Recruiting students

Like anything new, the course (one of a large number of optional courses in the clinical years of study) required promotion. I designed and distributed posters and targeted the student body in advertising and raising awareness of the course. The relevance to clinical practice needed to be emphasised, otherwise some students may have felt it less worthwhile compared to the more 'clinical' options on offer. Take up was initially slow, however the course is now popular with students and word of mouth is an important mechanism for ongoing course promotion. Previous students have been involved in teaching on the course, which facilitates valuable teaching experience and also provides positive role models for current students.

Teaching format and style

Based on advice from colleagues who run well-established medical humanities courses, I adopted an 'arts-style' mode of teaching which offers small groups (6-14 students) high participation and a student-centred approach. Student-centred learning is acknowledged to have benefits such as increased motivation and knowledge retention.16 Having experimented with various staffing models I have found that pairing a clinician with an arts scholar works well. This ensures that we offer specialist humanities subject knowledge with applied clinical relevance. This means that I have been able to persuade enthusiastic clinicians with interests in the humanities to teach on the course, reassured that an 'expert' is teaching alongside them. Both contributors develop session plans and students are sent materials and instructions in advance of teaching so that they are prepared and able to contribute in sessions. Sessions are usually two to three hours in duration so that there is ample time for viewing, listening, discussion, reflection and rest breaks. The timetable includes plenty of free time for students to read, listen to music, visit galleries, undertake research and to reflect on materials that they are working with. Some sessions, such as music and drama, involve two to three linked sessions. The aim is to provide an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the arts for the relatively short 4W weeks' duration of the course.

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