Start collecting evidence for NHS GP appraisal

Sara Chambers begins a short series on how we can capture our learning on the go, then process that information in a meaningful way.

Having a system for capturing all that learning you do automatically on the job is going to pay dividends down the line, staving off all that usual pre-appraisal free-floating angst. I desperately needed this to boost my recording of CPD credits. But now, unexpectedly, it’s become more than just making my appraisal easier. It has changed the way I work.

"For some it may be paper-based, but the world is turning and many have been won over by IT solutions."

Nowadays, rather than my appraisal learning being something stagnant I tuck away and dust off once a year, my learning record is a living, breathing entity which I carry with me via cloud-based document storage. It has become something of a second brain that I constantly refer to, amend and use in consultations. And everytime I use it, I can easily record my activity and add up those CPD points. Except now I don’t think of this as appraisal work - it’s just what I do. And I enjoy it!

Make designing your own learning system a priority.

  • Make it a PDP project for your appraisal.
  • Convince your appraiser (and yourself!) that you are looking for a system that fits your life as a locum working in many locations. No desktops for you - you need a portable, searchable system where you can collect, organise and quickly retrieve your learning for your appraisal - and more importantly, if you want to access your new clinical knowledge to help you out during a consultation.

The kit

You need some kit to collect your learning needs and then a filing system to store and organise them. This collection and storage kit, if properly set up and regularly maintained, has the potential to become your “appraisal brain” that could enrich your learning, reduce stress and get you through appraisal for the rest of your career so it is worth the effort in getting it right for you.
For some it may be paper-based, but the world is turning and many have been won over by IT solutions.

Working out what’s best for you

  • Here are some books I'd recommend:
    • Getting Things Done by Dave Allen has fantastic advice on building organisational systems which could work well for your appraisal (and life in general!)
    • How to be a productivity ninja by Graham Allcott is another useful book. Stick with it beyond the first 64 pages; it gets most interesting and specific once you get past the slight flashy ninja jargon.
      Reading each or either of these books in themselves could count as a PDP item.

Familiarise yourself with IT options

Make it one of your PDP items for your appraisal year. There will be frustrations and teething problems, just like starting a new treatment, and most habits take a mean of 66 days to bed in, so consider setting yourself a 3 month trial before reviewing the pros and cons.

Note-collecting apps

  • Evernote seems to be the most widely-used note taking app, but there are others you can look at. Usually you can get an account with many features for free. A note can be a photo, a dictated voice message, text, a web page. Premium features cost, but most of us are unlikely to need them. It synchronises with its website, so you can have your Evernote account open during a surgery and record needs as you go along. Then, if you do a home visit and learn something or identify a learning need, you can dictate it into your smartphone mobile app. It all goes into the same bucket. For a child of the 70s, this is truly amazing and liberating.

Suggestions for filing system apps

  • There are free cloud-based document storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. You can do everything you’re used to on a desktop computer - have folders and subfolders, search and retrieve documents easily.
  • But, crucially for locums or those with no fixed consulting room, you are not tied to one desktop computer; you can access your documents from any computer by signing into your account.
  • Perfect for those of us on the move. I keep loads of useful learning notes and patient leaflets in my Google Drive and regularly dip in during consultations.
  • Google Drive has the benefit of being part of a unified, free Google account which also includes calendar, email and spreadsheets. Handy for other locum needs.

TOP TIP | when using your Google account in practice be careful not to leave the ‘Stay signed in’ box ticked and always ‘Sign out’ when you leave.

How to organise your files

Think about how you want to set up your folders so everything is easy to find.
One suggestion would be set up folders using the same headings as your appraisal toolkit
Have one folder for learning tasks that need completing, in this example, @Action is used.

  • Appraisal 2016/7
    • @Action
    • 1 CPD
    • 2 QIA
    • 3 SE
    • 4 etc

TOP TIP | The '@' moves folders you want to display first to the top of your filing system.

Now that you’ve got the storage worked out, in this second article (members only) I run through how to then process all that evidence into an NHS appraisal-friendly format.

Sara Chambers

Sara was a salaried GP for 4 years and has worked as a locum GP for 12 years. As well as NASGP's appraisal and revalidation lead, she is also her chamber's lead partner for appraisal and revalidation.

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