Clinical Teaching Associates

About the Program

What is the CTA program?

The Clinical Teaching Associate (CTA) program is part of a comprehensive educational curriculum This award winning program has been developed to help make Pap tests and breast examination a positive experience and it is an important part of medical training.

Tutorials on breast examination are currently provided to all Victorian medical students, while tutorials on speculum and vaginal examination are provided to all University of Melbourne medical students. In addition, postgraduate training is provided to general practice vocational training registrars, practice nurses, preceptors, obstetrics and gynaecology residents and established general practitioners.

The CTA program enables participants:

  • To gain confidence in both the fine technical skills and the sensitive communication skills required to undertake a Pap test; and
  • To learn to perform Pap tests in a non-threatening environment with immediate feedback and guidance from a live experienced 'patient'
  • To maximize their learning via a small group setting and standardized method of instruction.

Gynaecological Teaching Associate (GTA) programs have been used in over 90% of American and Canadian medical schools for more than ten years. The Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne established a CTA program in 2000. This program was transferred to the Department of Medical Education in 2005.
Educational opportunities

The use of CTAs in the teaching of gynaecological examinations provides an invaluable adjunct to other methods of instruction through:

  • focus on normal anatomy in a non-threatening, non-time-pressured learning environment
  • realism
  • specialised knowledge of female pelvic anatomy
  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • focus on communication skills and the doctor-patient relationship
  • immediate, constructive, specific and behaviourally-based feedback from an experienced patient
  • specialised teaching skills
  • standardised learning experience
  • a reduction in the likelihood of ethical issues arising when using trained patients, particularly when dealing with highly emotionally charged or sensitive issues.

CTAs participate in intensive, regular and ongoing training to ensure a quality program.

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Feedback from Participants

From Participants

"This program is invaluable as these skills which are the core of any good practice are not otherwise taught."

"Get more opportunities to learn like this and we will all become better doctors and communicators."

"Excellent quality instruction on technique and ways to maximize comfort."

"I feel very privileged to have had this special opportunity."

"Intending to have this learning experience as a benchmark for my practice."

"CTA tutors were very supportive, patient and gentle. They made the experience not only enjoyable but increased my skill level and knowledge to the point where I feel I could perform the required examinations confidently."

"Excellent, very beneficial. A must for doctors and nurses."

"Changed my view of the examination from a mechanical exercise to an overall experience for the woman – which can be a good one or a poor one."

"Is a really good way to learn because CTA's give honest feedback whereas patients in clinic don't."

"Deepened my understanding of the complexities and sensitivities of gynaecological examinations and pap tests."

"Excellent, enjoyable, down to earth, positive."

From CTAs

"I'm helping to make sensitive examinations a positive experience for thousands of women every time I teach. That is a wonderful feeling."


  • University of Melbourne nomination 2006 for National Carrick Awards for programs that Enhance Learning
  • Winner, 2004 Royal Women's Hospital Award in Excellence in Education
  • Joint winner, 2004 University of Melbourne Norman Curry Award for Innovation and Excellence in Support of and Service to Teaching and Learning
  • University of Melbourne nomination 2004, Australian Universities Teaching Committee Institutional Award


The Clinical Teaching Associate Program was established by Dr Kathryn Robertson, Professor Kelsey Hegarty, Professor Jane Gunn from the Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne and Dr. Louise Kornman from Royal Women's Hospital; in association with A/Professor Vivienne O'Connor from University of Queensland. Innovative teaching grants from the University of Melbourne have also supported the program.

PapScreen Victoria

The Clinical Teaching Associates Program was initially established in 2000 with a grant from PapScreen Victoria. Their generous ongoing support has enabled the Program to continue its high standards of development and delivery.