Acronyms. The STP is full of ’em: DOPS, OCES, CBD, NSHCS, OSFA.
If you haven’t heard of the IACC by now, have you been living under a rock?! (I wouldn’t blame you to be fair- it’s probably better than everything going on in the world right now). But for those of you who haven’t, the IACC is the ‘independent assessment of clinical competence’ and the official replacement of the 2020 OSFAs. Yes, an essay- but not just an essay- a critical reflection. If you’d have told me 6 months ago that I would be writing an essay instead of facing the OSFAs in July 2020, I would’ve laughed in your face and said something like ‘Yeah, I wish’. But now that I’m really not sitting the OSFAs next month I feel a bit like I’ve had something taken away from me. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about the cancellation, our replacement assessment and the altered STP completion requirements, so bear with me while I apparently work my way through them on a public blog post.
We found out quite a while ago now about the decision to ‘cancel (not postpone)’ the live OSFAs. Then, for about a month, we received almost weekly updates about an announcement that is coming on [insert future date here]. Now we’ve had that announcement and it’s had time to sink in; if I’m totally honest, I’m somewhat underwhelmed. I knew the OSFAs weren’t going ahead as normal of course, but I had thought there would still be some sort of practical assessment- maybe locally, maybe virtually, or maybe a viva-style thing. I don’t know what I was expecting. Not an essay though. It feels like the OSFAs, while something that everyone dreads, is this rigorous, totally fool-proof assessment to show our employers, the NSHCS, AHCS, HCPC and ourselves that we are safe and ready to take on the role of a newly qualified clinical scientist. I have concerns about how others in our fields will view the 2020 finishing cohort, having not had to prove ourselves in this way, but also how we will view ourselves. Made up overwhelmingly of millenials, a generation already rife with imposter-syndrome, the lack of opportunity to prove ourselves in the same way nearly every other clinical scientist has had to is going to knock confidence. Maybe I’m projecting, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one feeling a bit like this.
I’m also very aware that the above paragraph makes me sound a bit short sighted. There are obviously way more important things going on right now than whether I get “the chance to prove myself as a clinical scientist”. I’m also in a very fortunate position that my training and clinical practice, other than having to work from home, hasn’t been hugely affected. If I were in a different situation- say everyone in my department was working flat out on the covid-19 response and simply wouldn’t have any time to sign off competencies or do an end of training assessment, I’m sure my opinion might be different. I also appreciate that some trainees have been redeployed and therefore just don’t have the time to work on competencies or revise for an assessment on par with the OSFAs. There was a point where I thought I might volunteer at a Nightingale hospital, and even did my critical care support worker training; in my head I was ever-so-slightly stressed about how I could take on this new role and complete my portfolio. So, I do get it, I understand why things are the way they are, but it definitely doesn’t stop me having these thoughts, and I’ve always found writing them out to an anonymous audience somewhat cathartic. I’d be interested to hear how other third year trainees feel about all this!
So the new criteria for completing the STP are:
- MSc in clinical science
- IACC (OSFA replacement)
- Revised e-portfolio (only rotation module competencies and professional practice competencies need to be 100% completed)
Although we now don’t have to complete all of our work-based modules I have had a discussion with my TO and due to my specific circumstances, there is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to complete everything as normal. I personally feel like I would just be taking advantage of the situation if I didn’t complete all my competencies and that just doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t know if it’s something anyone would ever ask us about but in the future if someone asked me why I didn’t complete my portfolio to 100% I know I wouldn’t be able to give them a justifiable reason. Having said that, I want to reiterate that everyone has a unique set of circumstances at the moment, so if you are unable to complete your portfolio for any reason owing to the covid situation you shouldn’t feel guilt or any other negative emotions about it at all.
One positive thing I can say with certainty is that the people at the NSHCS and AHCS are way more qualified than me to say what criteria trainees need to meet to become registered clinical scientists. So I’m trusting that they know what they’re doing and wouldn’t use the criteria they are unless it was safe to do so. Remember, you also need to be signed off by a HCPC registered scientist, and the chances are they aren’t making that decision alone- it will be a consensus of many people that you’ve worked with over the past 3 years. They know you better than an OSFA assessor does anyway, if they think you’re ready, you are.
I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe and well during this time. So to end this post I just want to shout out to my fellow third years: we’ve done so well to get this far, good luck with the IACC and STP completion; let’s get it! Second and third years: this is a difficult time for you too. Keep going, things will get better and it will be worth it in the long run. Future trainees: What an exciting time to be starting the STP. YES it’s a bit weird and stressful but the NHS and WORLD need Healthcare scientists now more than ever! To anyone else, thank you for reading and supporting STP perspectives!