Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn


The Department of Psychology provides health psychology, behavioural sciences and research methods teaching to medical, physiotherapy and pharmacy undergraduates in RCSI. This teaching is outlined below.

Postgraduate teaching comprises behavioural sciences and research methods input into a wide variety of courses including the SPHeRE programme, the Physician Associate programme, the Masters in Surgery (MCh) and a short course in Health Research Methods. Department of Psychology staff also supervise MCh, MSc and PhD theses.

Undergraduate curriculum

Medicine and Physiotherapy

The teaching programme for medical and physiotherapy students currently involves coordination of teaching in Junior Cycle across two semesters.

Semester 2 module: Health, Behaviour and Patient Safety. This module addresses basic psychological processes, such as memory and learning, life-span development and communication, and the influence of these factors on health behaviours and health outcomes. Non-biomedical social and systemic factors in health, such as socioeconomic status, gender, disability and social influences are also core elements. Students are introduced to ethics in healthcare and issues relating to injury, medical error and quality and safety in healthcare.

A particular focus in this module is on the key importance of teamwork for healthcare professionals. Students are divided into small teams and work on a common project. Medical and physiotherapy students are combined to enable interdisciplinary team-work, and students learn about preferred team roles. Information retrieval, team working and plagiarism tutorials are also provided. This team project is the first in a series which build incrementally to enable students to address professionalism issues of conflict, peer marking and leadership in more senior years.

For students in the Graduate Entry Programme the above module is delivered in the first semester as a double module, entitled 'Health, Behaviour and Society'.

Semester 3 module: This is as part of an integrated neurosciences module, along with other disciplines involved in Junior Cycle teaching (e.g., anatomy, physiology, pharmacology). The psychology component addresses neuropsychological processes, psychopathology and psychological therapies.

Physiotherapy students receive a tailored stand-alone module in neuroscience, and complete an individual assignment as part of this module.


In third year, a complete behavioural sciences module is delivered to pharmacy students, which focuses on such topics as pharmacy practice, communication skills, learning and memory, adherence, reasons why patients consult, and patients' beliefs about medicines and treatments.

In fourth year, students complete a video-taped interaction with a patient (actor), typically involving a challenging scenario (e.g., patient complaint), and receive feedback led by a psychology and pharmacy tutor. This exercise prepares students for a later final OSCE examination.

With the new integrated MPharm degree, all psychology input will be integrated throughout several modules through the five years of the MPharm programme.

Delivery and assessment

Teaching is conducted using a combination of lectures and tutorials. Individual and team project work is a feature of the modules delivered, enabling students to acquire 20-40% of the module grade through continuous assessment.


Assessment of modules delivered by the Psychology Department is both formative and summative. Formative assessment involves a combination of formative MCQs (accounting for a small proportion of the module grade) and a project or projects. Students typically complete an individual assignment on an aspect of health behaviour change, using psychological principles to guide the behaviour change intervention, and are asked to complete team assignments to develop team working skills.


Student feedback is obtained at the end of each semester in an online survey, and all modules are evaluated in this manner. The feedback allows comparison among modules across a number of domains, including depth of understanding, quality of teaching materials, clarity of information delivery, amongst other areas.

Quality checks of examination questions are conducted both internally and externally in Faculty Centre. This evaluation is key to maintaining and enhancing the quality of examinations on an ongoing basis.

Professor Ronan O’Carroll, University of Stirling, is external examiner to the psychology modules.


Teaching: The Norman Rae Gold Medal is awarded each year to the student who completes the best essay on an assigned topic in Health, Behaviour and Patient Safety. The winner is selected by a Junior Cycle prize committee each year.

Research: The Bolos Hanna Summer Studentships are awarded each year to two undergraduate students who apply competitively for these positions. These are eight-week summer studentships that enable students to conduct a discrete piece of research in the area of psychology and medicine. Students who receive these awards present their findings each year at the RCSI Research Day and write a report with a view to seeking publication.