When choosing a specialty and planning national recruitment applications, it can never be too early to start preparing. Evidence of teaching or organising courses even from the later years of medical school can count for portfolio points. It is important to get acquainted with the person specification, the applicant guidance document and the national recruitment website for your specialty.
These resources will be full of information indicating how best to gain points. Early preparation will also help you identify where the gaps in your CV are, and the best thing to do is to have a list of achievable targets in the run up to applications to help you score the points you need. If you already know your specialty of choice, then teaching specific to that area can gain you commitment to specialty points as well.
Without evidence you will not gain the points you deserve. Check the specific guidance for your specialty regarding evidence in your portfolio, for example, some specialties may specify the requirement of a consultant’s signature or a certificate as minimum evidence. Other specialties prefer independent feedback, which might be a letter or certificate from a course organiser.
Remember to keep all the evidence of teaching you have done, including feedback forms, consultant letters or certificates. Being organised in this way will make your portfolio look more presentable. Other examples of evidence include E-portfolio reflections, or ‘developing the clinical teacher’ sign offs.
Organising a course will gain you more points than simply taking part in a teaching course that already exists. National courses will be awarded the most points compared to regional courses, or a local course which is confined to the local hospital, trust or university setting. To gain the most points for ‘designing and organising’ a course, you must demonstrate that you identified a gap in the teaching provided, worked with local tutors to design and organise a programme, arranged teachers and contributed regularly to the teaching.
This requires organisation, and it may be easier if you have a group of other juniors who are interested in setting it up with you, particularly when thinking of an efficient way to advertise and communicate with undergraduates. You may also need assistance from teaching fellows, consultants and the medical school attached to your hospital. The medical school on site may be able to help you by providing a room and facilities for the course, but they can also have rules on how to advertise your course for fair access to all students. Think about whether you would prefer to set up a one or two-day course, or whether you would prefer to arrange a series of weekly sessions.
The course can be aimed at medical students or even other healthcare professionals. Examples of successful courses for junior doctors to design are revision courses prior to medical school exams in your specialty of interest or FY1 preparation courses. It’s a great idea to offer certificates to those taking part, as this will encourage people to attend, and they can be given in exchange for honest feedback which you can use for your portfolio.
It is often advisable to pair up with a friend or group to help you get things off the ground when trying to organise a teaching courses yourself. It is helpful to organising a course with friends in different trusts or deaneries, as this might enable you to create a national course rather than a local one.
Get involved with your hospital’s bedside medical student teaching. Bedside OSCE style teaching is actually a fun way to keep up your own examination skills, and will look great in your portfolio. Keep feedback forms and a certificate for proof of your involvement, or even a consultant letter to add into your portfolio. If your hospital doesn’t have this type of programme, then speak to the attached medical school and get a programme started yourself – you’ll then get extra points for organising it yourself and other junior doctors will be keen to take part for the points themselves.
Many specialties award points for taking part in teacher training. An example of this is the Teach the Teachers course. To be awarded the most points, there are longer training in teaching courses than the usual 2 day Teach the Teachers course, or you could attend multiple courses covering different topics related to teacher training.
Another useful option is online modules in training in teaching which can be completed in a few hours, however this will not be awarded the same number of points.
For those of you who are interested in tech and IT, this can be an exciting way to be involved in teaching as well as show your innovative side. Speak to teaching fellows, the medical school where you trained, or the one attached to your hospital, to see if there are any opportunities to design on online learning module in something you are interested in.
Many specialties will award points for this. Check with the medical school you trained at and the hospital you are currently teaching in to see if you can get involved. It is also extremely helpful to give you inside information into how OSCE exams are marked and how candidates manage to get high marks. This will help you in future for OSCE style interview stations and post-graduate exams.
If you are applying for a very competitive specialty, you may find that dedicating more of your time and efforts is necessary to guarantee you the job you want. Writing a book or book chapter will usually get you points in the teaching section of your portfolio. Clearly this cannot be done in the last minute run up to applications, but if this is something you have done then don’t forget to include it. Consultants may be involved in writing book chapters in their area of interest, so you may get the opportunity to co-author with them.
Higher teaching qualifications that will score you high points in teaching are the diploma, certificate or master’s in medical education (PG cert, PG dip, MA/MSc). It may be worth considering one of these qualifications if you were unfortunate to not get the job you wanted. You could also think about doing a teaching fellowship or anatomy demonstrating while you prepare to reapply the following year.
Portfolio presentation is really important – marks can even be deducted for poor presentation. You may have worked hard for all the points, but if the examiner can’t see the wood for the trees then you may not gain the marks you expected. Some portfolio stations involve an examiner going through your portfolio alone, whereas others require you to present your portfolio to them. Make sure you highlight clearly the areas sure to gain you points. You must emphasise exactly what you want the examiner to notice, as they may be under pressure to review each portfolio very quickly.
You should systematically sub categorise the teaching you have done, and where applicable mention the important details such as the length of time you were involved, and whether this was a local, regional or national programme. Remember, the examiner is only human, and will appreciate you keeping your portfolio concise, clear and easy to mark.
And most importantly, good luck!
Dr Victoria Barnett is a junior doctor who trained in the London Deanery and ranked 1st in the country in the Opthalmology speciality training applications in 2017/18. She studied Medicine at the University of Nottingham and currently works at the Royal Free Hospital, London.