How to: Nail first year of the STP

Hello! Hopefully there’s a lot of new STP trainees that have found this page since this one is especially for you. Since most new trainees join their trusts at the beginning of September, Adriana and I thought we could put together a little post just before then, to address some of the key skills we think you’ll need, and top tips for smashing your first year of training! So we decided on our top 10 things and made them into a fancy infographic because who doesn’t love a good infographic? But do read on for an explanation on each point!

Adriana can you edit this_

Skills

  1. Patience. There is a lot that goes into taking on a new trainee. Training plans, organising rotations, boring HR stuff, learning to use the portfolio service. Be patient with everyone involved with your training. You might start the week after you wanted to, your rotations might not be organised as quickly as you’d hoped and your competencies won’t get signed off immediately. Get used to it. There’s a lot of work involved with hosting a trainee and remember- everyone is doing this on top of their normal job roles, so be patient and grateful for when things do happen.
  2. Initiative. This isn’t school. You are not going to have your hand held or be baby-fed everything you need to know and do. You might find that you don’t have a training plan that explicitly states how you’re going to cover every competency – this is good! It gives you the opportunity to be creative, use your initiative and fit something that you want to do into a competency.
  3. Perseverance. You may have heard of the dreaded rotations of first year. No, they may not be directly related to your specialism, but if you forget about that for a minute- when else are you going to get the opportunity to just go and see what goes on in other departments in the hospital? Your specialism isn’t the only cool thing that goes on behind the scenes! Having said that- of course you then have to write up your competencies. Persevere- you saw something cool, you document it and then you move on.

Top Tips

  1. Take every opportunity to learn. There are so many opportunities during the STP. As a supernumerary member of your department, the chances are you’ll be able to get out and go to a lot of things that qualified scientists just don’t have the time to do. I’m talking outreach, careers fairs, conferences, classes and more. You can learn something from everyone you meet, be they members of the public who had never heard of your specialism, a band 3 in your department who’s been there for years or a consultant clinical scientist. Make the most of being surrounded by people who, very often, will know a lot more than you do.
  2. Have regular conversations with your TO. Having good communications with your training officer is essential to feeling happy with your training. I’m not saying that there won’t be times when you are stressed or feel a little bit hopeless, because there will be. But making a plan to address it with your TO is surprisingly cathartic. If you aren’t happy with your training don’t stew on it; see if you can figure it out yourself in the first instance and if you can’t- speak with your TO. Part of their role is overseeing your training and they want you to be happy and doing well.
  3. Don’t waste any time. Your first year is the time for you to get a broad grounding in all the areas you are going to need to know about to develop your specialism further. Don’t waste time waiting for people to tell you what to do. Get to know what goes on in your department as early as possible- put yourself out there instead of waiting for people to come to you. If you have an afternoon with nothing planned- don’t waste your time; start on a professional practice competency, practice a skill you know you need to develop or read around a topic you need to know about. It may seem like a long way away now- but your second year will come around sooner than you expect (trust me) and you want to be prepared and not falling behind on your competencies.
  4. Ask for help. We’ve said it before and we will say it again. This is so so so important! If you have tried everything and still can’t figure something out, there is approximately zero shame in asking for help. If you don’t want to ask someone in your department just yet, ask your fellow trainees! My cohort have been an absolute lifeline for me this year.
  5. Reflect. Ugh groan. But, yes: reflection. Reflection is biiiiiiigggg in the STP. I hate to admit it because I do find it boring, but reflection will make you a better scientist. Looking at experiences and deciding what went well, what didn’t go well and why, naturally fosters self-improvement. Plus, if nothing else, there is a competency to generate a reflective diary. Start early, just a few bullet points every now and then and by the end of 3 years you’ll have more reflective logs than you know what to do with.
  6. Cake. Win your new colleagues over with cake. Whether you’re a star baker (and The Great British Bake-Off is your back up plan if the STP doesn’t work out) or you’ll have to pop into a shop to provide something edible, bringing a treat into the department for your colleagues is sure to earn you some brownie points. It’s easy to feel like a bit of an outsider when you might not directly fit into a team or are working on your own projects a lot of the time. But remember, you are a member of the department and the first step to feeling like it, is acting like it.
  7. Join your regional trainee network. Now, it is possible we are slightly biased in this as we are both involved with our respective networks. However, they are a really good resource to supplement your learning. They put lots of effort in to organise training days where you can address professional practice competencies that may be difficult to sign off on your own, run OSFA workshops to help you prepare as well as help you to meet other trainees in your region in all disciplines and all years. Some will also have HSST’s involved who are a fountain of knowledge for all things STP. So at your induction day there will be representatives from all the networks across England so make sure you go find your network and sign up to their mailing list.

As always, we hope you found this helpful! If there are any current trainees reading this and want to add some of their top tips that would be great: let us know in the comments. Cheers for reading- until next time!

Author: Jes

I am a trainee clinical bioinformatician working at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. I am passionate about increasing awareness and discussion about healthcare science and particularly the routes into the field.

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