Progressing up the medical career ladder is a tough business. Many candidates find themselves waiting years before their applications are considered strong enough for them to be invited to interview, let alone be awarded a job. The candidates who are most likely to be successful in getting such jobs are those who knew what they had to do well ahead of time (and did those things too!). There is no such thing as starting too early – many things can be started whilst you are at medical school!
Publish scientific papers
Audit and Quality Improvement Projects
Prizes, grants, distinctions and scholarships
Leadership and teamwork
Commitment to specialty
In short – many things, the reason being – you have to distinguish yourself. Passing your medical degree, getting an intercalated degree and good references won’t distinguish you significantly from the ‘crowd’.Many application processes (e.g. specialist training) have a specific marking criteria. These are explicit points based systems whereby if you get enough points then you will get shortlisted for interview! e.g. For Neurosurgery = 3 points for >3 publications in the field, 2 points for >3 publications in any field, 1 points for etc… Knowing this is critical so you can ensure you’re focusing efforts effectively!If you haven’t yet picked a specialty, there are many things that you can do that will apply to all applications. So what exactly can you do to increase your chances?
The phrase “publish or perish” was coined due to the intense pressure felt by individuals to get scientific papers published, or ‘perish’ in career terms. Ideally your research (from an intercalated BSc, an SSM, or an other project of your own initiative) should be published in journals which are indexed in PubMed.Don’t panic if your research gets an absolute rejection by such journals (i.e. without the opportunity for a revision). If you can’t improve your paper any further, try getting it published in a non-indexed journal- they don’t look as impressive, and often don’t count for job applications, but can be put on your CV, and ensure that your efforts haven’t been wasted. Publishing letters and case reports are an easier way of building your confidence and experience. Start submitting research during your earlier years of medical school so you get through this learning curve. Always pay attention to the comments you get back from editors, respect them and learn from them.Top tip: Start your research portfolio early, and don’t be put off by rejection.
This is where you compare the observed clinical practice and results (which you objectively record) with the reference best practice guidelines developed for that procedure.For example, you may look at how many doctors wash their hands between seeing patients on a particular ward, and compare with the national guideline – that every doctor should wash their hands between seeing patients.Audit help to improve adherence to a ‘best’ reference standard of practice. At the end of the audit you make recommendations on what can be done to improve adherence to the standard. Following implementation of these recommendations you can come back and re-do the audit to see if implementation of the changes you recommended made any difference. This is called ‘closing the audit loop’,Top tips: Try and get audits published and aim for at least 3 re-audit cycles.
These show that you have taken time to further your interests, and make you stand out from others. As a medical student, doing an intercalated degree or completing an MBPhD are ways to gain qualifications. As a junior doctor, there are many Masters Courses, MPhils, and PhD programs available.Top tip: The more advanced the qualification, the better!
Presenting research work at Local, Regional, National and International Conferences can be a good boost to a CV and show that you taking part in the wider scientific and clinical community, they also help to raise your profile and give you a more respectable name. When choosing which conference to submit your work to for presentation, either as a poster or orally (oral presentations are worth more), look to see which ones will abstract your work into a supplementary issue of a journal. An abstract goes onto your publication record and helps to add further clout to your CV, although this won’t count for points in the shortlisting process (you will still do the presentation and publish the full paper in another journal if you wish, so consider this a bonus).Top tip: Aim for an oral presentation at an international conference.
There are large numbers of these available at medical school both internally and externally, seek these out and submit for them. Also, make sure you get as many prizes and awards for your intercalated BSc (if you choose to do one) and your elective. As a doctor, there are also prizes available, as well as research grants and fellowships.Top tip: Not as many people apply for essay prizes as you’d think
At medical school this is manifest as a being President of your Surgical Society, or being involved with your Students Union. Being effective in positions of responsibility requires you to know how to manage your time, be able to communicate effectively and to get results through the responsible and efficient delegating of tasks.Top tip: This doesn’t have to be medically based e.g. Lead of a charity.
Throughout your training as a clinician, you will not only be learning yourself but you will also be teaching those more inexperienced than you. Thus teaching skills and experience are viewed favorably. As a medical student, getting involved with peer tutoring of lower years is good experience. As a doctor, designing, organizing and carrying out regular, regional teaching with feedback is much more impressive than ad hoc teaching.Top tip: Ensure you get feedback forms as evidence of your teaching and an attendee list.
Clear examples of your commitment to that specialty need to be demonstrated. This can be in the form of electives, audits, student selected modules, qualifications (e.g. MRCS for surgery), membership of a society.Top tip: These can be started early in medical school, the longer the commitment, the more impressive it is.
To show commitment to specialty, it is beneficial to have done courses relevant to your field. Courses relevant to surgery include BSS,CCrISP, START, ATLS.Top tip: Keep your certificates as proof of attendance and completion.
Keeping a record of which procedures you’ve seen and done shows your competency and commitment. As a student or doctor, be keen to observe and learn new skills, especially in your field of interest.Top tip: Keep a log book of what you’ve seen/done, with locations and dates
These can demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual with a broad view of life, as well as an appreciation of what learning new concepts and types of knowledge can do for your efficiency. You should also demonstrate your personality and individuality by maintaining involvement with extra-curricular activities that interest you (everyone wants to work with an interesting and charismatic person).Top tip: You’re more than just a doctor/medical student – show it!
Ultimately, doing your best to get shortlisted using the advice above will actually end up making you a better doctor. That is exactly why this forms the criteria for shortlisting – those who have been successful in these areas make well-rounded and efficient clinicians who are able to deal with a broad array of challenges, situations and professional commitments.
Surgical Recruitment Specifications – http://www.surgeryrecruitment.nhs.uk/content/portfolio-guidance-0