Background Quality improvement (QI) is an essential component of modern clinical practice. Front-line professionals offer valuable perspectives on areas for improvement and are motivated to deliver change. In the UK, all junior doctors are expected to participate in QI in order to advance to the next stage of their training. However, UK undergraduates receive no standardized training in QI methodology. This is perpetuated within medical schools by a lack of teaching capacity and competing priorities, and may lead to tokenistic engagement with future QI projects.
Methods We describe a near-peer teaching programme designed to introduce students to QI methodology. This programme was conceived and delivered in full by junior doctors and used existing resources to ensure high quality teaching content. 111 fifth-year medical students from the University of Cambridge were taught in interactive, participative workshops that encourage them to develop their own QI change ideas and projects. Core topics included the model for improvement, driver diagrams, stakeholder engagement, measurement for improvement and analysing and presenting data. Students completed surveys before and immediately after this intervention to assess their understanding of and confidence in utilizing QI methodology. Questionnaires were also completed by junior doctor tutors.
Results Analysis of questionnaires completed before and immediately after the intervention revealed statistically significant improvements in students’ self-reported understanding of QI (p<0.05) and confidence in applying techniques to their own work (p<0.05). Students expressed a preference for QI teaching delivered by junior doctors, citing a relaxed learning environment and greater relevance to their stage of training. Tutors reported increased confidence in using QI techniques and a greater willingness to engage with QI in future.
Conclusions In this single-centre study, near-peer teaching produced significant improvements in students’ self-reported understanding of QI and confidence in applying QI methodology. Near-peer teaching may constitute a sustainable means of teaching essential QI skills at undergraduate level. Future work must evaluate objective measures of student engagement with and competence in conducting QI.