Taster sessions

Having recently completed my own taster week in radiology, I was hoping I would share some of the reasons why you should consider doing a taster week, and how you can arrange one.

 

A taster session is essentially a shadowing period to get to know a particular specialty better. You spend the week (or depending on your circumstances, slightly more or less days) in the department of your choice rather than on wards, in most cases being classed as study leave.


The benefits of arranging a taster week:

  • Get to experience a department you are not rotating in- for example, radiology and histopathology are specialties which most foundation doctors do not get the opportunity to rotate in, limiting their exposure to what a trainee/consultant in that specialty does. Additionally, FY training is limited to 6 four-month blocks hence you may not get to rotate in the specialty you are interested in. During the week, you should be able to observe how the department functions and help determine whether you would consider this as a career. If it is already a specialty you are interested in, it may help solidify your choice. You will get to speak to clinicians who are passionate about their job, and discuss what drew them into it.

  • Spend more time in a department - you may feel like 4 months was not enough to fully experience a specialty. For example, I know another doctor who went back for a taster week in general surgery simply because there was not enough theatre experience whilst being on the endless stream of ward cover and on-call shifts. You may get to discover a different side of what the specialty has to offer.

  • Helps demonstrate commitment to specialty- most specialty applications encourage and reward points for spending time in the relevant department. They want candidates who have actual experience within the specialty so they have realistic expectations on what the training/career is like. It also shows that you have put in time and effort to arrange it. Just be sure to obtain a letter of evidence from the supervising consultant.

  • Make connections- spending time within the department being interested in the specialty would definitely draw the attention of consultants. They will likely want you to join their specialty and if you demonstrate interest, can get you involved in audits, research or other projects. Some may also be involved with the application process so will be able to help with portfolio or interview practice. Ultimately, you build relationships with consultants within the field, which can only benefit you should you eventually enter the specialty.

How you can go about arranging a taster week:

  • Speak to your postgraduate education department- they should give you advice on how you can apply and would help formalise the process so they can help provide letters and arranging appropriate consultants to supervise you if needed

  • Try to find a supervising consultant- this may be easier if you have worked in the department before, otherwise it is usually a good idea to speak to the trainee lead/education lead within the department. The supervising consultant should work with you to design a rough outline of what your shadowing schedule should look like to give you a well-rounded experience of the specialty and cater to your individual needs

  • Ensure adequate cover- going on a taster week would mean leaving a gap in the rota for that period. Speak to your rota coordinator to ensure that there is adequate cover so that your main job of delivering clinical care is not sacrificed.

  • Complete all paperwork - try to ensure all application forms are complete and relevant parties approve at least 4 weeks before the taster session.

After the taster week, try to think back and reflect on your experience. The Horus ePortfolio has a taster week form with key points to help facilitate reflection and encourages you to think about further action plans.


 

Share your experiences on your taster weeks! Did you run into any difficulty when arranging one? What was your favourite part of the taster? Comment down below.

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