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Learning on the Job

As you head into your first jobs as fully qualified doctors, studying may be the last thing on your mind. But leaving medical school behind doesn’t mean leaving study behind. Doctors are considered trainees until they are consultant level, and foundation doctors are expected to cover a set curriculum to prepare them for specialty training.

Whilst it may be prudent to take a few months away from structured study as you settle into your first clinical job, many of you may want to capitalise on your medical school knowledge by taking membership exams during your foundation years. As a junior doctor, your formal study may take a back seat, but the stakes of your knowledge will be higher.

Medics.Academy is devoted to healthcare training, and as such we have worked hard to help doctors and allied health professionals continue their study throughout a busy career. For junior doctors, we have developed an entire library of courses for your foundation years – F|Docs.

How to get four F|Docs courses for free

F|Docs is currently being rolled out as a pilot in two UK deaneries. In any hospital within these foundation schools which chooses to implement F|Docs, all doctors can access the library without personally paying.

For everyone else, we have selected four courses from the library that are the most beneficial for people who have graduated from medical school and are about to enter their first rotation. This bundle is called “F|Docs Lite” and will be free for the rest of the year. You can sign up to it here.

We have recently been showcasing clips from F|Docs Lite courses on the blog. They are:

  1. The Junior Doctor Contract

  2. Preparing for F1

  3. Leadership & the Crash Team

  4. Ophthalmology for the Non-Ophthalmologist

With these courses, you’ll be better prepared for your foundation years than the majority of other healthcare professionals out there.

The curriculum & teaching sessions

The FY1 curriculum is available on the NHS Foundation website. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the curriculum. It outlines 20 key outcomes which foundation doctors must demonstrate before they are allowed to progress into core, specialty or general practice training.

Teaching sessions should be included as part of your F1 rota. According to the BMA, F1s are entitled to three hours of protected, bleep-free teaching sessions per week – or these sessions can be aggregated to seven full days of teaching. However, trainees often find they miss teaching due to clinical commitments or annual leave. Teaching is rarely a priority and in-person sessions are difficult to organise. As a result, quality can suffer, including issues like covering an unimportant topic multiple times while daily difficulties go ignored. In addition, since teaching is usually organised locally, there is no standardisation of teaching across the UK, which was one of the initial purposes of the foundation programme.

If you miss scheduled teaching sessions due to clinical commitments, remember that these can be exception reported.

Study leave

FY1 trainees are not entitled to any study leave, except trainees in Scotland, where five days may be ‘borrowed’ from their FY2 entitlement after April 1st of their F1 year. In F2, you’re entitled to 30 days study leave, which can be used for educational courses, conferences or leave for study or exams.

Many trusts may offer extra bursaries for junior doctors who wish to take more time in study. Check your local intranet to see if your trust offers any opportunities for extra study time.

Balancing study and working life

You will have become adept at balancing your clinical placements and study whilst at medical school. However, the demands on your time as a junior doctor may be more difficult to blend with studying. Adjusting to a new location; a schedule that includes varied hours and night shifts; the added pressures of making clinical decisions during your working hours. You may need to develop new strategies to help you keep on top of your ongoing studies.

Achieving work-life balance while meeting your teaching requirements will not be easy, but it is possible. You will need flexible and effective revision strategies, a good understanding of how your time is protected under the junior doctor contract and familiarity with the Guardians of Safe Working Hours wherever you are working.

Why we believe F|Docs will help

When the foundation programme began, its goal was to provide a protected environment for learning in the first two years of a doctor’s career. We wanted to be sure all our doctors met a standard level of knowledge and experience before entering specialty training.

Professor Derek Gallen was the first and last National Director of the UKFP. He lead the programme for 10 years before it was agreed to divide it into regions (Foundation Schools), each with their own leadership (the deaneries) to allow for more local decision making.

The deans meet periodically as a council over the UKFP as a whole, and for a long time, they and Professor Gallen have been aware of the growing challenges that face doctors in training and the hospitals that have to find a way to provide it.

The problem fundamentally never changes – not enough time or money.

What’s worse, the problem only grows as our healthcare gets better! People are living longer, there are more ways to treat patients, and our required knowledge and skill-sets become more complex. Getting trainers in at the right time is also a logistical nightmare. They are busy people, and there are too few of them to meet the demand. Since it takes at least a decade longer to train a trainer than it does to train a doctor, the challenges we face can appear insurmountable.

How will we fix this problem? We don’t claim to have the complete solution, but the next step is clear – scale expertise with technology.

All didactic, non-interactive learning does not need to be done in person. A lecture can be captured once and accessed by any doctor with a phone. With software, we can also track time spent in learning automatically and test knowledge acquired.

That’s where Medics.Academy steps in.

Medics.Academy CEO Johann Malawana enlisted the help of Dr Emma Cox and Dr Vidushi Golash, recent Foundation doctors who had fixed incorrect work schedules for themselves and their colleagues, ensuring they were paid for all the hours they worked. They brought to the table first-hand knowledge of the challenges that Foundation doctors face today. Professor Gallen agreed to lead the F|Docs project, bringing his understanding of the system as a whole, as well as an extensive network in Foundation Programme leadership and knowledge of the challenges that face the top of the structure.

Together with a dedicated team of developers, filmographers, volunteer doctors and medical students, we created F|Docs; not to replace in-person training, but to supplement it. We wanted to provide a scalable option for didactic training, enabling the bandwidth for hospital administrators to put more time into the type of sessions that cannot be put onto a screen (such as role-playing exercises or practising physical skills).

If you gain access to F|Docs via your deanery, your progress through courses will be visible to your administrators automatically. However, if you don’t have that option, the completion of a course will still generate a PDF certificate stating approximate time spent, which can be added to your portfolio as normal.

Sign up to F|Docs Lite and you will have four F|Docs courses for free, three of which were selected because they will prepare you well for your first rotation.

If you are new to Medics.Academy and want to test the waters first, you can enrol in the course The Junior Doctor Contract for free even without the F|Docs Lite bundle.

We are also welcoming feedback on the programme in order to collaboratively develop the best possible platform for foundation trainee doctors. If you’d like to discuss opportunities to get involved, please get in touch.

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