How Courses Can Help Your F3 Year
There are so many positives to taking an F3 year. It gives you the opportunity to earn better money, widen your experience, and provides the freedom to work wherever and whenever you want.
However, it's common to feel worried that leaving training may cause your career to stagnate, particularly in the less structured world of being a locum doctor.
Fortunately, if you plan your F3 year well, there are plenty of ways that a year out of training can actually help your career in the long-term!
Completing courses during your F3 year is a fantastic way to stay up-to-date and continue adding to your CV, no matter how you’re spending your time out of training.
In this article, written with Dr James Davidson, the Founder of MedCourse, we explain:
👉 How courses can help you progress your career whilst out of training
👉 The types of courses available for F3s and locum doctors
👉 How to find the best courses
👉 How much you should expect to pay.
How Courses Help Your Career Progression
There's a wide array of courses available for F3 doctors. These can help you achieve one of more of the following benefits as you look to progress your career, depending on your current situation and your future goals:
Planning a specialty application in future?
Pack your portfolio full of evidence of commitment to your speciality of choice, boosting the quality of your application.
Pack out the “leadership and management” section of your portfolio with things like teach the teacher and similar courses.
Use courses to help you get membership exams out the way while you have the time and flexibility outside of training or a full-time job.
Want to pick up more locum work?
Use a skills course to build and demonstrate your ability to perform key procedures, helping you to stand out when applying for new locum roles. This could also potentially enable you to command a higher hourly rate.
Worried about losing some skills?
Keep in touch with NHS-specific skills while you’re working overseas or doing limited clinical work.
Learn procedural skills like inserting central lines, scanning a patient at the bedside, or tying a surgical knot in the blink of an eye.
Looking to broaden your horizons?
Brush up on your teaching skills to pave the way for a career in medical education.
Suitable Courses for F3 Doctors
We’ve broken down the available courses into the following sections, and we'll cover each of them in detail:
1️⃣ Skills Courses
2️⃣ Exam Prep Courses
3️⃣ Job Application Boosting Courses
4️⃣ Courses to Fill Gaps in Your Knowledge
To make this article as practical and useful as possible, we've included links to as many suitable courses as possible. These are just examples of what's available, not a specific recommendation for any course in particular.
1. Skills Courses
As a foundation doctor, you may have spent more time holding a pen than a stethoscope or scalpel. On reaching F3, you may find yourself in a sort of limbo, not experienced enough to practice skills by yourself, but overlooked for learning opportunities in favour of speciality trainees. This is where skills courses come in.
By attending a skills course, you can learn a new skill, procedure, or technique in a controlled environment, with one-to-one support from experienced and passionate teachers.
Once you reach the stage where a senior could supervise you without having to teach you from scratch, it’s far easier to find opportunities to hone your new skill.
Then, when you get to your next job interview, you can impress the interview panel with a fleshed-out procedure log and capabilities beyond what’s expected of you.
This is also useful for locum doctors, as adding this detail to your CV will make you stand out when applying for new locum roles, and potentially allow you to command a higher hourly rate.
Let’s go through the types of skills courses available, depending on your speciality of choice:
Medicine & Acute Specialities (Acute Medicine, Anaesthetics, Emergency Medicine)
💫 Rule in and rule out cardiac conditions by learning to ECHO with basic echocardiography courses.
💫 You won't ever feel embarrassed about your suturing again with a basic surgical skills course.
💫 Get ahead of your colleagues, and take a more active part in surgery, by attending a course on skills in laparoscopic surgery.
💫 Keep up with your hands-on procedural skills with a course in minor surgery.
💫 Learn to help arthritis and chronic pain patients by studying how to perform joint injections.
💫 Get a head-start in sports medicine by learning musculoskeletal ultrasound.
There are plenty more skills to learn for other specialities as well. Keep reading on to learn how to find courses without having to trawl through your spam folder.
2. Exam Preparation Courses
Membership exams are a necessary evil which can make your time as a core trainee quite stressful. By taking an F3 year, you give yourself some breathing space to get started with your exams at a time when you’re not plagued by your portfolio.
Some people can get through their membership exams using question banks or revision notes alone . However, if you find you learn best from one-on-one tuition, a course can help you get above the pass mark.
For OSCE-based exams, courses are often essential, giving you access to a whole host of patients who have signs of clinical conditions which might come up in the exam.
Here are some courses available to help you pass your exams during your F3 year:
The MRCP Part 1 & 2 written exams are multiple-choice exams which aren’t traditionally taught in a course format. Consider attending an MRCP part 1 course if you’re struggling with specific elements of the course, such as statistics, or have already attempted the exam and need an extra boost.
MRCP Part 2 PACES exam courses are expensive and intensive, but can potentially help you learn hundreds of clinical signs, particularly if your F3 jobs don’t give you as much exposure to medical patients. Courses range from a single day on specific elements, such as NeuroPACES, to comprehensive four-day courses like PACES Ahead.
If you’re planning to apply to core surgical training during your time as an F3 doctor, passing the MRCS Part A examination will earn you four points on your application.
The MRCS Part A is another written exam in which most candidates use question banks to revise. There are courses available for certain parts of the course, such as anatomy, and online courses which talk through the principle concepts, such as The Doctors' Academy Course.
For the MRCS Part B, the surgical royal colleges often put on preparation courses at a discount if you sign up to become a fellow. While this is an OSCE-based exam, there's still a significant amount of knowledge required, so question banks are also recommended.
While the Multi-Speciality Recruitment Assessment (MSRA) isn’t a traditional collegiate membership exam, it's now widely used as a tool to rank candidates in the recruitment of various core training programmes including GP, psych, radiology, ophthalmology, O&G, emergency medicine, anaesthetics, and neurosurgery.
If you're planning to apply to any of these specialities during your F3 year, and you really want to ensure you get your ideal job, booking an in-person or online MSRA course might help in your revision for the exam.
Other Exam Courses
There are plenty of courses available to help you to get your exams out the way, no matter which speciality you plan to work in. Here are some examples of courses you can attend for each speciality:
🩺 Anaesthetics | There are plenty of primary FRCA courses for this difficult theory-based exam.
🩺 Emergency Medicine | Get detailed advice on how to answer questions for the MRCEM Primary with a course.
🩺 Obstetrics and Gynaecology | While you have plenty of time to pass the MRCOG Part 2 and 3 before ST5, attending an MRCOG Part 1 course during F3 could take some of the pressure off.
🩺 Ophthalmology | With a les than 50% pass-rate, and some difficult clinical science, it might be worth purchasing an FRCOphth Part 1 course or study notes.
🩺 Paediatrics | There are quite a few MRCPCH exam revision courses available.
🩺 Psychiatry | Unfortunately, there's a lack of MRCPsych courses available on the internet, as it appears most candidates use question banks such as SPMM.
🩺 Radiology | Get your head around some of the most difficult concepts in physics with an FRCR Part 1 course.
3. Job Application-Boosting Courses
Some F3 doctors may have spent their medical student and foundation years packing their portfolio full of good stuff to help their career aspirations. But if you haven’t taken that approach, attending a course is an excellent way to plug the gaps.
The “leadership and management” section of your portfolio can be especially difficult to fill. If you're lacking leadership experience, applying for a local or national role can be daunting. To give you the confidence boost you need to apply for a leadership role, book an online or in-person leadership course.
You can also score some extra points in the application and interview for certain specialities (such as IMT and CST) by gaining experience in teaching, and receiving specific training in teaching. For example, by attending a teach the teacher course, you can gain one point at application for IMT, CST, and medical ST4. Using the knowledge you gained on this course, you can then go on to create a teaching programme of your own and get the maximum available points for teaching experience in these specialities.
Attending a course can also demonstrate your commitment to a speciality, and gives you the opportunity to show your passion for the speciality at the interview stage. CST application even awards points for attending surgical courses.
If you get through to the interview stage of speciality application, it’s time to practice your interview skills. In reaching F3 you might have only ever attended one job interview in your life, and speciality interviews are very different to medical school entry interviews.
Many specialities, such as IMT, solely use the interview score to determine whether you get a place on the programme. Preparing with question banks and interview books will get you so far, but attending an interview preparation course will give you more real-world practice.
Finally, if you've had the unfortunate experience of being involved in a serious incident during your foundation years, and have to explain this to your potential employer, don't panic just yet. If you find yourself in this position, it’s vital to demonstrate reflection and professional development. Learning the lessons required to prevent further incidents is something you'll need to provide evidence of. One way to do this is by attending relevant medico-legal courses by defence unions such as the MDDUS and MDU.
4. Courses to Fill Gaps in Your Knowledge
Foundation years are challenging, and it sometimes feels like you’re playing catch up rather than learning the things you want to learn. Taking a year (or more) out for F3 can be your chance to take a breather and get some perspective on your strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re struggling to find opportunities to learn while at work, courses are a great way to gain insights from the experts. Here are a few types of courses which might appeal to you:
Clinical Seminars and Workshops
🔆 Learn about research methodology with the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
🔆 Master the art of ECGs with one of 20 courses suggested by Life in the Fast Lane.
🔆 Take a crash course in medicine, psychiatry, paediatrics, and O&G to get you up to speed, with Make a Medic.
🔆 Catch up on the latest updates for your speciality, with Infomed Online.
🔆 Learn how to nail your SHO job in orthopaedics with the orthopaedic academy.
🔆 Gain confidence in treating critically unwell surgical patients with CCrISP.
🔆 Get a better grasp of the acute medical take, with IMPACT.
Thinking Outside the Box
🔆 Use your F3 to take yourself on an adventure by completing a wilderness medicine course.
🔆 Take an unconventional approach to learning anatomy on a sculpture for surgeons course.
🔆 Become a certified developer with a healthcare coding course.
🔆 Launch your career as an influencer with the part-time YouTuber Academy.
🔆 Get your side-hustle on with a course in aesthetic medicine.
How the Courses Are Delivered
In the post-COVID-19 world, the days of travelling to study at a post-graduate centre 100 miles away are no more. While some hands-on courses still require your attendance, many course providers have turned to services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to teach you from the comfort of your home.
Some providers have even recorded their lectures and added interactive elements like quizzes, question banks, and mock exams. These are known as on-demand courses and are sometimes combined with live virtual events to form “hybrid” courses.
Here are the pros and cons for each of these course types:
👍 It’s easier to get time with the experts and ask questions.
👍 It's better for more practical, hands-on skills.
👍 It's often easier to make friends and network with other trainees and doctors in your speciality.
👍 If you’re using your F3 year to locum, you can take some time off and make a trip of it.
👍 Some find it easier to concentrate when physically in the room with a teacher.
👎 It's more expensive than online courses.
👎 You'll need to arrange travel to the venue. If you’re outside London this often includes an expensive train journey to the capital.
👎 It can be difficult to pay attention if you had to get up early to travel.
Live Online Courses
👍 You can attend the course from somewhere comfortable, typically at home.
👍 Online courses are usually cheaper.
👍 No expensive and exhausting travelling.
👍 You can remotely access great courses from around the world.
👎 It’s easier to get distracted when you're studying in the comfort of your own home.
👎 Online courses, if not set up well, can be less interactive.
👎 It’s more difficult to ask questions and interact with the teacher.
👍 These courses are generally much cheaper than live courses.
👍 There's no need to book any leave from work, as you can study in your own time.
👍 You can go over subjects that you find difficult multiple times.
👍 Learn on your own terms at your own pace.
👍 Some courses are available on mobile devices. You can take them while commuting, while exercising, and so on.
👎 Unless the course is hybrid, you aren’t able to ask questions.
👎 On-demand courses aren’t always treated in equal regard to live courses for portfolio and revalidation purposes.
👎 The quality and length of these courses can vary significantly.
👎 You can’t use any study leave for these courses.
How to Find Courses
For junior doctors, finding a course used to involve trawling through your trust email inbox for leaflets and searching through the first 20 pages of Google. Luckily, today, there are far more options available to find a course that meets your needs.
Let’s go through some of the best options for finding a course:
MedCourse | Courses for Junior Doctors
MedCourse is a new website aimed specifically at courses for junior doctors in the UK. The courses are focused on learning new skills and progressing in your career, as opposed to other sites which focus primarily on CPD for revalidation.
On MedCourse you can filter courses by grade, by speciality, by location, and more. You can find in-person events, live online courses, and on-demand online courses, as well as helpful resources on their blog.
In the future, you’ll be able to find and book courses from hospital trusts and small providers who traditionally employed a more “pen and paper” approach to course booking.
BMJ Course-Finder | Courses and Degrees for Doctors
This website by the BMJ advertises a selection of high-quality courses for doctors working in the UK. You can filter by speciality and grade, and you’ll find many reputable organisations, including Royal Colleges, advertising their courses here.
The BMJ Course-Finder website also advertises post-graduate certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Due to the price of advertising on the BMJ, the site tends to attract courses from well-funded organisations, and you may struggle to find exactly what you’re looking for.
CPD Match | CPD Courses for Healthcare Professionals
CPD Match is a relatively new aggregator of CPD courses for healthcare professionals. They have an excellent selection of courses (over 1,000 at the time of writing), and give you the ability to narrow down your search by speciality, type, location, and fee.
The drawback for junior doctors is that CPD Match focuses on the CPD aspect of medical education. Because trainees and many F3s don’t need to meet specific CPD requirements for revalidation, this can result in a lot of searching to find a course that meets your needs.
MedAll | Online Courses for Healthcare Staff
MedAll is a new and exciting medical education platform that advertises both live and on-demand online courses, as well as providing a way for organisations to stream their events directly through their website.
If you’re looking for online healthcare courses, conferences, and webinars, MedAll is a great place to start.
Other Places to Look
There are plenty of other places to find courses that haven’t made their way on to the above course websites. Here are a few alternatives:
🔎 Medical defence unions, such as the MDDUS, offer medicolegal and professional development courses with a discount to their members.
🔎 Hospital post-graduate departments often help local consultants run courses which are generally advertised by email. If you're not on the right email list, pop into the post-grad department and ask if they have any courses for junior doctors.
How Much You Should Pay for Courses
The price of courses varies wildly depending on the quality, format, length of time, and target audience.
In-person courses tend to be the most expensive, costing roughly £150 to £400 per day. Procedure-based courses which require specialist equipment, such as ultrasound or laparoscopy courses, can cost double this.
Live online courses are usually cheaper, as they have fewer overheads and can facilitate a larger audience. However, some providers haven’t changed their pricing structure after moving online. Expect live online courses to be roughly 25% cheaper than their face-to-face counterparts, costing £100 to £300 per day.
Online on-demand courses also vary according to course length and quality. On-demand courses which feature recorded versions of past events can be found for less than £100, whereas quality, comprehensive courses, which have been produced with this format in mind, can cost up to £300.
Ultimately, the price is often based on what doctors are willing to pay. If you find a course that you’d like to attend, but it's out of your price range, consider waiting until you have a study budget before booking.
If you’d like to save money but still want to learn during your F3 year, there are plenty of free courses and webinars out there using the websites mentioned above.
About the Author
This article has been written in collaboration with Dr James Davidson, the Founder of MedCourse. MedCourse makes it easy for junior doctors to find valuable courses. Search by grade, by speciality, and by location.
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