Reflections from Graduates

We spoke to two successful STP graduates who have been qualified for 1+ years and are working as either registered or accredited healthcare scientists in two busy NHS Trusts. We asked them to cast their minds back to their first year selves and consider two questions with the benefit of their hindsight and experiences.

Tim, Cardiac Clinical Scientist

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

Plan as much as you can. For a three year programme, it’s amazing how quickly you can feel behind the curve. In Year 1, I threw myself into competencies – but before realising it I was behind with University commitments. At the beginning of each academic year, it can be useful to create a broad overview outlining what needs doing and how you can balance your study days between university assignments and competencies. Remember to update this as you move through the year! Gantt charts or timetables can be incredibly effective and make you feel like you’ve achieved a lot. 

Recognise your time is a precious resource. It’s always great to say yes to things – however the STP is excellent at challenging your time management capabilities. When making decisions about extra responsibilities/tasks, remember that you are already juggling an MSc programme, OneFile and working full-time!  Moreover, keeping your “you time” is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Try and be selective when taking up extra assignments/activities!

What would you have done differently?

I should have been more willing to speak up about feelings of fraud/imposter syndrome, earlier in the STP. For a good period of time, I kept quiet and knuckled down – all the while struggling with (a false) feeling of pressure to perform well, as well as a need to quickly develop knowledge relating to my specialism. This was mainly associated with concepts directly relating to the working day, rather than uni assignments. With hindsight, however, it turns out that absolutely everyone feels imposter syndrome. It’s far healthier to confront the issue, and tackle the reasons for feeling stressed about it head-on. Keeping an open dialogue with colleagues on the STP, mentors and your training officers will help frame the expectations of you during your training, as well as providing a support network when you’re feeling overwhelmed. 

See also Tim’s post from two years ago on tips for surviving the emotional rollercoaster of the STP, which are still largely relevant!

Alice, Genetic Counsellor

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

I would tell my first-year self to be more confident to make the most of the benefits that come from being a trainee! It’s very easy to get caught up in getting competencies done, but you are in a brilliant position to be able to observe and take part in a huge variety of activities. Ask if you can observe a clinic you are interested in, visit a different department, take part in a project, or attend an interesting conference. Your colleagues will appreciate your enthusiasm and help, and once you qualify it might be harder to find the time!

What would you have done differently?

I really enjoyed my training and wouldn’t want to change anything about it. I think the highs and lows are part of the experience, and help you build resilience as you join a very busy NHS service. I do wish I had been a bit more organised with competencies though, for example planning which ones I wanted to work on in a particular clinic etc., so that I wasn’t working out which cases to use after.

We would love to hear whether you found this post useful and to hear any constructive comments below.

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