Meet the Trainer – Julie Thomson

Meet the Trainer – Julie Thomson

For this month’s instalment of Meet the Trainer, we sat down with Julie Thomson, an experienced consultant specialising in innovative and practical support of organisations in the healthcare and consumer sectors. Julie has a breadth of knowledge and experience she’s been able to expertly draw on to deliver sessions in leadership, appraisals, new appraisers, and appraiser refreshers. We spoke about the value of in-person vs online sessions, as well as challenges and takeaways appraisers might have, which you can read more about below!

(You can also watch a short clip from our talk with Julie here:)

It’s fantastic that we’re able to have in-person sessions again. What have you noticed as the main difference between what someone could get out of in-person vs online?

I think it’s been interesting for us coaches and trainers to see how people respond differently. For example, within appraisal, there has been a tendency to think that people haven’t been able to get the required learning for their GMC re-validation, but actually a lot of doctors have really flourished in the online learning environment. They’ve found it more accessible, and they’ve found there’s a broader choice of learning for them. They’ve perhaps gone out and explored different types of learning rather than just sticking to their speciality.

I think through COVID it was true that despite doctors being clinically confident, what came out of that time was learnings that they needed around leadership. They found themselves in positions that they were obviously very much less comfortable with and perhaps saw opportunities for their own development that they hadn’t previously any idea they needed. I think face-to-face learning historically was seen as the better environment or the more productive environment because we’re all in there together, but I don’t think that’s been the case.

As long as we can keep it varied, so for example we’ll have breakout rooms or incorporate videos and quizzes and do our very best to use all the latest technology to make it a more fulfilling experience. We’ve had a lot of good feedback where people have said for certain courses, particularly for refresher courses, it’s an absolutely great choice to be able to say “well, actually I can’t travel then” or “I’ve got time to do this, but I wouldn’t have had time to have a whole day and travelling on top of that”.

So, I think as an organisation it’s been very important to listen to our clients. Hear what they’re looking for and be able to give them that blended portfolio of choice.

What is something you hope for people to take away from your sessions?

We want them to go away feeling confident. We bring the expertise in terms of the content, and they’ve chosen our course because they’ve seen what we’re offering, so we always make sure that we deliver what we’ve said. We aim to make sure that we not only give them the download on the information they signed up for, but also the opportunity to interact, not only to ask questions and draw on our experience, but also with the other course delegates.

We want them to go away feeling that they’ve learned the skills and also how they can apply them. We always try and reserve some time within our courses to give people an opportunity to think about what’s next and how it links with what they already have. Teaching them how they can share that with their teams and take that learning more extensively into their own environments to ultimately improve the patient experience.

What is a common question that comes up for appraisals?

Typically, the delegates are very experienced doctors. They’re very capable, very articulate people, but when it comes to starting as a new appraiser, the thing that we’re asked time and time again is in terms of their supporting information, how much is enough and what does good quality look like?

It’s quite different from the role they’re used to in terms of clinical supervision or educational supervision, where there’s a very structured process to go through and it’s very clear whether the requirement’s been met or not. Appraisal is interesting because it relies on the judgment of the appraiser. There’s a framework in place and very clear requirements from the GMC.

But in terms of the actual appraiser, they always want to know how much information is enough and lots of what-ifs. If a certain situation crops up, does that belong to me or does that belong to the governance of the organisation? How many questions should I ask before I seek some advice from the lead appraiser or the responsible officer?

We are able to draw on our extensive knowledge and share that with the appraisers so we can respond, we can give them guidance of what good looks like, questions they might like to ask, what approach they might like to have, and also to make sure that they’re setting up support networks within their own organisations so that they can calibrate their understanding.

If you’d like to check out some of our courses head to to have a look.