Radiation oncology teaching provision and practice prior to and during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in medical schools in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland: a cross-sectional survey

Gerard M Walls, Orla A Houlihan, Ciaran Mooney, Rebecca Prince, Katie Spencer, Ciara Lyons, Aidan J Cole, James J McAleer, Christopher Mark Jones

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Abstract

Objectives:
Radiotherapy is a key cancer treatment modality but is poorly understood by doctors. We sought to evaluate radiation oncology (RO) teaching in medical schools within the United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland (RoI), as well as any impacts on RO teaching delivery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Methods:
A bespoke online survey instrument was developed, piloted and distributed to oncology teaching leads at all UK and RoI medical schools. Questions were designed to capture information on the structure, format, content and faculty for RO teaching, as well as both the actual and the predicted short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19.

Results:
Responses were received from 29/41 (71%) UK and 5/6 (83%) RoI medical schools. Pre-clinical and clinical oncology teaching was delivered over a median of 2 weeks (IQR 1–6), although only 9 (27%) of 34 responding medical schools had a standalone RO module. RO teaching was most commonly delivered in clinics or wards (n = 26 and 25 respectively). Few medical schools provided teaching on the biological basis for radiotherapy (n = 11) or the RO career pathway (n = 8), and few provide teaching delivered by non-medical RO multidisciplinary team members. There was evidence of short- and long-term disruption to RO teaching from COVID-19.

Conclusions:
RO teaching in the UK and RoI is limited with minimal coverage of relevant theoretical principles and little exposure to radiotherapy departments and their non-medical team members. The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating trainee doctors’ already constrained exposure to radiotherapy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210614
JournalThe British journal of radiology
Volume94
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2021

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