Multi-Professional Learning Model: the future of clinical leadership training in the UK?

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By Ali Raza (with contributions by Laura James and Eunsol Lee)

I recently completed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) Masters Programme run jointly by the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester. The course, which covered a variety of topics including how to deliver coordinated care and research and study skills, was delivered through a virtual campus, supported by residentials at which students learnt in a classroom and interactive environment. What struck me most about residentials was that classes were taught by professionals from all backgrounds, including general management, policy makers and think tanks. This helped me understand key issues from the perspective of different stakeholders and develop a more holistic view of the challenges facing the NHS.

On reflection, it occurred to me that the notion of multi-professionalism could equally apply to the student cohort. I have, for a long time, been an advocate to have in place for clinical students aspiring to clinical leadership, a national scheme designed for clinical leadership training. Having thought about the benefits of bringing clinical and non-clinical disciplines together, I realised that such a scheme already exists. It is called the NHS General Management Trainee Scheme (GMTS), the national scheme for training up NHS managers. It is simply waiting for the clinical disciplines to join it.

I wrote about this new scheme in a previous article published in the Health Service Journal, making the case for NHS GMTS as the perfect platform to embed quality assured clinical leadership training in undergraduate education. Furthermore, I introduced a new model of learning I call the Multi-Professional Learning Model (MLM), which could potentially underpin the new scheme. MLM articulates the benefits of brining clinical disciplines in to unison with trainee NHS managers in the same student cohort, and is recommended as the format for NHS GMTS to transition as a scheme solely for NHS managers to a scheme for multi-professionals.

The benefits and potential of bringing clinical and non-clinical disciplines together in to a single student cohort are clearly untapped. When I was in medical school for example, we never had nurses or trainee NHS managers join the group for weekly case-based learning, a format which would clearly have benefitted from their input. MLM acknowledges the reality that patient care requires coordinated and multi-disciplinary team working, and embeds this in to both managerial and clinical leadership training.

MLM: three strands

The defining features of MLM comprise of three strands (i) the cohort is formally taught leadership and management theory which underpins its experiential application, (ii) the cohort can practice theoretical elements in a safe simulated environment in which they (a) switch disciplines, or (b) remain within their own discipline, and (iii) the cohort support each other with peer-to-peer action learning. These strands are highlighted in the infographic.

Given that certain leadership and management competencies apply to both clinical and non-clinical disciplines, it makes perfect sense to bring these disciplines together. Furthermore, the student mixes in simulations more accurately reflect the complexity of multi-disciplinary teams and are designed to help build cross-professional empathy through role switching. This is vital for nurturing a culture of cooperation and trust between our future generations of clinical and non-clinical leaders.

Bridging a cultural gap

In summary, I regard MLM as an optimal format for bringing together clinical and non-clinical disciplines as part of a new scheme for aspiring clinical leaders. The precepts of MLM clearly address the dire need in our NHS for bridging the cultural gap between clinicians and managers. Moreover, MLM, practicable through the NHS GMTS, would provide a national tool for standardisation of clinical leadership training in the UK, which is also of vital importance given the scattergun array of opportunities available for clinical leadership training.

Given the crisis in clinical leadership in the UK, it is about time we had a national scheme for aspiring clinical leaders. It makes absolute sense for this scheme to dovetail with the current NHS GMTS, in order for our future clinical leaders to obtain the full richness and benefits of multi-professional learning with their counterpart trainee NHS managers.

MLM Infographic N(NB: To view the infographic in screen reader friendly PDF format please click here.)