Supporting Others with Career Concerns
This excellent module produced by the London Deanery looks at how best to support trainee doctors with their career planning – a task that has become increasingly pressing in the wake of Modernising Medical Careers (MMC). After defining some key terms, the module considers why trainee doctors need career support, and who is best placed to provide it. The module then outlines the importance of having a structured approach to career support, and in turn describes the four-stage model in some details. The four stages are:
- career exploration
- decision making
- plan implementation
in some detail.
Next, there is some basic guidance provided on how to structure an individual career support session. The module concludes with some suggestions about how best to approach the task of supporting a trainee whose career plans you believe are unrealistic.
The focus of the module is on the provision of career support to trainee doctors by their educational supervisors. However, the main points covered also apply in the undergraduate setting. This module will also then be relevant to those who provide career support to medical students.
Giving Careers Support -Some quick tips
When reviewing a trainee’s progress and competence some discussion should also take place regarding career planning. This need not be a long discussion, but should be raised for the following reasons:
Benefits to the Trainee
- To clarify required progression points e.g. MRCS exams, particularly in light of ongoing changes in medical education and training
- To confirm suitability for their chosen career
- It gives the trainee the opportunity to express any doubts or anxieties about their progress to achieving their career aim
- If other issues have arisen which have not been identified or ‘flagged’ as being problematic but may adversely affect a trainee’s intended career plan, such as changes in health or personal circumstances
Benefits to the Educational Supervisor
- To enable the Educational Supervisor to provide constructive and honest feedback regarding the long term career aim of the trainee
- To offer the trainee further specialist support, where appropriate, thus reducing the risk of a referral on the grounds of poor performance issues
- Trainees who believe their supervisors are genuinely interested in their career aims tend to be better motivated and higher performing
Suggested discussion points during interview:
(Please note these are suggestions and may not be appropriate in all circumstances)
- What skills and strengths have you developed since our last meeting?
- Which of these would you describe as your key skills and strengths?
- How do these match the requirements of this specialty?
- How is this reflected in your portfolio?
- What other specialties would utilize these skills? (where a trainee is, or perhaps encouraged to, consider a change)
- What is your long term career aim?
- What action do you need to take to achieve this?
- What help or support do you need to achieve this?
- Who have you approached to find out more about x, y, z?
- If for whatever reason you are unable to secure your preferred specialty training post, what thoughts have you given to a ‘Plan B’?
Some trainees will be more organized and focused than others but they should all be encouraged to:
- Bring their learning portfolio and their career-planning folder to all 1:1 meetings.
- Use the learning portfolio (and any other relevant data) to enhance their understanding of how they have been progressing.
- Specify which career-planning tasks they will carry out, and within which specified time-scale, at the end of each meeting.
- And above all else, not to leave career planning to the last minute!
Top Tips for Educational Supervisors
(Taken from the Roads to Success and National Medical Careers website (http://www.medicalcareers.nhs.uk)
- Suggest they take some on line career planning exercises – e.g Sci 59,
- Listening is key. Remember! We have two ears and one mouth – to be used in that proportion
- If you are concerned that the trainee doctor is being unrealistic, focus on challenging questions rather than directive advice
- If necessary suggest that they talk through their career plans with a colleague. Before this meeting, provide your colleague with a brief report that outlines your concerns
Use your ‘local experts’
Referral to another colleague or source of specialist support such as counselling or the Deanery Careers Adviser can be highly valuable at the early stages and is less likely to result in the situation becoming an issue of poor performance due to lack of motivation, interest or ability.