Redesigned FSRH Diploma: Help your patients to achieve better sexual health

Posted 11 Sep 2020

Date: 11 Sep 2020

Author: Dr Ashleigh McDonald

As we approach the launch of our redesigned FSRH Diploma (DFSRH) in October, we hear from Dr Ashleigh McDonald who trialled our Diploma as part of a pilot last year. She shares her experience with those of you who may be considering applying.

Heavy menstrual bleeding. Unusual vaginal discharge. Emergency contraception. Three complete “heartsink” presentations for me this time last year. Even contraception consultations would most often result in a pill prescription or signposting to my coil-fitting GP trainer.

On the other end of this consultation was someone I was doing a complete disservice to. 

I had just passed my CSA exam (final exam to qualify as a GP) and with my GP portfolio complete, was looking for something to do with my extra study time before completing training. When my trainer forwarded me information about FSRH’s redesigned Diploma (DFSRH) pilot programme I took the opportunity to sign up. I felt that it would enable me to give accurate, useful and personalised information to help patients make good reproductive choices.

It was refreshing after years of medical administration - filling in forms and printing things off - that the Diploma is designed to be completely electronic with e-learning modules to work through and feedback forms submitted online. The FSRH staff team were extraordinarily helpful whenever I had any questions. 

I was able to use some of the case-based discussions from my GP training as evidence which lessened the workload, and the sexual health placement was well organised with enough opportunity to get assessments completed there. 

The placement was the most useful part of the Diploma for me. With no sexual health experience since medical school, I had to learn to ask direct personal questions to take a proper sexual history. This initially felt awkward and uncomfortable (for everyone involved) but after asking “who did you have sex with?”, “when?”, “anyone else?”, “what kind of sex?”  a few times, I noticed patients were not offended (as long as they realised the purpose of the questioning!).

My FSRH trainer was supportive and encouraging both within the clinic time and outside it, which was really valuable. She was happy to talk on the phone or answer my clinical questions via email.

There is a lot of information to absorb and remember, specifically around different methods of contraception, risks and benefits, when they become effective, how to switch between them etc. I found this to be the most challenging part. Actually, in real life, I just look all of this up and thanks to the Diploma I know exactly where to find good information quickly.

I use what I’ve learned from the Diploma every day, and not just when I am at work. So many women I know, myself included, have been given poor, incomplete or inaccurate contraceptive advice.  If done properly, these are often very satisfying consultations for both patient and doctor.

The culture of medicine tends to undermine or dismiss what is primarily still seen as “a women’s issue” and this is reflected in the amount of time dedicated to contraception and women’s health in both our medical school and GP curriculum as well as the attitude of many of our colleagues.

I hope this is changing and seeing as you have read this far, I highly recommend applying for the FSRH Diploma, once applications open in October, to equip you with the skills to address this inequality. I know my coil-fitting GP trainer is pleased I did.

Applications for our FSRH Diploma (DFSRH) open in October 2020. Find out more about our redesigned curriculum and how you can get started on some of your learning.