My name is Holly and I’m a first year Medical Physics trainee specialising in Radiotherapy, across Suffolk and Essex. I first heard about the STP in a careers lecture during year 1 of my undergraduate degree and began preparing to apply virtually as I left the hall. Hopefully this post will give a little insight (and hope) for entrance to the STP and what to expect once you reach the flip side
Before too much waffle I just wanted to say when I began my application to the STP, I felt like I may as well have been applying to be an Olympic sprinter (I reckon I’ve ran successfully about a 2km total in my entire life). I applied with an undergraduate physics degree from a smaller university, and my work experience was serving chips, so it goes without saying if I can do it, you certainly can.
Application and Interview
For anyone who is a skim reader, here are my main tips beyond your long-listing:
- Prepare your answers as early as possible
- Don’t discredit non-clinical work experience
- Relate experiences to the NHS constitution and person specification as appropriately as possible
- Fake interview confidence (if it isn’t there already, lucky…) and show initiative
If my memory serves me right, there were four science questions before the interview ran into a more casual conversational interview.
The interview is just an expansion of your written application, with a few more scientific bits thrown in. I categorised it as the science questions falling into the scientific skills, and the more character-based questions falling into transferable and physical skills. Doing this allowed me to relate everything back to the appropriate core person specification.
In terms of the scientific skills, I was asked a few simple questions about my potential specialism. I then discussed and entirely backed up experiences that showed transferable and physical skills from my part-time jobs as a waitress and takeaway counter staff, as well as from my hobbies. One question related to a time I’d shown initiative and worked under pressure, to which I began to discuss a particularly stressful shift. Through this I was able to integrate skills such as leadership and communication that can’t necessarily be portrayed through your degree, so big up those part-time jobs!
I essentially had a cheat sheet I religiously revised in advance to ensure my interview nerves didn’t derail me. The sheet had some basic scientific knowledge, some information about the trust, as well as what I felt were my strongest skills relating to the person specification and constitution.
It’s easier said than done, but my biggest tip would be to try to remain (professionally) confident and relaxed while in your interview. You’ve made it this far for a reason! I even got one of my scientific questions horrifically wrong, then discussed through the right solution with my interviewers -amazingly the world didn’t explode! I’d also suggest doing your research and gathering your own questions to ask at the end, just to really show your interest in the role.
You’re human, they’re human! You don’t have to be perfect, just able to show you’re capable of what they’re looking for and able to take initiative. If you want some more guidance prior to applying, I’d definitely recommend blogs such as this and STP buddies to hear from real trainees.
First Year University
Once you hit September, make sure you’re prepared for an intense few months.
I began my first year with a three month university stint at Kings College London. Obviously my experience has been in the year following the bug that shall not be named, so it might not be conventional, but we completed 5 day weeks of 9-5 remote learning, with a few in person lab trips. I had three modules, two consisting of 30% coursework/labs and 70% exam, and one being entirely coursework. There was also a trip to the Gordon Museum of Pathology, which was insane.
The museum is spread across multiple stories, and has an abundance of examples and models of diseases, real preserved organs and medical tools and their success stories. The museum covers something for everyone, and also contextualises and gives background on some of its 8000 specimens. I especially liked the paintings of Lam Qua, which documented pre-op tumour patients from the 1800s through portraits.
It certainly isn’t for the queasy or faint-hearted, but if you can get past that, it was so interesting and incredibly useful for visualising content learnt in the anatomy and physiology module.
While the workload is certainly more than my undergraduate, with good time management it’s definitely doable. I’d also highly suggest taking the time to get to know your fellow trainees. You’re all in the same boat, and can really help each other when it comes to sourcing study materials, revision or just exam stress relief.
First Year Work Based
Following this, I began my first rotation in January 2022. Prior to joining the Trust, I had met my training officer to set up start dates, and she provided me with a loose timetable outlining my year structure. As I’m studying Radiotherapy, it was split into four main rotations, each lasting approximately 8 weeks:
- Radiation Safety
- Imaging with Ionising Radiation
- Imaging with Non-Ionising Radiation
At present I’ve come to the end of Radiotherapy, which saw me spend my days participating in quality assurance checks of machines, studying material and regulations to improve my understanding and practicing treatment planning. If you want more detail on the specifics, I believe Alick wrote a super informative post on here in December 2021!
My module supervisor together with my training officer put together a timetable for me for the first two weeks, and let me know of opportunities or people to go to for shadowing, tutorials and participation throughout. Beyond my introductory weeks, the placement involved finding relevant colleagues and opportunities that could help me to enhance my training and complete the competencies. Any patches of free time I spent often researching or studying any background that might help me better understand certain procedures. Additional to submitting reports, I’m due to complete one directly observed practical and complete one case-based discussion which, the earlier you plan, the less daunting they are!
It’s hard to imagine falling into the swing of finding relevant learning opportunities to do each day, but within week two I felt comfortable finding people to show me things, answer questions or who were completing tasks that would be beneficial to me. Additionally the rotation hasn’t been strictly limited to the competencies. Any areas that have spiked my interest outside of the Radiotherapy rotation I’ve been able to spend some time looking into, such as Brachytherapy. It’s all relevant and encouraged! I’m now onto Nuclear Medicine, which follows the same structure, and has been fantastic so far!
My advice would just be to make the most of every opportunity to participate in tasks, ask any and every question even if you think it’s silly (it’s not) and most importantly, keep on top of your competencies and rotation supervisor meetings. Having them clearly laid out makes highlighting gaps and prioritising tasks so much simpler and keeping your supervisor in the loop means they can scout and sign you up for bits you might struggle to source yourself.
I’ve tried to stay pretty brief, because the whole STP process can feel so overwhelming! Beyond the nitty gritty of applying and what to expect, my only advice is to have confidence in what you have achieved and can achieve. It’s so cliché, but imposter syndrome can really get the better of you. Be proud of getting to the application, be confident you deserve the role, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes during training, that’s the point of training!
It is a scary prospect but an incredibly rewarding programme; if I can be any help at all don’t hesitate to contact me! I know when I was applying I had a million and one questions.
LinkedIn – Holly Hipkin Russell
Good luck, you’ve got this!