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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Patient educator group

BSMS > About BSMS > Working here > Patient educator group

Patient educator group

BSMS patient educators are patients and carers who volunteer to be involved in a range of activities at BSMS. The majority of these activities include involvement with teaching sessions to help our students start to understand the impact of living with different health conditions from the patient and carers’ perspective. This is important to help them to develop their communication, professional, clinical reasoning and consultation skills for their future role.

The aims of the patient educator programme are to:

  • Provide high-quality learning experiences for medical students by enabling them to hear the patient’s or carer's personal experience of managing their condition on a day-to-day basis. 
  • Ensure that students have a broad understanding of the experiences of service users and the implications of a range of health conditions and disabilities.
  • Provide a unique patient-centred focus to the students' clinical training to help them apply their knowledge to real patients.
  • Involve patients/carers to help guide our work and future developments at BSMS. 
Student examining eyes of an older male patient educator with torch

What do patient educators say about the programme?

Our current patient educators enjoy their role and make an important contribution to the education of the next generation of young doctors:

"It felt good to see that the students were beginning to understand the impact of managing type 1 diabetes.” Hazel, patient educator.

“Sharing my past experiences, both good and bad, helps ‘Tomorrow’s Doctors’ have a better understanding of the skills they need to provide the communication and care the patient needs.” Mike, patient educator.

"These sessions with real patients help hone student communication skills and give them an invaluable insight into the issues that people with a chronic condition face." David, patient educator.

What do medical students say about patient educators?

Interactions with real patients and carers are highly valued and evaluated by the students. They often comment that they feel more confident and competent following patient educator sessions. 

“The patient educator programme is a great asset - we get feedback on our skills, such as communication, from the point of view of those it will affect the most. It helps to sculpt the doctors of tomorrow in a patient focused manner.” Tom, Year 4 medical student, BSMS.

Female student examines eyes of older male patient educator, watched by male teacher

What do patient educators do?

There is no better teacher than the patient or those caring for them as they have a unique story to share and are the real experts. Our patient educator programme is designed to ensure that medical students have contact with a range of people throughout their training. This improves communication and professional skills and enables the students to gain a deeper understanding of the effect medical conditions can have on the individual.   

The programme has different activities and patient educators can select the option/s that they think will best suit them. The amount of time each individual chooses to offer to the programme is entirely their decision. We recognise that this may change over time, which is not a problem. Patient educators will be fully prepared before the teaching session so they know what to expect and will also be supported during and after a session.

Read below for information about the different activities within the programme that you can get involved with. 

Teacher looks at back of male patient educator's head, using a metal tool

History taking

This involves students taking a medical history from you in a small group setting. The students usually work through a series of questions that help them formulate an opinion or diagnosis and/or ask questions about how a condition affects the individual. 

Students might ask about:

  • Presenting complaint – what you noticed when you first became ill or what the current problem is.
  • History of presenting complaint – the story of your illness over time and any changes that have occurred.
  • Past medical history – any long standing conditions, previous illness or operations that you have had and the outcome.
  • Family history – if anyone in your family has had anything similar. Students will also ask about the health of your parents, brothers and sisters and children.
  • Social history – questions about smoking, drinking alcohol, where and with whom you live and your occupation may give clues to some illnesses.
  • Drug history and allergies – whether you are taking any medicines prescribed by a doctor and whether you use any medicines from a chemist, herbalist or another source.

Download information on history taking >

Patient interaction

This is about exploring the impact a condition has on the individual and the family. It involves an informal talk from you about your condition and may include how you were diagnosed, or the day-to-day impact your condition has on you and your family. This helps students appreciate how the same condition may present differently and the challenges that individuals may encounter. You could also be asked to share your experiences of using NHS services, both positive and negative, or how healthcare staff could improve your experience. The group sizes vary for this and we will ensure you are aware of how many students to expect.

DOwnload information on patient interaction >

A male student examines a female patient educator's eyes

Basic physical examination

Basic physical examination forms a part of most interactions between a doctor and patient and teaching at this level gives students the opportunity to practice basic procedures. It will be a simple physical examination based on your condition, for example taking your blood pressure or checking your abdomen and will be under the supervision of a clinical tutor.

Download information of basic physical exam >

Committee work

We are keen for patients and carers to get involved to help BSMS develop all aspects of medical curriculum delivery including planning, teaching and assessment. Our aim is that the medical school curricula are informed by medical students, educators, employers, and patients, families and carers. We have small friendly committees that meet to discuss the direction of future activities and we plan to develop this work further. The various committees meet a few times a year, and we do ask if you are interested in this activity that you commit to a full year. 

Male teacher and student doctor with a child patient

Admissions interviewing 

Our patient educators are a vitally important part of both our teaching and our admissions process. We’re incredibly excited to have them as part of our interviews for prospective students. You can find out more about the BSMS admissions interviews and processes on our admissions process page. 

Read more about the admissions process >  

Teacher with medical students

Assessing students 

This involves assisting in the assessing of students in summative assessments under exam conditions, which may be a mixture of the students taking a history and/or undertaking physical examination. Full instruction and training will be provided for any patient educator involved in this activity. 


All patient educator sessions focus on the students listening and communicating well as these skills are an essential part of the doctor/patient consultation. Therefore, it is important that you feel listened to and understood. 

Feedback is an essential part of the teaching and learning process and is designed to provide the students with information that will enable them to develop their skills and reinforce good practice. It is also highly valued by them so you may be asked to contribute to this following your teaching session. We will ensure you are fully trained in providing constructive feedback.

Male doctor, female medical student and child patient

When and where do the teaching sessions take place?

Teaching sessions take place Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm and volunteers can commit to as many or as few sessions as they would like. Sessions can take as little as 30 minutes or up to a full day. 

All sessions are held at one of the BSMS teaching buildings at the University of Brighton or the University of Sussex in Falmer, or at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton or the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

Travel and refreshments

We will provide you with refreshments and travel expenses will be fully reimbursed using an expenses claim form, so please keep parking receipts or tickets and make a note of your mileage. If it is easier to arrive by taxi we can arrange this for you. 

Unfortunately, we cannot pay patient educators, but we hope that you find contributing to the training our future doctors is both rewarding and satisfying. BSMS values all the activities of patient educators and would like to continue to actively involve patients and carers in the future.

Male medical student examines a child's neck, watched by a female student

How can I get involved?

If you would like to join our patient educator group please download the application form and return to Patient Educator Group: Dean’s Office, Room 3.11, Brighton and Sussex Medical School Teaching Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9PX.

Download application form >

If you have any questions or would like to find out more please email or call 01273 641548 (please note this is a voicemail facility, so please leave your name and contact number).

Student examining a patient's eye using a mobile phone, watched by others

Other projects/groups at BSMS 

There are a number of other teaching initiatives outside of the Patient Educator Group at BSMS that you may like to be involved with. We are always delighted to welcome new volunteers so please find some information about these below. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us for further details. 

Time for Dementia

An award-winning programme to improve dementia care, Time for Dementia pairs families affected by dementia with undergraduate students studying healthcare, helping the students to gain a better understanding of living with dementia, and develop skills to provide better care for patients and their families. Students visit a family affected by dementia in pairs over a two-year period, which provides a unique opportunity to see people affect by dementia in their own home. The visits are designed to enable students to see how a diagnosis of dementia can affect people and the challenges and changes that they may face over time. 

For more information or to get involved please contact:
T: 07713 779582

Time for Autism 

We are looking for families in Brighton and Hove and neighbouring parts of Sussex to take part in a new education programme at BSMS designed to teach medical students about autism. This is an exciting opportunity for families with a child on the autism spectrum to share experiences and expertise with medical students, to help them provide better care in the future. Each family will be paired with two medical students who will visit them at home three times over the course of a year starting in September 2021. 

If you or someone you know would like to find out more about getting involved, please contact: 

Alison Smith
Time for Autism Development Manager
T: 07717 450954