In response to the national shortage of Radiologists, the Department of Health and the Royal College of Radiologists developed three Radiology Academies. The South West Imaging Training Academy in Plymouth is the only purpose-built facility of its type in the world. This bespoke facility has been created with the specific purpose of Radiology training and it provides a truly outstanding environment within which to learn. It has been designed from scratch, blending established traditional small group teaching methods with state-of-the-art electronic and simulator technology.
This revolutionary project has built on a foundation of one of the strongest traditional training programmes in the country. Onto this base we have built one of the most advanced and up-to-date training environments. Radiology is a highly technology-based specialty and its modern-day training requires all of those tools to be effective.
The Academy boasts a vast array of electronic Radiology teaching tools with over 20 high specification PACS (picture archiving and communication system) machines, six advanced applications C. T. workstations and eight high specification Apple Macintosh PCs (the OSIRIX® software is the preferred option for the new Royal College of Radiology electronic exam). There is an IT suite with 14 fully networked PCs.
The main educational tool of the RITI project is the electronic learning database (eLD). These are electronic interactive sessions written by experts and based on the curriculum. There are over 800 sessions that our life with further iterations being developed all the time to make this a truly world-class learning resource. The South West Imaging Training Academy fully integrates this electronic learning into the tutorial and teaching timetable. By doing so it allows trainees to prepare for tutorials, gives them supporting material and a structure that ensures full curriculum delivery.
One of the fundamental principles of the Academy is non opportunistic teaching. Almost all traditional training programmes are based on hands on experience on live cases. The problem with this, particularly given the ever diminishing training time available, is that the trainee can only be taught on the material that arrives in the department at that time. Within the Academy environment, virtual lists are created without the downtime of patient turnaround or absences. In the time taken for a standard C. T. lists to take place in the department where trainees would see between 12 and 15 patients, in the controlled environment of the Academy they can see 30 or 40. All of the PACs equipment is in a teaching environment where small group teaching can take place with projection facilities to share the learning experience. There is full support from on-site Radiology Consultants from the supporting departments.
The time within the Academy is spent in small group teaching, self-directed learning and structured supported reporting. Within the first three years half of the trainee’s time is in the Academy environment, the other half is in one of the supporting clinical departments within the Peninsula region. All of the teaching that could be delivered within the Academy has been moved from the clinical departments, this allows concentrated hands on clinical experience in the clinical attachments. Emphasis is placed on the practical skills and clinical-radiological meetings.
By utilising the wide range of learning resources and simulator technology (the Academy has a two state-of-the-art Ultrasound Simulators and a Vascular simulator model) the trainee can acquire the knowledge and preparatory hands on skills to make the most of their clinical attachment in an environment designed to learn.
There is a fully functional ultrasound room where selected patients are brought for teaching in calm and controlled surroundings. These ultrasound lists are run by the trainees with full support from specialist ultrasound trained consultants.
Objectively, the examination results remain within the top 10% of the country. As an initial pilot project, we have been closely scrutinised throughout the development phase by the Royal College of Radiologists and the Department of Health, and we have demonstrated that we deliver effective and high-quality training.
The first full complete cohort of trainees qualified in 2010; many of the trainees have already been successful in achieving competitive fellowships around the world.