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Exerting a positive influence

Exerting a positive influence on future doctors is very rewarding to this Unit Coordinator who regards himself as a leader. He views leadership as a role, not a position and something you are do rather than being assigned. More...

In my role as a clinical Unit Coordinator I find that the challenge is not so much about finding a balance between work and life, but the competing demands between teaching, research and administration. I struggle to juggle them all. I do not have a problem with the content in my units, because they contain concepts that do not change and have to be taught, but I want to make things more interesting and useful for my students, and more pedagogically sound. To further develop my skills in this area I enrolled in a Masters course in the philosophy of education, even though I have already completed a teaching foundations course.

I commenced this role two years ago and replaced another Unit Coordinator. The unit was straightforward, effective and well organised. I did not need to make many changes, but I think there are drawbacks to taking on other people’s work and feeling as though you must justify the changes you make. For example, I see value in tightly melding communication and clinical skills together because communication is something students struggle with. I had to be subtle about the changes I made, although I am told subtlety is not my strong point.

To improve the consistency and quality of teaching in my unit I introduced regular tutor meetings and tutor peer observations. I also increased the flow of communications about important dates, content and materials. When I started I understood the teacher’s role and thought it easy to translate into coordination. My Head of School is an ally and, whenever I have questions or problems, I know I can approach him. We’ll talk and generally find solutions together.

If I were to begin again I would seek clarity around the role. I would extract information about what a good job looks like and attempt to interpret the role and put boundaries around what I can and cannot do; will and will not do. In my view a position description hides more than it conveys because, for example, handling student enquiries gives no hint about the associated workload. I do not mind answering questions about content but I find questions about whether they can attend one session or another menial and boring. I know that we are restricted by lack of funds and administration support, physical location and layout of our centre, but more definition would be a good thing.

I regard myself as a leader and view leadership as a role not a position. It is something you do; not that you are assigned to. As a leader I try to exert a positive influence on a wide number of people, particularly on those who are going to be future doctors. I find this aspect very rewarding.

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