This year the Royal College of Pathologists launched its RCPath Excellence Awards: a scheme to help celebrate excellence in pathology practice and promote high standards in pathology education, training and research to deliver the best patient care. The college invited members to nominate teams or colleagues, of all professional backgrounds and disciplines, in the following categories: patient safety, innovation in pathology practice, significant contribution to specialty and contribution to education. All winners have been invited to attend the college’s annual dinner on 12th June to receive their awards.
We are delighted that three members of the HSL team – Professor Peter Chiodini, Ashleigh Dadson-Butt and Dr Rebecca Gorton – have won an RCPath Excellence Award. Ahead of the awards dinner, we spoke to Ashleigh Dadson-Butt, HSL’s Training and Development Manager for Infection Sciences, to find out more about the department’s highly regarded clinical training programme.
Congratulations, Ashleigh. How does it feel to have won an RCPath Excellence Award?
To be nominated and recognised firstly by the clinical staff and then by the Royal College of Pathologists is hugely exciting and very humbling as well. I was nominated by Dr Surjo De and Dr Bruce Macrae, microbiology consultants at UCLH. I’ve been working particularly closely with Dr Surjo De to develop a standardised clinical training programme for various grades of medical trainees. This was a huge team effort and I am very thankful to all of the laboratory, from support staff to management, especially the blood cultures team, who have helped us deliver this outstanding training.
Tell us a little about your day-to-day role at HSL.
I’m in charge of training and development for the laboratory staff in HSL’s infection sciences department – about 150 people in total – with the support of four training officers. This involves writing training documentation and forms, tracking competencies and overseeing the mandatory training and bench training for all grades of staff. We work very closely with Wendy Leversuch, HSL’s Head of Scientific Training – she’s always been really supportive of our work in the department and always on hand to give advice when we need it.
We are currently supporting six IBMS registration portfolios, five specialist portfolios and three members of staff studying for their Master’s degrees. I ensure that everyone is on track to complete on time, their standard of work is of sufficient quality and they feel supported by the department.
On the medical side, we support microbiology trainees working towards their FRCPath exams – the standard assessment for fitness to practice in this field. Although clinical microbiology trainees spend most of their time working with the consultants and their colleagues in the hospitals, it’s vital they get hands-on experience in the lab. I work closely with microbiology consultants from UCLH, the Royal Free and North Middlesex Hospital to ensure we provide appropriate levels of training and practical experience to all trainees here in the Halo. Developing a standardised clinical training programme and policy has been a key part of that.
Training is tailored to each doctor depending on his or her previous experience. Most trainees need about 15 days in lab – but some may need more or less. I spend a lot of my time coordinating the training rota and providing inductions and introductory sessions, but I also enjoy sitting at the bench and teaching trainees myself.
Are there any particular challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I worked at UCLH for ten years before moving to the Halo. We were conscious that we did not want the move away from the hospital to impact the quality of our medical training – which is why we’ve worked so hard to create a clinical training programme of such a high calibre.
The biggest challenge has been getting the lab up and running while delivering such a high level of training, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. We’ve had excellent feedback from the deanery and the trainees themselves – particularly those on the blood cultures bench, where DOPS assessments (direct observation of practical skills) have been fully incorporated into the training policy.
It’s a big commitment having medical trainees in the lab but the effort is definitely worth it. Having scientists and clinicians work together in the same space opens up dialogue and new opportunities for learning. We recently trialled an in-lab training session which was very well received, so we are rolling out monthly sessions open to all scientific and clinical staff. Our scientists can teach the practical skills while doctors can give more of the clinical context.
I’m passionate about making sure that all our staff remember a sample is not just a sample; there is always a person at the other end – a person that could be your mum, your daughter, your best friend. Everything we do is about the patient, and having doctors in the lab helps us to focus that perspective.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love microbiology – it’s a field that’s constantly changing and presenting new challenges as microorganisms themselves evolve. I also really enjoy the training aspect of my role, particularly helping people to progress in their careers. One of my training officers started as a laboratory assistant and worked her way up, which has been wonderful to see. It’s been great to receive such excellent feedback about the training we deliver in this department – when people are excited about learning it makes me even more excited about teaching.