Trainee Networks | How the London Network has shaped my STP experience

The STP can be extremely daunting. When starting back in 2018, I was absolutely terrified about beginning a new career in a specialism I wasn’t hugely familiar with and in a city much bigger than I was used to. A key decision that helped me calm these anxieties and settle into STP life, was getting involved with the London Healthcare Scientist Trainee Network (HCSTN). Their events and socials were critical experiences that helped me meet new friends, gain insight from other trainees and contributed to my development as a healthcare scientist.

In my first year, I had the pleasure of working closely with a number of board members, including the 2018/19 co-chairs. Seeing their involvement with the network first hand, I knew I wanted to get involved with the board and in my second year I did just that. As a board member, I was able to use skills I’d learnt from working in bioinformatics to analyse the annual STP experience survey, as well as utilising my reputation as a bit of a party animal to help organise social events – including a very lively pub quiz welcome social. 

After a year on the board, I wanted to get even more involved in my third year and I was thrilled when I was able to take the position of co-chair. I’d been so excited envisaging what I’d like to achieve as co-chair of the board but as we’re all painfully aware, this year things are a little different. A global pandemic has brought new problems and a completely new territory for us as a board – a board who for the first year ever, have never even met in person. Virtual events and meetings, technical difficulties and zoom quizzes are the new norm and we have the new challenge of finding methods of making engaging content whilst being restricted to online events. What’s more, the network is a great way for trainees to get to know one another and this year, with online university teaching and a lack of face-to-face interactions, this is more important than ever. In response, the network is working hard to provide as many opportunities as we can to help alleviate these difficulties. We’ve recently launched a brand new case club, commenced a second round of the buddy scheme and will soon be hosting our first ever virtual winter event and social. And just as importantly, we continue to always be available to help signpost trainees who are in need of support in the right direction, whatever the problem. 

Although the pandemic continues to limit what the network can provide in terms of events and socials, with the promising developments in vaccines being announced lately I’m hopeful there will still be a chance for this year’s board to meet many of the London trainees in person before my time as co-chair comes to end. 

Over the last two and a bit years, I’ve found the STP to be an exciting but at times incredibly stressful experience – having had the opportunity through the London HCSTN to build up such a reliable network of trainees who can relate to this has been invaluable. Being on the board has also meant I’ve been able to work with and get to know well trainees from a diverse range of specialisms – people I would never have come across in my everyday work. 

Being involved with the London HCSTN has helped me stay sane when the workload has been tough, allowed me to make some incredible friends and given me the platform to help improve the STP experience for London trainees. If there’s just one thing I’d recommend doing as an STP – it would be getting involved with your trainee network.

You can find more information about the trainee networks in each region and how to get in touch here:

https://nshcs.hee.nhs.uk/programmes/stp/trainees/regional-trainee-networks/

Author: Maria

I'm a 3rd year Clinical Bioinformatics (genomics) trainee at Great Ormond Street Hospital

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