Trainee led taster days for foundation doctors
Authors: Liz Ewins, Helen Sharrard, Ami Kothari, Laura Adcroft
Publication date: 05 Jun 2013
Trainees can gain the chance to experience specialties that they have yet to work in through taster days. Liz Ewins and colleagues describe a scheme to improve access to these opportunities
Taster days generally last between one and five days and allow foundation doctors to explore specialties with which they are unfamiliar.
In 2010, an evaluation of foundation training recommended that deaneries and foundation schools increase and simplify access to taster days to ensure trainees experience a range of specialties. The UK Foundation Programme Office has subsequently produced guidance to support the development of high quality taster days.
In response to the recruitment shortage in psychiatry, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has suggested that the promotion of taster days may increase trainees’ exposure to psychiatry and thereby boost recruitment. 
We describe the establishment of a trainee led scheme that has been running in the Severn Deanery since September 2012. The scheme aimed to provide links for enthusiastic trainees, help increase exposure to psychiatry in the foundation years, and promote recruitment into the specialty. After we approached staff at Severn Deanery and the local foundation school with our proposal, they were happy for us to formalise the provision of taster days in the region. We asked consultants and trainees to be involved and the deanery to hold contact information. In addition, we set up web pages to provide information about taster days to foundation doctors ( [Link] ) and spoke to human resources about what paperwork was needed; a current Criminal Records Bureau check was considered sufficient. The scheme was advertised through teaching and foundation doctor events and the local foundation school careers service.
The scheme enables foundation doctors to arrange tasters by using the website to contact a psychiatry trainee representative. The foundation doctor can express an interest in particular subspecialties, as well as the location that they would prefer, and the number of days they wish the taster to last. The psychiatry trainee links them to a consultant offering their chosen subspecialty and to a core trainee working in the area. The core trainee then helps facilitate the taster days by offering shadowing and informal discussions about training and exams.
After completing the taster days, doctors are asked to give feedback online. The figure illustrates the process.
In the first six months of this scheme, 14 taster days have been arranged. The scheme has been easy to implement and has been welcomed by foundation doctors, trainees, consultants, and the local foundation school. It offers trainees management and teaching opportunities and so helps them meet requirements for their training.
All the foundation doctors who have undertaken tasters plan to apply for core training in psychiatry or have already done so. We are now extending the scheme across the south west, and hope others set up similar schemes in their own specialties.
Foundation doctor’s perspective—Laura Adcroft
I am a foundation year 2 doctor and recently took part in a taster day in forensic psychiatry. It was easy to arrange and it was great to be able to choose the subspecialty I was interested in. I was able to experience what life as a core trainee in psychiatry would be like and was welcomed by the team. I took part in a weekly ward round with the multidisciplinary team, which helped improve my understanding of the routine and the roles of everyone involved. There was ample opportunity to chat to trainees and consultants, and being linked to a specific trainee was beneficial as a point of contact both before and after my taster. Everyone took the time to answer questions and help me understand the psychiatry training programme and the application process. I have now applied for psychiatry in the Severn Deanery and am due to start as a core trainee year 1 in August.
Competing interests: We have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: Liz Ewins, specialist trainee year 4 in older adult psychiatry in Bristol, and South West trainee representative for the Royal College Promotion of Recruitment into Psychiatry committee; Helen Sharrard, consultant in learning disability in Bristol and consultant lead in the south west for the Royal College Promotion of Recruitment into Psychiatry committee; Ami Kothari, core trainee in psychiatry in Bristol and trainee representative for recruitment at the Severn Deanery; and Laura Adcroft, foundation year 2 in Swindon and due to start core training in psychiatry in August 2013.
- Collins J. Foundation for excellence: an evaluation of the foundation programme. Medical Education England, 2010.
- UK Foundation Programme Office. Specialty tasters in the foundation programme: guidance for foundation schools. UK Foundation Programme Office, 2011.
- Lowe J, Rands G. Current position of psychiatry in UK foundation schools. Psychiatrist 2012;36:65-8.
- Munn F. Battling for hearts and minds. BMA News 2011; 10 Sept.
- Royal College of Psychiatrists. A competency based curriculum for specialist core training in psychiatry. Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2010.
Liz Ewins specialty trainee year 4 in older adult psychiatry
Helen Sharrard consultant in learning disability Bristol, UK
Ami Kothari core trainee year 3 in psychiatry Bristol, UK
Laura Adcroft foundation doctor year 2 Swindon, UK