before the training day, make sure you email out a programme and map to your fellow attendees, so that they know where to be and when. It’s easier to open if you pdf it – everyone can open a pdf on every device. If your hospital is difficult to find, or there’s secret hidden cheap car parking, make sure people know – they’ll be happier with an easier journey.
Confirm all your speakers, and make sure they have your phone number in-case they get lost or are running late on the day.
Think about the “extras” you will need – like direction arrows, registers and feedback forms. You might like to get your speakers a thank you card. One SLEM FOAM training day used the thank you cards and direction arrows to promote FOAM! Are you going to contribute to #FOAMEd or #EMConf or have a specific hashtag for the day?
On The Day
Arrive early, and put up direction arrows. You’ll be surprised how long this takes – and what routes other people will take to your lecture room! Great everyone, and get them signed in. Introduce the first speaker, and then start keeping an eye on the timings, and keep things to time! If you want live tweets from your conference allocate someone else to do it – you can’t do both!
After the day is over, make sure you take down your direction arrows. Once you’re home, it’s good practice to email everyone who has presented to say thank you, and to provide them with any feedback you have received. If you haven’t already received them, you could ask them for a copy of their presentation and any extra resources they would recommend.
It’s useful to debrief the event with your supervising Consultant – they might even fill in a management WBPA for you!
Ultimately you have to care about putting on a good training day for yourself and your colleagues. You will learn a lot from the experience including how to improve for the future, and what trainees value and find useful. Your training day is limited by your time frame, your imagination and your determination.