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Learning is defined as the social process of
construing and appropriating a new or revised interpretation of the
meaning of one’s experience as a guide to action (Mezirow, 1994).
The significance of medical education was embedded in the
constitution of the General Medical Council (GMC) as early as in
1868 when an amended motion was passed that ‘A Committee be
appointed to consider and report in what order the various subjects
of medical education which have been deemed requisite by the
Council may be taught with most advantage, and how examinations on
them ought to be arranged’. In what appears to have been a heated
debate between Council members, one member remarked that medical
students should be taught to see with their own eyes and judge with
their own brains rather than being spoon fed.
To a large extent this still applies today,
although there is more of an expectation that students need to
learn by themselves throughout their undergraduate training.
Previous generations of doctors learnt by cramming their subjects
without having in-depth knowledge in what they were supposed to
learn, whereas it is now common practice for undergraduates and
postgraduates to be expected to adopt a problem-based learning
approach, mixed with learning on the job.
In fact it is received wisdom that doctors
never stop learning. It is in the nature of those who practise
medicine that the desire to gain knowledge never ceases, influenced
no doubt by clinical challenges, formal and informal tests of
knowledge and in some, an inherent quest for perfection. In modern
day medicine, practice based learning and evidence based practice
have become a norm.
In psychiatry, where patient contact is
essential, the risk of not keeping up-to-date has direct
consequences on the patient. But on the more constructive end, a
patient well treated reinforces and encourages better practice in
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