Dyslexia support in medical training

This anonymised account reflects the views of an individual, and not the General Medical Council.

A GP trainee who was diagnosed with dyslexia while at medical school reflects on how perceptions about the condition have affected their training, and how the reasonable adjustments which helped them complete their degree stopped once they graduated from medical school.

Reasonable adjustments do not continue into training

I am currently a GP ST3. I have dyslexia, diagnosed whilst in my second year at medical school. Prior to my career as a doctor I trained to be a dentist. Getting this far was quite a challenge but I managed to get through my dental degree without being aware that I was dyslexic. Having this dual qualification has given me an awareness of the demands that healthcare can place on a clinician.

As a result of my diagnosis later on in life, I struggled to find coping mechanisms and felt alone and isolated with no peer support or mentoring to guide me. Consequently I’ve had to become resilient.

When I was diagnosed with dyslexia at medical school I was provided with assistive technologies which helped me through my medical degree. Without this assistance I probably would not have been able to get through. 

There is very little support however for doctors who are neurodivergent. I have approached several agencies including the royal colleges who don’t seem to make provisions for helping individuals such as myself. There is little support offered by the postgraduate training organisation, and no means of continuing assistance when changing from rotation to rotation.

Perceptions of dyslexia

Since I graduated from medical school and started work as a doctor in training, I have not disclosed my dyslexia to people that I work with on a day-to-day basis. In part, this is due to the stigma attached to dyslexia and also to the way I perceive dyslexia. I did however disclose my diagnosis during the application process. It was only the human resources department who were aware. No one has ever asked if my dyslexia had caused a problem in my ability to perform as a doctor.

As a GP trainee, during a placement at a GP practice, the staff were not particularly supportive when I tried to seek reasonable adjustments for my disability. I was made to feel inadequate and stupid which resulted in a deterioration of my mental health, leading me to take time off work.

I recently disclosed my diagnosis to my educational supervisor, who also hasn’t been supportive. This made me question my self-confidence and my ability as a doctor.

What I would change…

  • Change the idea that one single way of training fits all. Everyone learns, thinks, and trains in different ways, shoehorning people into a particular method of training will stifle their talents and strengths. This could result in people leaving the profession. Training needs to be tailored to the individual.
  • There needs to be a system to catch neurodiverse doctors when they enter and leave medical school, and in work. Working in medicine demands a lot of the skill sets that neurodiverse individuals excel at, such as empathy, problem solving, being highly creative, big picture thinkers and entrepreneurs.
  • Educators need to be trained to understand how dyslexia presents. Dyslexics need to feel comfortable and able to disclose their diagnosis to those with whom they work with on a day-to-day basis. Work colleagues will be educated about dyslexia, and reasonable adjustments can be made for that particular individual.
  • There needs to be a dedicated team within the postgraduate training organisation who can provide support to neurodivergent trainees, helping with implementing reasonable adjustments. These adjustments could include access to a mentoring service, study skills coaching, assistive technologies, and provision of easier communication with the royal colleges.
  • More support is needed to make training platforms such as e-portfolios more accessible to dyslexics.
  • There should be two types of general practice - those who provide a service and those who train. I think training at present is unfair to the trainee, the practice and the patients, as it does not serve trainees well, even more so those who are neurodivergent. Presently, targets mean we have to see X number of patients per day. If a practice were exclusively geared towards training, these pressures could be nullified. As such, trainees could be given free rein to develop their skills in a safe environment.