Professor Ravi Gulati, Consultant General and Geriatric Medicine, and Associate Medical Director for Revalidation at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, discusses how he became a PLAB examiner and his experience in supporting doctors new to the UK.
Being a PLAB examiner is immensely satisfying. In my time in the role, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so many elements of it, from the training provided and explaining the differing assessment methods, right through to the planning of new exams and ensuring the scenarios used reflect current clinical practice in the UK. But knowing I’ve played my part in helping international medical graduates (IMGs) achieve their goal of registration to practise in the UK is possibly the most rewarding.
In the early years of my career in the UK there was no formal training for junior doctors who were preparing to take their exams, they relied on each other and senior doctors to help them pass. I recall attending bedside teaching provided by senior doctors after work, and learning from patients by following their progress. I was able to reflect on this and have since been determined to help doctors in training and teaching in improving patient care.
At the time I became a consultant, the ethos was to run the department and improve services for the community. From the start I arranged bedside training and classroom teaching for all medical and nursing staff, to provide continuing improvement in patient care. After 10-15 years as a consultant and with the department running smoothly, I got itchy feet and applied for the role of Performance Assessor, the first ever post advertised by the GMC in 1997. I still recall the interview day with the GMC Council members for the Assessor post. Like other interviewees facing the regulator, I was so nervous, anxious and felt the hair at back of my neck stand up. At that time there were only two organisations that gave me a degree of anxiety, one was the GMC, and other the taxman! I was however fortunate enough to be appointed.
As a GMC Associate within the performance section, I was co-opted into becoming a PLAB examiner. In those early years the PLAB exam used to be held in many cities before settling its base in London, first at the offices in Portland Street and then Euston Road. The Clinical Assessment Centre (CAC) then later moved to Manchester at 3 Hardman Street before, moving to a new premises at 3 Hardman Square in August 2019 to allow for increased demand from international medical graduates wishing to work in the UK.
My motive was, and remains, in teaching, training and assessment. The current PLAB exam gives me an opportunity to look at the assessment of international medical graduates and to make sure we are ready for the implementation of the Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA). However, more importantly, my role is to ensure these assessments are conducted fairly and to a high standard.
In the last five months I’ve been involved in the training of new examiners, but also regularly assist with the assessment of PLAB candidates 2-3 times per month. In my role I’m usually involved in ensuring all examiners are looked after. I answer their queries on the exam, the scenarios, how they are coping during the day and I also take their feedback. Examiners always have something to say or ask about the stations, the candidates and life in general. I enjoy taking the opportunity to discuss how scenarios have evolved in reflecting practice in the UK.
I’ve now been a GMC associate for nearly 20 years, and whilst it is hard work, I still really enjoy assessing the PLAB exam. I enjoy meeting other PLAB examiners, the role players, the Clinical Assessment Centre staff and of course the candidates, and supporting them as necessary. At the same time I regularly learn new things from them whenever I assess a new exam.
If you would like to help in shaping medical practice in the UK, the GMC are currently recruiting for PLAB examiners and I would strongly encourage you to apply. While exam days can be exhausting, the reward of helping another doctor achieve their goal to work in the UK, more than makes up for it.
We’re currently recruiting for new PLAB Examiners to help assess International Medical Graduates. If you are interested in becoming a PLAB Examiner you can find more information and how to apply on our recruitment website.