Clinical Attachment in Psychiatry – Anonymous Experience

What is Clinical attachment?

To explain it simply, clinical attachment is a period you spend shadowing seniors on the ward, clinic, or department. You aren’t necessarily allowed to directly participate in the clinical activities- but this may vary from Trust to Trust and from department to department.

In most cases, this post has no remuneration associated. Clinical attachment is a period of time where you observe the working of a clinical setting or department. It is similar to what medical students refer to as electives.

How to go about planning a clinical attachment?

Before leaving my home country for my PLAB-2 exam, I had booked a clinical attachment. I was interviewed and was asked to provide a few basic educational documents. I was also asked for my immunization evidence for the Occupational Health Clearance.
I would highly recommend IMGs to plan their clinical attachments right after their PLAB-2 exam so that both are covered in one trip and you can be offered a job interview at passing the exam (if a job opportunity is present within the Trust).

How to search for a clinical attachment?

Unfortunately, there is no set platform available to access clinical attachments.

The quickest and most effective way of searching for a clinical attachment is to email a Consultant in the UK to facilitate you. There are many consultants and registrars in the UK who are very keen to help the IMGs out.

You can find them on social media IMG groups or ask your alumni to connect you with them. Your email should contain details about yourself, your education, your work back in your home country, your future plans of working in the UK, and your expectations from the clinical attachment.

In the majority of cases, the Trust doesn’t charge you for the attachment rather they try to facilitate you by arranging accommodation and conveyance.

My experience with the Clinical attachment:

I did 3 months of clinical attachment (Feb 2021 to May 2021) at a Community Children and Young People Eating Disorder Services – This is part of Child Psychiatry (CAMHS) speciality.

Despite the Covid crisis, uncertainty, and travel restrictions, I was able to secure clinical attachment and my department was very welcoming.

My experience with the attachment has been extremely precious and totally worth it!

Here is why:

  1. My supervisor turned out to be the most wonderful person. He put in genuine interest in my career and well-being and helped me improve both professionally and personally. Hence, through this attachment, I found a mentor for life!
  2. I learned so much about the practice in the UK. I learned how to deal with conflicting situations; how to safeguard patients; how to work with a multidisciplinary team and delegate responsibilities within the team; and about the different services which can be made accessible to support patients.
  3. I was given the opportunity to participate in teaching activities. I held training sessions for nurses, occupational therapists, and psychologists within the department.
  4. I got to learn so much about the different eating disorders- their diagnostic criteria and
    management. I was working with a multidisciplinary team of well-trained nurses, psychologists, care-coordinators, occupational therapists, dieticians, trainees and Consultants. Moreover, my clinical supervisor held reflective practice sessions with me where I would discuss my difficulties (and feats) with him and he would help me make my way around them. He would also encourage me to attend the wards, family-based therapies, group therapies and medical students’ teaching sessions. I was also required to present a case every week in the morning meetings, which helped me a great deal in furnishing my data gathering and analytical skills.
  5. I was asked to innovate and streamline things. I streamlined the blood work-up interpretation protocol by introducing a questionnaire which helped the department assess the physical risk amongst eating disorder patients and ultimately decide inpatient admissions. We are now planning to turn this project into an audit.
  6. Regarding research, we introduced another project to screen eating disorders patients with comorbidities like body dysmorphic disorder, depressive disorder, and anxiety.
  7. I found friends! I made amazing friends in the department. We hang-out every now and then on weekends.
  8. Last but not the least, the attachment helped me to attain an interview opportunity at the Trust and today I am working here as a Trust Grade Doctor. Moreover, I do not feel the hesitancy or panic of the new job because I know the Team and I know how things work around here. There’s existing comfort, trust, and familiarity between the Team and myself.

Downsides of a Clinical Attachment

This is a hard one because there is barely any trouble with it. However, some people might miss their families and would prefer to return to their home country immediately after the exam.

Personally, the experience has had a huge impression on me as a doctor and as an individual. I would highly recommend every IMG to do a clinical attachment in the UK.

Moreover, it is important to make the most out of this opportunity by being proactive. If you show interest, you will undoubtedly be facilitated at every step of the way.

Best Wishes