Medical Council of Canada

Taking online assessor training

Taking online assessor training

April 25, 2019

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) going through a 12-week Practice-Ready Assessment (PRA) must demonstrate multiple competencies that are required of practicing physicians in Canada. How can PRA programs ensure that those competencies are appropriately assessed? PRA programs, in collaboration with subject matter experts and the Medical Council of Canada (MCC), have developed standard tools and training materials for PRA assessors who are responsible for ensuring each IMG meets the competencies; the newest supplementary training is offered online.

The original assessor training, called Clinical Assessor Training Program (CATP), was developed in collaboration with the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and education experts for assessing PRA candidates in Family Medicine. It was made available to PRA programs in 2016 and was later expanded to the specialties of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine. The program consists of a series of modules that are presented to assessors during a mandatory face-to-face training session. “The face-to-face session is extremely valuable as part of educating new assessors and ensuring that they are given all the tools they will need to succeed in their role,” explains Dr. Breanne Oryschak, Instructional Designer at the MCC. This training covers specialty-specific objectives and provides videos, presentations and supplemental resources.

Introducing online material

The newest addition to the training toolbox is a set of online modules hosted on a learning management system, a software that helps an organization to deliver courses or programs. The online training was piloted by the PRA programs and some of their assessors. “This additional training was designed to supplement and support the existing face-to-face training,” adds Dr. Oryschak. It includes 11 modules that allow greater learning flexibility and practice opportunities for assessors and is an ideal way of offering consistent supplementary information and activities to the programs.

After piloting the online assessor training, Dr. Jack Burak, Clinical Director of Practice Ready Assessment – Physicians for British Columbia (PRA-BC), provided his feedback on the tool. “I was initially assigned six modules to review but really enjoyed going through the training, so I decided to continue on and complete all 11 modules.” According to him, the tool is well presented, and each module has been thoughtfully developed.

Complementary preparation resources

Dr. Burak further explains that in BC, after attending a mandatory two-day face-to-face workshop that includes the CATP, PRA-BC assessors become designated as primary assessors, receive a two-year PRA-BC assessor certification, and can apply for Continued Professional Development credits from CFPC. To maintain their primary assessor certification, assessors must assess a PRA-BC candidate at least once every two years (i.e., once every four program intakes during the subsequent two-year cycle).

“The online assessor training modules will bring a lot of value to National Assessment Collaboration Practice-Ready Assessment programs and their candidates. In our province, it could be used as a pre-workshop option or as a refresher for assessors who have completed the two-day training, remain designated as primary assessors, but who do not want to attend another face-to-face assessor training workshop,” adds Dr. Burak.

Competency-based assessments, such as PRAs, differ from assessment at the medical school and residency level. “The key with PRAs is that competencies are observable. Over a 12-week assessment, the assessor must observe a significant number of physician-patient encounters to determine if required competencies are met,” explains Dr. Burak. To do so, assessors use various tools such as reviewing charting notes, writing field notes or using Mini-CEX forms, and giving their candidates formative feedback. “Each online module’s objectives align and link competencies to these specific tools,” says
Dr. Oryschak. The online assessor training also provides additional resources for assessors wishing to further their knowledge on specific topics.

From pilot to implementation

Having collected pilot feedback from PRA programs and some assessors, the MCC is getting ready to officially launch the tool in the summer of 2019. Using a learning management system will allow each program to have their own portal. “Programs will have the ability to grant access to their assessors in the system. In addition to the 11 modules, they will be able to upload supplementary content specific to their jurisdiction,” affirms Dr. Oryschak.

Not only does the online training offer high-quality content for assessors, it also has a potential to be further developed according to the needs of the PRA programs across Canada.