March 2, 2011 (Wednesday) - Portfolio Verification

Rather than going to work today, I went to another hospital to assess one of their trainees. I always say that I know when I arrive whether the trainee is going to pass with flying colours, and today I knew we had a good ‘un. Anyone who’s ever visited a hospital knows how bad parking can be. Today’s trainee had reserved me a parking space, so he was off to a flying start.

The initial interview and chat went well – I hope I managed to put people at ease. I know how nervous I am when I have an assessor (must call them “verifiers”!) to see one of my trainees.
Interestingly the paperwork has all changed since I last assessed (verified!) anyone. Prior to my doing an assessment (verification!), I email a list of questions to the lab I’m visiting so I can have all the information ready for me. I need to review that list of questions in light of the new report form I fill in.

Some verifiers like to look over the portfolio before having a tour of the department. Whilst that is the way it’s laid out in the official guidelines, I like to do the tour first: it gives me a feel for where the trainee is coming from in the work I shall be verifying.
The tour was interesting – it’s always good to see how the other half live. I must admit I was rather alarmed by the bracket fungi and toadstools on the insides of their windowsills. And the ivy coming in through the holes in the ceiling did give me grounds for worry. Whilst I wouldn’t hold that against the trainee, no matter how strapped the NHS might be for cash, I couldn’t allow that to go unnoticed. But I am reliably assured the entire department is moving to new premises in two months’ time, so I allowed them the benefit of the doubt.

Then came the portfolio assessment (verification!). I liked the Hob-Nobs!!
It seems that every verifier has their own way of working. I certainly have the way that I like a portfolio to be laid out. This chap had done his portfolio rather differently. He’d started by producing evidence for section 1a.1, and then for 1a.2, and 1a.3, and so on.
Whilst what he’d done was fine, there was so much duplication of effort in what he’d done. A diary to describe effective time management for section 1a.7 could have been used to demonstrate technical abilities in 2a.3 & 2b.4, QC knowledge in 2c.1& 2c.2, dealing with the unexpected in 3a.2, and health & safety in 3a.3. Similarly a case presentation offered to evidence only one section could have actually evidenced half a dozen sections. I’ve seen several portfolios done this way. They all start brilliantly with wonderful work for sections 1a.1 and 1a.2, and as they go on, so the evidences get weaker.
A classic example of the problem of a portfolio done this way is that the health and safety stuff (right at the end) would be rather weak; but because all the earlier work would have wonderful health and safety write-ups I give the trainees credit for that. If only they would cross-reference. Or if only their training officers would suggest it (!)

But for all that he’d done it differently to how I might suggest, he’d done good. He had included a reflection on how confidentiality applies to him personally, and a reflection on the need for informed consent when dealing with fetal material. I might just add those ideas to my ever-growing list of suggested evidences.
There were smiles all round when I told him he’d passed.

I could have gone to work after the assessment. But instead I went home to write it all up. After all, I’m assessing in works time: I should do the associated paperwork in work’s time too. I can never understand why verifiers who verify my trainees’ portfolios then go back to their places of work for the afternoon – it takes me a couple of hours to both do justice to the trainee when I produce my report and then to write the day up for my own C.P.D. purposes.
By the time I’d finished with the forms and one or two other work-related bits and pieces, far from having had a skive off of work; work was actually up on the deal (as far as my time was concerned).

Now to re-vamp the website of advice for students tackling the pre-reg portfolio to include what I learned myself today…

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