Preparing for your IACC

It has been such a long time since I wrote a blog here it feels a bit surreal. Thank you to everyone that has kept STP Perspectives alive and thriving. I was hoping this could be published earlier but work and annual leave have significantly delayed it. I am still including the IACC write up tips in case it would be useful insight for second years. If you are just interested in interview tips please skip further down. 🙂 

What is the IACC?

The IACC, another STP acronym for your collection, is the Independent Assessment of Clinical Competence. It was introduced in 2020 to replace the OSFAs due to the constraints of the pandemic but it may be here to stay. My STP year was the first cohort to sit the IACC as their sole final assessment and I must say it has definitely improved since then. In my final year we got a flavour of the OSFAs as we had our mocks just before all the lockdowns. I am not sure I enjoyed the OSFAs but I was determined to practice and be ready for the real ones. The school came up with this alternative assessment which didn’t need 12 different stations and everyone gathering in London, which might be a bonus for our environment as whole. Since then after passing the IACC and finishing the STP I was also given the opportunity to assess some IACCs so in this post you will get both a perspective from someone who has written it but also assessed it. 

So the IACC for this year consists of two components:

  1. A written critical reflection of your whole STP
  2. A panel interview discussing your written reflection.

Disclaimer: this is a perspective from my journey as a trainee and assessor – the full guidance for the IACC has been published on the National School of Healthcare Science’s website, make sure you consult and read their guidance in full before attempting to write your reflection.

The written component:

The written component of the IACC is a critical reflection of your training experience. It invites you to critically look back to all your experiences and reflect. How did it make you feel? What have you learnt? How do you feel now compared to when you started your STP? Jes wrote an excellent piece on the types of reflections here, definitely worth a read. The critical reflection is based on the Good Scientific Practice (GSP) document published by the Academy for Heathcare Science.. Tip #1: Read the GSP document and ensure you are using the updated 2021 (or latest) version.

The GSP sets out professional standards of behaviour and practice for the healthcare science workforce, so basically standards we should all abide by in our practice, hence the IACC is based on the 5 GSP Domains and a summary statement:

  1. Professional Practice
  2. Scientific Practice
  3. Clinical Practice
  4. Research, Development & Innovation
  5. Clinical Leadership 
  6. Global statement

In each section you are invited to write about your different experiences throughout your training. You need to show critical reflection rather than list all your achievements and reference submitted/signed off evidence from your portfolio. For example:

1. During my training I was part of the duty scientist rota and I was very good at it.

2. During my training I was part of the duty scientist rota which helped me gain experience in answering routine queries and helping patients. Initially I found it difficult as my answers would directly affect patient results but through training I was able to gain confidence and learn how to approach complex problems. I would still ask for help or a second pair of eyes if needed. 

Option one just states an experience and boasts about the ability of the trainee. Option 2 reflects on how this experience has helped the trainee develop and also shows the trainee would be a “safe pair of hands” and aware of their personal limitations. So when you write your reflection, ensure you are showing the assessor how you felt, what you have learnt in your journey into clinical science and what steps have you taken or will take when something has gone wrong.

Tip #2: Ensure you are reflective and not descriptive.

Let’s take a look at the separate sections.

Professional Practice

You can reference the GSP domains or points directly in your write up to add some emphasis on your topic you have chosen. I.e “Thinking about the Probity (1.2) section of the GSP Domain 1….”

Points to think about:

  • How have you applied professional practice principles in your training?
  • Have you been involved with training others?
  • Have you given & received feedback? How has it made you feel? Write about your MSF and your action plans that may have resulted from it
  • Did you attend training sessions/conferences/seminars? Showcase your willingness on professional development and what those opportunities may have given you.
  • Acknowledge the pandemic, it has been a tough time for everyone. Reflect on how it has affected your practice and training and what you have done to overcome these additional obstacles.

Scientific Practice

This section is very specific to your specialism and an opportunity to showcase your essential skills you have gained as part of your specialist modules.  In this section you should focus on anything that shows you know the basis of your specialism. For example in bioinformatics you could write about new pipelines you developed or new test validation. Similarly in other specialisms find examples of all essential skills required of you. 

You could acknowledge any competencies that are not complete and how you are planning to complete them. Make sure you ask someone senior to check your section and that you have covered all the essential points.

Clinical Practice

In this section think about showcasing examples of clinical practice. 

  • Think about specific cases and link it back to the patient or patients you interacted with or how your actions affected their journey.
  • Think about projects you have been involved with that are affecting clinical care, how they may have improved it. How have you affected change?
  • Remember to reference your competencies.

Research Development & Innovation

This is a section to showcase your research project, talk about how it went, your conclusion and reflect on the progress.

  • Did you collaborate with any other scientists? How did it go?
  • Did you have a positive outcome? What went well? What would you need to change next time?
  • Did you have a negative outcome? Why? How would your experimental design be changed?

You can also mention your elective if you went on one in this section and also any development projects you may have worked on. You can repeat yourself with things you mentioned before if you reflect differently.

Clinical Leadership

Anything, even small things can have a leadership component, have a think about your training to find your best examples.

Points to consider for this section:

  • Describe your growth during the STP
    • How do you feel in year 3, was it the same in year 1?
  • How have you improved?
  • How are you planning to further develop?
  • Have you been involved in leadership roles?
    • Have you trained younger trainees?
    • Have you been involved with public engagement?
    • Have you been involved with the network or theme boards?
  • Did you do any leadership courses?

Global Statement

Your global statement is your summary section where you can bring everything together and set the your goals as a newly qualified clinical scientist. Remember you are not expected to know everything when you register and you will continue to develop.

  • Amalgamate your STP experience so far. For example:

Reflecting upon the entirety of my training I can clearly see how much I have learned throughout the last three years and how I have developed as a scientist. 

  • Highlight your immediate actions. For example:

My immediate planned  actions will be to finalise my portfolio and meet all the competencies that are outstanding to enable state registration, before fully committing to my role as a clinical scientist.

  • Believe in yourself without being too cocky.For example:

I consider myself a competent scientist with knowledge of my strengths and personal limitations which I can use to ensure I act as a safe pair of hands in my working environment. 

  • What are your aims & objectives?

I aim to continue to provide training to colleagues as required and keep communicating my work with my team and department while also being a healthcare science advocate for my community. 

Training Plan:

The optional appendix training plan can be useful if you have run out of space. Add a table of your plan after the IACC and any training courses you are planning to attend. The assessors may ask about things that will happen between your write-up and your interview if they think it is relevant and if they are present in your plan. So do consider submitting something for it.

The Interview

Although I haven’t sat the IACC interview myself, I have been a member of the assessor panel so this is the perspective from that experience. 

Your interview is an opportunity to validate everything you have written in your narrative. The assessor panel meets in advance of the interview, having read your submission and they discuss and come up with the questions. They all agree and prepare for the interview. The assessors, while reading your submissions, will go check your references so ensure you link up the correct competences in your writing. 

During the interview you should get at least a question for each domain and you will need to pass all five domains and the global statement in order to pass this final assessment. In addition, the assessors would need to also mark you against the following points:

  • recognise the scope of your own competence to practise as an autonomous professional and explain how you will self-regulate practise safely within this scope
  • ensure appropriate standards and patient safety are maintained at all times
  • demonstrate your ability to work safely & effectively at the level of a newly qualified threshold entry clinical scientist in your specialty

The assessors can add questions during the interview if they want to ask you to expand on any points. After the interview, they meet to discuss the outcome. There might be an observer present during the interview and pre-/post- assessment meetings. 

How to prepare for your interview?

  • I would suggest rereading your submission and any referenced material you may have added to be familiar with what you wrote and the content of your competencies. You could organise a mock interview with some senior colleagues and they can form some questions to ask you based on your write up. 
  • Ensure your chosen space to take the interview is quiet and tidy and I would suggest you choose an appropriate outfit.
  • Try not to stress, ask the assessors for clarifications if you need them and showcase your best self while reflecting on the process. 
  • At the end of your interview, if you finish early you have the choice to stay in the room or terminate the interview, recap in your mind your answers and make sure you don’t have anything to add.
  • There’s a new addition for 2022 in the interview format which includes two CBD style questions. Highlighting the school guidance:
    • “The panel interview will now include two unseen case-based discussion scenarios, as well as the usual interview questions about the critical reflective narrative. This guidance has been updated to reflect this addition and details are included in the interview section.”
    • The school has published (or are publishing) case examples for every specialism. Have a look at the examples as part of your prep.
    • The cases outline what is expected and what CBD criteria it is assessing at that session.
    • Ensure you run some mock mini CBDs with your training officer to get some feedback. Think what scenarios can be asked to be prepared for the questions. Ensure you brush up on your specialism essentials.

To conclude, the IACC is a different type of assessment than what we are all used to but it can be a very rewarding process of amalgamating your experiences and wrapping up your training so use it as such.

I wish every single one of you the best of luck. You’ve got this!! And if something doesn’t work out on the day you just practice more and ace the next one.

Don’t hesitate to message me if I can help and remember to get someone to practice with. If you are a second year trainee sitting the IACC next year, just start thinking about what have you done and want to do and reflect on the process. It will make it easier when you come to write your IACC.

Good luck!

Author: Adriana

I am a Clinical Bioinformatician based at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and a Regional Training Lead for Health Education England. I am all for increasing genomics awareness in and out of healthcare and interested in bioinformatics and genomics and general healthcare science.

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