In today’s blog, career consultant Rebecca Hallam shares her advice to navigating the Foundation Training experience, and the career questions you might be asking yourself. What medical areas should I specialise in? How do I make the most of the Foundation Training?
The Foundation years can be a very exciting, but sometimes daunting part of a Doctor’s training. You have wanted to be a doctor for at least 5 years (in some cases MUCH longer), and with the intensity of a Medical Degree, thoughts about career decisions beyond medical school may not have been at the forefront of your mind.
As a Foundation Trainee, it can sometimes be a shock to discover that a huge career decision is imminent, and the earlier you think about this, the better! So, how do you choose between the vast array of specialities on offer? And how can you make the most of your Foundation Training to aid this decision-making?
Career Management Skills – what are they and how can I use them during my training?
We often separate career management skills into stages:
- YOU – your strengths, interests and values.
- YOUR OPTIONS – the exploration of the opportunities available.
- DECISION MAKING – what can influence this.
- And finally, TRANSITION to your chosen path.
Wherever you are in your decision-making process, during your training you are going to learn a lot about yourself. It will be a rich experience of different settings, people, and will often be intense and demanding work. It is important to reflect on your experiences as much as possible. Your e-portfolio will help with this; recording events and thinking about them will help you to recognise features that appeal to you (or not) and will help to clarify your strengths and interests. A good list of what to consider can be found in this article: How to choose your medical specialty | RCP London. Explore your strengths, interests and values further here: Course: King’s Careers & Employability, Topic: Explore my career interests, strengths and values (kcl.ac.uk)
The number of speciality training routes open to you is vast…with over 60 specialities and 30 sub-specialities, how do you narrow it down? Researching your options is vital and there are various ways you can do this: Read person specifications, use the Specialty explorer (bma.org.uk), or, complete a questionnaire such as Sci59 (with caveats, explained well here: Sci59 | Health Careers). However, much of your research will take place daily, with your colleagues, team members and patients. Speak to speciality trainees or consultants about their speciality and utilise the expertise and knowledge in the wider healthcare team to really understand what it is like working in a particular field. See Networking | Health Careers and Course: King’s Careers & Employability, Topic: Learn about networking (kcl.ac.uk) to learn more about networking and how it can benefit you. If you are unable to secure a rotation in a speciality that interests you, organise a Taster. Tasters can be invaluable, not just for hands-on experience, but to create contacts and build on the experience that will be convincing in applications and interviews.
Decisionmaking is a complex task and one that can vary from person to person. As a Foundation trainee, there are many influences that can affect your experience of various rotations, whether it be a particularly welcoming and supportive supervisor – or the opposite. What’s important is that you understand these potential influences to ensure that your decision is based on trusted information and thought. You can learn more about career decision making here: Course: King’s Careers & Employability, Topic: Learn about career decision making (kcl.ac.uk) and Decision making | Health Careers. The more you reflect on your own experiences and research how these match the options available to you, the easier your decision-making will be!
As you’re reaching the end of your Foundation Training, you will be armed with a wealth of experience to draw upon for your applications and interviews. How can you make sure you stand out? There are many things you can do during your training that will provide useful learning experiences and examples for applications. These could be audits, teaching and tasters to name a few. Having said that, don’t underestimate the daily experiences you are having. Record examples that demonstrate relevant skills and qualities; explaining your stories in detail can provide convincing evidence of your ability and interest. This article about How to succeed in foundation training | Health Careers contains some excellent top tips on how to make the most of your Foundation Training and what to do to give you a competitive edge when applying to your chosen speciality.
Sources and further reading:
Your guide to medical specialities in the NHS – UniMed | Get into Medical School (uni-med.co.uk)
Tips for choosing your medical specialty (bma.org.uk)
Foundation training | Health Careers
How to succeed in foundation training | Health Careers
Planning your medical career – don’t leave it to the last minute (nwpgmd.nhs.uk)
Written by Rebecca Hallam