Putting them through their paces

put someone (or something) through their (or its) paces

Make someone (or something) demonstrate their (or its) abilities:

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This week I went to St Mary’s hospital to act as a paediatric examiner for the PACES examination. This is my second year of volunteering.

PACES stands for Practical Assessment of Clinical Examination Skills. It is completed by our year 5 medical students. I, as an examiner found it draining to sit through 24 histories, explanations and discussions – my brain is fried…! I guess it is perhaps much worse for the medical students who have to pass through 6 stations of 15 minutes with 2 minutes between each station. The swim is to examine knowledge in Paediatrics, Psychiatry, Obstetrics and Gynaecology in both primary and secondary care. For each PACES station, there are four grade descriptors used to judge performance:

Clinical skills
Formulation of clinical issues
Discussion of management
Professionalism and patient centred approach

Gruelling – walking from bronchiolitis, to vascular dementia to miscarriage. But a mild reflection of life in A&E or GP land. It was an experience for me sitting, listening and observing the doctors of the future. I was listening to the things that the good candidates said and felt good – we taught them well. When I had to fail some students – I felt sad. Did we not teach them well enough? Where they so nervous that commonsense and knowledge was left at the door?

It took me back to all the days that I have had to sit examinations and the nervousness and terror I felt at those times.In my day they were called OSCE ( Objective Structured Clinical Examination) somehow, despite my inherent shyness, I managed to get through. I managed to demonstrate safe practice and a reasonable knowledge base. And of course later found out that the real learning happened on the ward!

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