Interview with a Training Hero - Dr Jill Zelin

Posted 07 Mar 2023

Date: 07 Mar 2023

Author: Jill Zelin

Dr Jill Zelin qualified in 1984 and after training in O&G for a few years, switched to GUM in 1991. She was appointed consultant GUM physician at Barts Health in 1996 where she developed an integrated model of sexual health clinic, before it was common practice. Jill has been an Faculty Registered Trainer (FRT) since 2010, is immediate past GTPD for Barts Health and was NE Thames Deanery Adviser / FRTA. She has sat on the General Training Committee and MFSRH Exam Committee and was OSCE convenor for MFSRH. Jill “retired and returned” in 2021 and now works half time, concentrating on DFSRH and LoC training, liaising with colleagues increase LARC provision and training in primary care. She is clinical lead for the My Body Back Clinic in London, a cervical screening clinic for survivors of sexual trauma and violence.

How did you arrive in the work you’re doing? What was your journey to this point that you would share with us?

Gosh. It’s very straight forward, and I don’t think could be repeated, and is about being in the right place at the right time in the right era. Going into training I did it all a bit backwards because by being a GU consultant I was already an educational and clinical supervisor and an undergraduate tutor and had already had lots of training experience.

I can’t remember how it happened, but I was sort-or co-opted as a GU physician onto the General Training Committee. I worked on the DFSRH toolkit when we were trying to re-vamp it a bit. Then, I found myself also co-opted as an OSCE examiner. I was already doing some OSCE examining from medical school, and that was going along in parallel, but now of course you can’t do either of those things without being an FRT.

Somehow, it never occurred to anyone to ask if I was an FRT because I was relatively senior and experienced, and it never occurred to me that I needed to be an FRT! But that wasn’t what made me want to be an FRT – we wanted to expand our training at Bart’s and do more.

Our General Training Programme Director only worked with us one day a week, and she said to me ‘this is crazy, you should take over’, so I took over! Finally, I’ve been able to hand over the reins to Rachna Kapoor. She shadowed me for a bit and now I’m mentoring her.

What keeps you being a trainer, day-to-day?

I think because I feel very passionate about women’s health. I keep trying to take a step back, and then finding that I go to a meeting because nobody else will, and because I realised that it’s something that can’t be left to drift or let go.

I just want to impart my knowledge that people should have the best emergency contraception – that there’s more to contraception than the pill, coil insertions don’t have to be painful, you can manage bleeding, don’t take the implant out after two minutes – all those things your experience tells you, I want to impart my little pearls of wisdom. 

What would you say is key to a new trainer you are mentoring, in terms of their delivery of learning?

I think they need really good one-to-one communication skills. I think they need to be able to read a trainee. And, in terms of style, I think I’ve got two types of trainers. I’ve got some that are very didactic and organised and task-focused, and that’s great. But, sometimes, I like to get my trainers to work more in a workshop style. Just trying to get some people to stop being so didactic and be a bit more informal and collaborative in the way they train.

For example, I’ve never been to an SRH Essentials course, that I’m either observing or co-facilitating, where it’s finished on time. I did have a pair of facilitators who were very pleased that they finished the course well ahead of time and everyone could go home early but my impression was that they just went through the slides rather rapidly and lectured at the delegates, and I was quite worried about that as the point of Essentials is that it is an interactive workshop.

I think my trainers have to adapt their style to the training that they’re delivering and lead the room.

How many trainees do you have yourself at the moment?

Well, at one point there were about 20 on my dashboard, but I’ve signed off quite a few of them – thank goodness so I’ve got only a dozen left. It’s quite hands-off with most of them. Some of them are GP trainees who can do quite a lot in primary care, and some are new nurse practitioners, who need more input - I’ve got to be there and see where they’re at.

In terms of LOC trainees, I only usually have one at a time, because I do one clinic a week and then every other week I do two clinics. 

Being “retired” are you going to keep training, and be taking more trainees on?

I’m already concentrating on the training, so I can take more trainees on, or continue. I basically do two things, I do my training – or my LARC clinics, which are training clinics – and I do My Body Back. I guess if I work less, I might go back to doing more separate training. Because that’s one thing that, before COVID, I was doing quite a lot of. Peripatetic training. I really enjoyed going to GP practices on my days off or taking a day off to go out and going and seeing people in their practices and see their challenges.

One thing I’m really pleased with is that, after years and years of trying, I’ve got at least three GP trainers who are going to be trainers in primary care, which is really good. I’ve got at least one, if not two, GP trainees who want to become FRTs once they’ve got their LoCs and they’ve got enough experience. And some of my registrars keep doing it towards the end of their training, and then going off and getting consultant posts at Trusts!

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