Psych Refresh: A psychiatry review course for a diverse set of learners

Psychiatry is a complex field that is always evolving and changing, and the University of Toronto is a leader in research, clinical expertise and education. To keep up with the ever-growing body of knowledge, even experienced psychiatrists need a refresher to make sure their psychiatric knowledge is accurate and up-to-date. Residents preparing for their Royal College Exams are always looking to find the best way to review the huge amount of information they are expected to know prior to moving into independent practice. That’s what Psych Refresh is for.

The University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry was perfectly positioned to provide a comprehensive review course for both residents and practicing physicians. Debuting in January 2019, Psych Refresh is a  five-day course that provides  a comprehensive review of key content areas in psychiatry with the most relevant and up-to-date material. Large group sessions are taught by dynamic speakers with small group interactive sessions providing an opportunity to consolidate learning in a safe and supportive space. Designed with input from residents and psychiatrists, Psych Refresh aims to optimize the learner experience and offers multiple opportunities for feedback throughout the course, ensuring that the educational environment and content are ideal.

Psych Refresh is the brainchild of Dr. Mary Preisman, Staff Psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital and an Assistant Professor in the Department. Preisman knew there was substantial demand for this type of educational experience, and that the University of Toronto was uniquely positioned to provide it. The idea had been considered before, but the scope of work to put something together seemed too big of a project and the timeline required too lengthy. The complexity of creating a curriculum and recruiting the best teachers to review the entirety of psychiatry in a short period of time, and the logistics of organizing the course, made creating Psych Refresh a daunting task, but Preisman was willing to accept the challenge of making it happen in for 2019.

“It was definitely a risk to run this course. There was a lot to prepare and organize in a year,” says Preisman.

Psych Refresh seems to be a risk that’s paid off. The first course sold out extremely quickly, and attracted participants from across the country. Preisman was able to stay true to her vision for a course that prioritized engagement and enabled real learning.

“Good presenters were a priority, as was learning in a good environment. At Hart House, we had windows and natural light,” says Preisman, “The idea was to create a setting where it’s easy for participants to be engaged, where everyone is mindful and present. Good catering always helps.”

Psych Refresh attracted a broad range of participants, PGY5 residents came from across the country to prepare for their Royal College Exams as well as physicians with over 20 years of experience who wanted to review the state of the field. This diverse set of learners had very positive feedback to offer. Across the board, participants said that Psych Refresh was engaging and effective, delivering the knowledge they needed in an enjoyable way.

Dr. Rachel Allegra, a psychiatry resident, travelled all the way from British Columbia for the course and found it was just what she was looking for. “I’m so happy I travelled from BC to attend Psych Refresh,” she says, “The presenters and group facilitators have all been enthusiastic and the afternoon small-group OSCE practice has been incredibly valuable preparation."

With feedback like that, it’s no surprise that Psych Refresh will be back in January 2020. The second iteration of the course will have more spaces and promises another excellent opportunity to learn in an engaging atmosphere.

Registration for the January 2020 session is open now.