Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Fiona's Top Ten Tips for the Scientist Training Programme

IPEM Trainee Network's Rough Guide to the STP
As STP trainees around me are preparing for the dreaded OSFAs, I thought I would share my Top Ten Tips to help you join the 'STP Survivors Club'. I wrote these shortly after completing my STP in 2015 for the IPEM newsletter and they were incorporated into the IPEM Trainee Network  'Rough Guide to the Scientist Training Programme'. These are purely based on my experiences and are designed to encourage enthusiastic first years, support struggling second years and revive weary third years. Please interpret my suggestions as you would the Pirate’s Code: they’re more like guidelines anyway.

1. Rotations: 3 years is ages! No, it’s not. 
Embarking on the STP is new and exciting and the OSFAs are a mere twinkle to worry about in 3 years’ time. Trust me it will come around incredibly fast. Set yourself deadlines and stick to them. The advised length of the rotation period is 1 year – keep it that way. The longer it drags on into year 2, the less time you have to complete your specialism and the harder it is going to be at the end. 

2. Stay in touch.  
Make the most of your new trainee colleagues at other centres, especially if you are the only trainee in your year group at your centre. Bounce ideas off each other. Chat about coursework. Go to the same conferences. Keep an eye on each other’s progress. 

3. Elective placement: Make the most of it.  
How many times in your life will you be told you have 4 to 6 weeks (paid!) to explore a different area of science and healthcare entirely of your choosing? Answer: not very many!

4. Competencies: You haven’t been asked to write a text book.
Competency submissions should be evidence that you have met the requirements of the competency. For the sake of both you and your assessors, do not write a text book. A word of warning: if you set the bar exceptionally high at rotation level, how are you going to take it to the next level in your specialism?

5. Competencies: Mix and match.  
Some competencies were just born to be together, don’t keep them apart.

6. Project: Make it useful.  
Pick a project that is both useful to the hospital and to you. If the results of your project can be used for the benefit of the hospital, you will staff are more keen to help and support you. Can you use your project to sign off a handful of competencies as well? 

7. OSFA preparation: CBDs are your friend.  
A few months before your OSFAs, introduce a weekly ‘CBD day’. Book your supervisors well in advance. Write your own CBDs and pick the subjects that you are not sure on. Is there a topic which, if it came up in an OSFA station, you heart would sink and panic would set in? Get that panic out of the way and plan a CBD based around that topic. My first OSFA station was identical to one of the CBDs that I wrote – honestly! For double benefit, discuss both of your CBD scenarios.

8. OSFA survival: Keep calm
You are bound to come across something you don’t know. Take a deep breath and give it your best shot. Remember the assessors are on your side.

9. You are good enough, you can do it and you will do it. 
As Tony Fisher said on our first day of the Liverpool MSc – there are thirty people that wanted to be sat where you are sat today. Of course it’s going to be tough! It’s not surprising when you think of the level of responsibility involved in the career you are aiming for. Yes, there will be times when you want to pack it all in (what’s wrong with working in Tesco’s anyway?) but keep your end goal in mind.

10. ENJOY IT.  
Take on challenges, take pride in your work and, as our new IPEM President says so passionately, be innovative. This is your chance to make a difference and improve the service our NHS offers to our patients. Just because ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and ‘you’re just a trainee’ doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.

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