Starting the STP | Tops Tips

The Scientist Training Programme is an incredibly competitive programme that will challenge you and provide you with a vast amount of knowledge and incredible experiences – you have worked very hard to get here and you should be very proud!

Take a minute just to think about what you’ve achieved already!

You’re about to embark on your new career as a trainee clinical scientist, maybe you’ve never had a full time job before, perhaps you’re new to the NHS, or maybe you’ve just moved roles in the NHS. I’m sure everyone is facing some level of uncertainty with what’s to come and what it looks like to be a trainee on the STP. I have compiled a list of my top tips for how to approach the next few months to help you out!

1. Remember all new jobs are tiring.

The first few months of any new job are exciting and tiring; there’s a lot to take in as you find your way around your hospital, discover what your role looks like, and attempt to learn a lot of new names (I’m ashamed to admit how long this took me!). Alongside the day to day work, you’ll be learning about OneFile, competencies, and the requirements of your training. This can be overwhelming as you get your head around it all, but be kind to yourself, especially in the first week, and give yourself some down time to let your brain recharge in evenings and the weekend.

2. You don’t need to know it all straight away.

I definitely struggled with impostor syndrome at the start of my training, I felt like there was so much to learn and everyone else knew more than me, even the other STPs in my cohort. This was exacerbated by the fact that, whilst I’m studying the clinical immunology specialism, I hadn’t actually studied it since my A level days nearly 10 years ago! However, my mentor repeatedly reminded my that I wouldn’t have been given a position on the programme if the interviewers didn’t think I showed potential. More importantly, the STP is designed to teach you everything you need to know to become a clinical scientist, you will learn it all as you go!

3. Get in contact with the other STPs in your cohort.

Some specialisms have large numbers of STPs whilst others have very few (there are only 6 of us in my year of clinical immunology). The other STPs in your cohort are the people who will best understand the various aspects of your training. You can share experiences within your trusts, talk about university assignments, give each other tips on completing competencies, and so much more! Along with this, if possible I recommend finding a mentor at your trust (some hospitals will put this in place for you) as it is very helpful to have someone who understands both your lab and your training requirements who can support you.

4. Don’t forget to remember how great you did to get here!

I can’t emphasise this enough, especially this year with the pandemic, the world has gone mad but you worked so hard and studied for the interview – you are awesome!

5. Organisation is your best friend.

The STP is made of three main components : the MSc, your work based assessments, and your full time job. You will develop the skill to balance them well over the course of your training. I have found the easiest way to stay on top of my workload is to keep track of what work I have completed, which competencies I’m part way through, and which I haven’t begun yet. I’m a big fan of a spreadsheet and have a couple on the go at the moment, this helps me stay focused on continually progressing and has been a life-saver during the pandemic where all my plans have changed!

6. Stay adaptable.

The National School of Healthcare Sciences has always championed adaptability as a vital skill for clinical scientists to learn, and it’s never been more important than during this pandemic. Training plans are being rearranged for virtually all current trainees as departments may not be able to offer training needed in first year rotations until later in the year. It’s possible this will impact some first year trainees too. Your training officer will ensure you receive all the training you need, it may just not be in the order you expected. Be patient with the situation and keep communicating with your training officer, there is always something to develop or learn in the STP!

7. Enjoy yourself!

The STP is a prestigious and exciting training programme, there is plenty of work to keep you very busy but don’t forget to enjoy the experience. You will meet lots of new people, attend conferences, learn loads of new technical and professional skills, and contribute to the healthcare of hundreds of thousands (or even more!) patients which is such a privilege!

Good luck!

Author: Kat

2nd year Immunology STP trainee based at Southampton General Hospital.

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