9 Amazing Portfolio Tips You’ll Find in our Portfolio Companion
We are pleased to announce that Messly has created a new resource for doctors to help them understand and manage their medical portfolio. We know that portfolios are a source of constant stress and irritation for doctors, and that you are busy enough without the additional stress of worrying about how to organise your professional documents and admin.
Lucky for you, we have put in hours and hours of work and research to create our Portfolio Companion, which gives you all the information, advice, and resources you might need for managing your medical portfolio.
The Portfolio Companion is a comprehensive guide packed with tips, tricks, worked examples, templates, lists, and more. We don’t blame you if you want to click straight over now and check it out, but if you are a bit skeptical, or short on time, then here is a run down of some of the top tricks and tips that can be found in the Portfolio Companion.
💁 Top Tip #1: Follow our recommended structure
The purpose of your portfolio is to serve you in all of your needs, whether that is submitting your tax documents or accounts, applying for a clinical fellowship or special training post, writing your memoirs, joining a new locum agency or Trust, or preparing for your appraisal or revalidation meeting.
Your portfolio should be able to adapt to serve your varied needs, be straightforward to set up, and be easy to maintain.
Throughout our guide, we list the documents that you may want to include in your portfolio, and the order in which to include them. We explain the rationale for retaining specific documents, and show you where to find them if they have gone missing. We also point out additional things which could count as evidence in an appraisal setting, and show you where these documents would go in your appraisal document.
Read more about our recommended portfolio structure here.
💪 Top Tip #2: Be proactive, not reactive
We highly recommend saving documents in both paper and electronic form. This protects yourself should disaster strike and key documents are lost or destroyed, and can save time when different organisations insist on having digital or paper copies of your documents.
A portfolio is easier to maintain as you go, not when you are trying to fill in the gaps retrospectively. When you are setting up your portfolio, or adding to it over time, make sure that you scan documents carefully so that they are clear and legible, that you save documents to a folder that is secure but accessible across devices, and that you give your digital documents clear titles with names and dates.
Failing to be proactive can mean a last-minute scramble to find documents before a deadline, or even missing out on opportunities if you can’t get the necessary information together.
Read more about our tips for a great portfolio here.
📄 Top Tip #3: Update your CV
Your CV is more than a summary of your employment and academic history; it is a reminder for yourself of your achievements and duties throughout your career.
👉 Many employers may ask you to expand on what your duties were while you were in a particular position, what experience you gained in a role, and even how you contributed to research and quality improvement activity.
👉 The Medical Appraisal Guide (MAG) form used for appraisals in England asks about your ‘scope of work’ which is essentially a description and breakdown of your job role and responsibilities each year.
👉 Specialty applications will ask you to account for time out of work, as well as time in work. You will be asked to explain periods of unemployment over 3-4 weeks long.
Including a brief summary on your CV of what you did during a role, or even during periods of unemployment, can be useful in saving you agony in the future.
Read more about how to incorporate your CV into your portfolio here.
🤩 Top Tip #4: Make a good impression
Foundation doctors rarely consider that the referees that they list for their foundation training may continue to act as their referees for years to come. Whether you are applying for a job, a training post, or a locum agent, you will be asked to provide references who can vouch for all of the work you have listed on your CV. This includes the one week of shadowing you did in A+E 4 years ago (if you want it to count as experience on your CV).
Our advice is to think proactively about who may be able and willing to act as your referee and to ensure that they remember you (fondly) and can talk about the work you did with them (potentially for years to come). If you don’t know which direction you want to take your career then it can be helpful to get referees from a wide variety of specialties. For example, if you decide to apply for an academic specialty training post, you will be asked to provide an academic reference which may mean a university tutor or research supervisor.
Read more about collecting medical references for your portfolio here.
💰 Top Tip #5: Don’t throw away your money
Not only should you retain your payslips (especially if you are working through a limited company or as a sole trader) but you should understand how to read them and the information they give you. You can learn how to read your NHS payslip here.
Each Trust that you work for will have a different employee number for you and your payslips will be saved to a unique ESR account for that Trust. If you forget your passwords to old accounts, you may not be able to access old payslips which can cause issues down the line.
Keeping receipts for medical equipment, exams, professional registration fees, commuting costs (i.e. fuel and car insurance), conferences and courses, or even heating and internet bills if you work from home, may mean you can claim back from money from your Trust or agency, your study budget, or on your Taxes if you are organised.
Read more about Finance, Tax, and Pension documents here.
⏰ Top Tip #6: Save yourself time
If you are likely to move Trusts at all over the next few years, save yourself some trouble and sign up for the DBS Update service. There is a small fee for this but it can save you weeks of waiting around for paperwork when you are keen to be out working. Similarly, Occupational Health are notoriously a blocker in getting registered with new Trusts. If you have long term health conditions then you may be able to sign up for the NHS Health Passport. Or, some trusts accept the OH Smartcard as a way of quickly and securely transferring your data between Trusts.
Read more about Probity and Health statements here.
🤓 Top Tip #7: Don’t give up on research
Participation in audit and quality improvement is a requirement of your ARCP, appraisals and revalidation. As a trainee, you will have played a part in QI and audit activity, but often this doesn’t continue after changing rotations and rarely results in a poster presentation or publication.
By keeping your research documents (if you can maintain patient confidentiality) in your portfolio, you can provide evidence of your participation in these projects even if they didn’t go on to be presented (which would give a certificate) or published (which would give a publication number). You may also be able to use the evidence you have to publish a short article yourself with the BMJ or another journal.
✍️ Top Tip #8: Write your own rules
Use your time and energy wisely when setting your personal development goals each year. Think about what you are required to do (based on the GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidelines) and what it would be reasonable to try and achieve in a particular period of time.
By including many of your appraisal targets in your PDP (i.e. case discussions, teaching, CPD, MAST, and feedback), you have protected your time wisely to minimize the amount of extra work you have to do later on.
Read more about setting PDP goals here.
🤌 Top Tip #9: Quality over quantity
If you are working towards a particular goal (i.e. appraisal) then you will be collecting specific evidence to support you in that meeting. The GMC has explicitly refused calls to put numerical values on how much evidence is required for a revalidating doctor, and has always said that quality should be the first consideration when looking at evidence. We think this is the right attitude to follow.
The Portfolio Companion goes into lots of detail about what constitutes portfolio evidence, and how you can elevate your evidence to better demonstrate your growth and learning. One way we advise supplying portfolio evidence is through Workplace Based Assessments (WBAs) also known as Supervised Learning Events (SLEs). The benefits of collecting WBAs is that:
👉 You do them every day anyway, and reflecting on your routine practice is a great way to improve.
👉 They are quick to do, usually taking no more than 20-30 minutes to complete.
👉 The person supervising you doesn’t need to know you or your practice well (which is great for locum doctors).
👉 They provide you with trainer feedback from an expert and allow you to reflect on your skill yourself.
You can read more about WBAs here.
The Ultimate Guide to Your Medical Portfolio
We hope these tips give you a taste of what the Portfolio Companion can offer you. If you are ready to check it out, click here for the most amazing Portfolio resource ever built (we may be biased but we really think it is the bees knees!). For other articles and discussion on the topic, click here.
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