ePortfolios for Health Professionals

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In 2005, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) piloted a bespoke ePortfolio to support the training of 410 of the country’s junior doctors. Following its successful introduction, the system has rapidly grown and now supports over 35,000 trainees in medicine and the health professions across the UK. Since its inception, the ePortfolio has helped assure and improve the quality of medical education and training, which is vital for the trainees, their supervisors, and, ultimately, for the patients. At OEB 2009, NES ePortfolio Project manager Alex Haig will share the lessons he learned during the process of moving from a small-scale pilot to nationwide implementation.

The Challenge – How to Track Junior Doctors’ Achievements in a Rotational System

Upon graduation in the United Kingdom, junior doctors have to complete a structured two-year practical training programme to demonstrate competence and good practice in hospital settings – the National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Programme. The programme is designed to offer them deeper insights and to help them to decide on their future career paths. Alternating between various placements (such as a surgical department, a psychiatric post or general practice) not only implies a change of locations, but also meeting and working with new colleagues and educational supervisors. This constant rotation, however, makes it difficult to monitor the trainees’ personal achievements. A secure and robust record of each trainee’s performance and assessments was required.

The Solution – NES ePortfolio

In 2005, NES created a customised, online electronic data-storage system to support trainees’ progress – the NES ePortfolio. It serves as evidence of each student’s achievements, storing all the activities and performance, including placements completed, medical procedures observed and performed, lectures and tutorials attended, as well as their respective clinical and non-clinical assessments.

For trainees, their ePortfolios serve as a repository of all mandatory tasks completed pursuant to the Foundation’s curriculum, as well as voluntary steps taken to further educate themselves, such as additional reading or reflection on learning. The platform not only stores the trainees’ educational histories, but also allows them to plan their future learning. Used from the trainee level on towards professional practice, an ePortfolio account can become a documentation of one’s career. The platform has an integrated messaging and alerting service that facilitates communication between trainees and supervisors.

For supervisors, who generally monitor and assess more than one trainee at a time, the ePortfolio is a key timesaving tool that keeps an overview of their charges’ activities, always holding up-to-date records. Supervisors and other health professionals add their assessments of the students’ performance to their respective account – crucial information for future performance reviews, the final evaluation, and quality assurance.

A System that serves 35,000 Healthcare Trainees

Over the last four years, ePortfolio has expanded dramatically. It now comprises 25 versions and supports over 35,000 healthcare trainees in dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy in both Scotland and medicine across the UK.

As the system tracks and records all activity, vast amounts of anonymous data are collated, and its research potential is also beginning to be utilised. The data will be of enormous value in evaluating how learners use the ePortfolio itself, but more importantly in determining the reliability and validity of assessment methods for quality assurance. The plans include expanding the current network and linking the platform to human resources, other ePortfolio, and e-learning platforms. Whilst some e-learning is already delivered through NES ePortfolio, it still remains primarily a record of an individual trainee’s learning, reflection, and achievement – a fact that puts it under growing pressure to exchange data with other systems.

For more information on the NES ePortfolio, please watch the following video: https://www.nhseportfolios.org/Information/Video/eportfolioVideo.html

At OEB 2009, Alex Haig will present “An ePortfolio for All Health Professions? – Lessons from a Scottish Medical Pilot” as part of the session “ePortfolio: From Individual Documentation to Extended Learning Platform” which will take place on Thursday, December 3 from 16:30 – 17:30.

In his presentation, Haig will illustrate how the move from an individual record of learning to a powerful, comprehensive training and tracking platform, a metamorphosis that included intense interaction with external organisations, managing competing priorities, issues of commercialisation, the intricacies of data governance, and daunting technological change, was successfully implemented.

September 22, 2009

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