I have recently been offered a Core Psychiatry Training post following the second round of national recruitment. I am writing a detailed account of my experience here for aspirant candidates who wish to apply for psychiatry in the upcoming round and further rounds. This includes how I have utilized my work experience in the NHS to match the person specifications for Core Psychiatry Training. Also, some tips on how to write the CV, organize and present your portfolio, and the how to approach the scenario station in the interview.
I started working in the NHS in January this year. Since I was certain that I want to pursue Psychiatry, I planned ahead and requested for rotations in the same as a Clinical Fellow. I have no experience of working in psychiatry prior to this. I worked in Older Adult followed by General Adult which provided me ample opportunity to gain experience and show my commitment to psychiatry in the interview. However, this does not mean that one is required to have worked in psychiatry before in order to apply for training. I am including this information for candidates who want to apply in subsequent rounds and really want to work on their portfolios from the beginning as it shows that you are genuinely interested in the speciality and gives you confidence.
The first step after your application has been accepted is appearing in SRA- the Speciality Recruitment Assessment. SRA carries 1/3 weightage in the cumulative score (30/90). There are 2 parts of this exam, clinical scenarios and situational judgement test, each carrying 15 marks. This exam requires a dedicated study for 1-2 months depending on your personal circumstances and there are enough resources available to study from in order to prepare for it (Emedica, passmedicine, MCQ bank etc.). It is better to stick to only one question bank and do as many practice questions and mock exams as you can. There is no cut-off limit for psychiatry in order to appear in the interview-all candidates who sit the SRA are invited to the interview as well regardless the SRA score. However, the higher the score, the better will be your overall score and rank and you stand a good chance to get a post in your desired location. There is a bypass score as well which can give you a direct offer and people have been successful in getting a direct offer in the past.There is a detailed guidance available on this on https://www.nwpgmd.nhs.uk/ct1_psy_recruit_overview under the guidance documents including sample questions and a blue print of the exam.
It’s important to stay focused and start working on your portfolio as early as possible. It’s worth reading the person specifications for core psychiatry training to have a clear idea of what you can do to match them. The portfolio station carries 30 marks in totalwith 20 marks being allocated to ‘Evidence of Commitment and Match to Person Specifications’. The other 10 marks go to your ‘Organization and Presentation Skills’. Generally speaking, if you include the following in your portfolio, you will be able to show enough evidence to show your commitment to the speciality:
Audit and QI – not essential to be on a psychiatry related subject, however will be highly appreciated by the interview panel if it is. It is important to be able to communicate briefly on what your role was in the project, the aims and objectives, outcomes and recommendations. You can also speak about any on-going projects which you are a part of.
Ongoing learning- You can include evidence of post-graduate teachings if you attend them regularly, balint groups, courses and conferences, study days and online learning modules. There are some free learning modules available on CPD online. You can also complete some relevant e- learning modules on HEE website.
Teaching Experience- It is not essential to have a formal teaching experience. However, it’s important to include some sort of teaching experience in your portfolio. This can be in the form of teaching medical students who are on a rotation in your department and have a few feedback forms filled.
Voluntary Work- I volunteered to be a dementia befriender at the hospital I was working at, in addition to some voluntary work I had done before.
Feedback- I included these in my portfolio: Work-Place Based Assessments, Team Assessment of Behaviour, Case Based Discussions, and Mini CEX
Reflections- It is important to include one or two reflections from your clinical practice or patient interaction as it shows that you believe in reflective practice.
You should include a well-written and up-to-date CV in your portfolio, including your personal development plan. It’s also important to include a content page and segregate the various sections of your portfolio using page dividers and pointers. You can highlight your important achievements that you don’t want the interviewing panel to miss out on. It’s important that you prepare well in advance on how to present your portfolio, you can practice with your peers or a senior who can give you feedback on your presentation skills. You should practice enough so that you don’t feel stuck at any point. Remember you have about 10 minutes to present your portfolio, and it depends entirely on your organisational and presentation skills to convince the panel that you are a suitable content.
The case scenario is published about a week before the interview, however it’s no secret what the scenario is. It also carries 1/3 of the total score (30/90). It’s best to practice this with other candidates to work on your communication skills. The actual exam scenario might come across as challenging but having practiced enough will help you gain confidence and you will sail smoothly. I can only advice to stay calm and composed and be very professional in your mannerism.
I wish everyone best of luck who is applying for core psychiatry training in the upcoming round of recruitment. With some dedication and concentration, anyone can do it!