Teaching: Giving feedback

Last updated: Sunday, July 02, 2023

At the beginning of your career you are more likely to be on the receiving end of feedback, rather than the person giving it. However opportunities may arise in the workplace for you to practise giving feedback to a colleague such as on a ward round or maybe when counselling a patient about their medicines. Like running a teaching session, giving feedback is a skill that becomes easier the more you do it.

Before moving on, think about your own experience of receiving feedback. Reflect upon a positive experience of receiving feedback and an experience that has left you feeling less satisfied. What were the differences between them?

Feedback may be quite formal such as in a planned appraisal meeting with your tutor, or it may be fairly informal such as in the examples given above. Your reflection on your positive and negative experiences of feedback may have helped you to frame some of what works well, and what should be avoided. Negative experiences of feedback may have profound, long-lasting consequences on a learner and so it is essential that it is given well.

Imagine you are supervising a trainee and they receive a clinical question about a medicine on a ward. A doctor asks the trainee about the interaction between erythromycin and simvastatin as it is being flagged up by the e-prescribing system. The trainee asks some relevant questions, but does not gather all the required information, missing details such as the indication for the antibiotic and the patient’s allergy status. They advise the doctor that they will investigate the significance of the interaction, and respond soon. The trainee asks you for feedback on their questioning skills later that day. Think about when and where you might give your feedback, and how you might structure it before reading on.    Consider, then click for answer.
Some suggestions
• A top first tip for giving bitesize, informal feedback such as in this situation is to do it as soon as possible after the event. The details of what happened will be fresh in both your minds, meaning the feedback will be accurate and specific.
• A key second point is to make sure that your trainee is ready for the feedback. They need to be prepared to hear what you have to say. In this example, the trainee has asked for feedback, so they are expecting it.
• Think about where you are. If you are in the middle of a busy, noisy dispensary it may be better to find a quieter, calmer space to give your trainee feedback. This is essential if what you have to say is sensitive.
Be kind and respectful. Do not seek to humiliate your trainee.
• Be mindful of your body language. Maintain eye contact, and nod your head to show you are listening. Don’t cross your arms or fiddle with your pen or your phone.

• A good opening question might look something like ‘’What do you think went well?’’ You are encouraging the trainee to reflect and comment on their performance. Allow them time to think and speak.
• Follow this up with what you think the trainee did well ‘’You gathered most of the relevant information’’.
• Then ask your trainee for their opinion on whether/how they could improve upon their performance. In this scenario, maybe they have had the time to reflect and realise that they have missed some relevant information.
 • Then you can add your observations on how they could improve ‘’It can be helpful to find out about the indication and allergy status of the patient in case you need to recommend an alternative antibiotic’’.
 • Going forward, maybe you could develop an action plan with your trainee. How can they improve their questioning skills? What resources are available to support them?