FY1 is a great opportunity to explore new specialties and start to gain an idea of what working in them is actually like.

A few things to bear in mind though:
  • As a FY1 your job will be very different to a consultant, so don’t base all your decisions on your experience as a FY1, that said if you don’t like ward rounds, a medical speciality may not be the best fit.
  • As bad/good as the role of Registrar in X speciality is, you’ll only do it for part of your career and then spend most of your career as a Consultant in X hence make your decisions based on this and not solely the perspective of a trainee. Being a Med Reg is demanding but your role as a medical consultant will be vastly different.
  • Whatever specialty you plan to do, the portfolio requirements are incredibly similar & transferrable. Many people apply for more than one specialty training program so even if you don’t know what you want to do long term, you can work on the journey there.
  • What sort of patient groups do you enjoy working with? Young (Paeds) or old (Geris)? Single organ/system pathology or multiple organ pathology? Generally well patients (Obstetrics) or those with multiple co-morbidities (Geriatrics)?
  • Do you enjoy community work or prefer being in hospital?
  • Do you enjoy working in big or small teams?
Tips to maximise opportunities as an FY1:
  • Talk to Registrars and Consultants and ask what made them choose their specialities, what do you love and what do they hate? Don’t limit this to the specialities you’re considering, you may be surprised
  • Try to experience as much as of the speciality that you’re attached to – attend clinic, go to theatre, see emergency cases
  • Do a Taster week! My taster week in O&G confirmed my desire to pursue a career in the speciality and was thoroughly enjoyable
  • Find a good mentor/supervisor, someone who will support your development, point you towards opportunities, support applications etc
  • Don’t feel rushed to specialise, many people (myself included) are taking an FY3 to gain more experience in a speciality, these roles are becoming the norm rather than the exception and can be very informative and helpful when eventually applying for training posts (I’m yet to find anyone who regretted the FY3)
  • If you know what you want to do (and even if you don’t), think about how you can make your application competitive
    • Get involved in leading a full cycle Audit/QIPs (don’t have to be in the speciality you necessarily want to do)
    • Take postgraduate exams & specialist courses e.g. ATLS, Basic Practical Skills in O&G, Basic Surgical Skills (you can use your FY2 study budget to pay for these)
    • Get involved with setting up a teaching program for medical students & consider doing a teaching training course
    • Work on case reports & publications
    • Try to get a national prize & do an oral presentation
    • Make sure you have collected letters/certificates for everything you have done during your student years! It takes a very long time to request them afterwards
  • Attend careers days at the royal colleges/ BMJ Careers Fair (usually in October)
  • Talk with you clinical and educational supervisors, they can offer sage advice and help with applications/exam preparation
  • Keep your e-portfolio updated, this will be the evidence you can use when it comes to applications.
Finally, keep an open mind, people change their minds during the Foundation Programme and that’s totally fine, some medics become surgeons and vice versa you may very well find something you had not considered.

By Paula Busuulwa, FY3