How Investing in a Great Portfolio Can Prepare You for Your Appraisal
The term ‘portfolio’ can be used to mean a lot of different things. It is sometimes used interchangeably with appraisal evidence, CV, ARCP, logbook and many more. We think of it more like this…
Your appraisal is an extension of you. It is a robust and high-quality portrayal of you when you are not present to describe yourself and your career. It is an ever-evolving collection of documents and evidence that shows your professional activity and achievements, your ongoing development and learning, and your pursuit of your passions and interests.
Your portfolio is the companion to your physical self. It should be a tool that supports you to achieve your goals (read more about that in this article here) in a flexible and easy-to-use way. One of the things it should help you do is help you with your appraisal and revalidation meetings.
Appraisal is an annual meeting between a doctor and an appraiser to check their practice and ongoing development is in line with the GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidelines. Revalidation is the 5-yearly meetings that confirm your ongoing ability to continue to practice medicine in the UK. Think of your appraisals as check-in meetings that ensure you are on track to meet your revalidation requirements (read more about what you can expect to happen in your appraisal meeting here) .
In order to ‘pass’ your appraisal (we say ‘pass’ but actually appraisal is not a pass-fail exercise), you need to present evidence of your commitment to the GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidance. This evidence should come from your portfolio, so investing in a great portfolio means a great appraisal outcome.
In this article, we will briefly explain the key ways that a great portfolio provides benefits for your appraisal meeting, and how you can go about making your portfolio amazing.
📚 A good portfolio is comprehensive
Keep your portfolio evidence all in one place
Keeping your portfolio evidence all in one place means that it is easier to find when you need it, and nothing gets lost or slips through the cracks.
There are several ways you can do this:
👉 Print out everything - save hard copies of everything in your physical portfolio, including handwritten notes about CPD learning and reflections.
👉 Save digital copies to your ePortfolio or Dropbox folder and in the title make a note of the date it was collected and the name of the evidence i.e. 01.01.2023_CBD_CAMHS
👉 Write a list of evidence you have collected in the notes app on your phone - have one centralised contents list that tells you what evidence you have and where it is saved.
👉 Save emailed evidence (i.e. feedback or scanned documents) in a specific portfolio folder in your emails so it’s easy to find when the time comes to collate it all.
We recommend doing points 1 and 2 and ignoring 3 and 4. We advocate for dual digital portfolio and physical portfolios so that you always have a backup of your evidence, should the worst happen. If you can do points 1 and 2, then your portfolio will be the crème de la crème, but if it isn’t feasible (i.e. you don’t have a printer and need ot rely on batch printing) then incorporating 3 or 4 may be useful.
Keep your portfolio evidence up to date
Keeping your portfolio up to date with everything that you have (think of it like a diary of all of your professional activity) means that you can regularly assess what is lacking and more easily locate missing information. By routinely reviewing your portfolio and ensuring your evidence is all present you reduce the amount of thinking and digging you have to do later.
The alternative is putting it off and then having to waste days or weeks searching through multiple email accounts, getting in touch with HRs, agents, rota-coordinators, and medical eduation teams, skimming through your phone calendar or diary, and calling up colleagues and supervisors to get the information together post-hoc. We don’t know about you but admin is NOT our favourite passtime, thanks.
🖥 A good portfolio is adaptable
Your portfolio should be easy to use and maintain
Following a structure like this one means that you don’t have to think very hard about what evidence is stored where. Your portfolio structure should be intuitive with all of your documents easy to locate whenever you need it.
When structuring your portfolio (whether it is physical or digital) use tabs and folders to separate your sections, and clearly label each document with the date it was collected and the name of the evidence you collected. This makes it easier to populate your appraisal document later - it’s simply a matter of uploading the evidence to the right place (which we explain how to do in our Portfolio Companion).
Your evidence should be easily accessible and adaptable
You should make sure that your evidence is accessible across devices. Using an online system like Dropbox or another ePortfolio service means that you are equipped with you portfolio evidence wherever you go.
Saving blank templates and surveys in your portfolio is also useful as getting CPD and feedback can sometimes require you to be pretty opportunistic. You can find many blank templates and worked examples for CPD, WBAs and PDPs in the relevant sub-sections of our Portfolio Companion.
👌 A good portfolio is high quality
Collect evidence regularly
If you are regularly reviewing your portfolio evidence then you should be able to easily identify which areas are lacking.
If you need CPD, it is much easier to spread this out through the year rather than trying to find people willing to sign you off for CBDs and mini-CEXs all at once at the end of the year. Not only that, but for the sake of your learning it is much better to spread out your learning so that you can actually improve your practice. If you are struggling to find CPD opportunities then click here for ideas.
Our advice is to try and set yourself very low targets of regular CPD throughout the year so that by the time your appraisal comes around, you will have accumulated enough CPD to fly through the meeting. Look out for random CPD opportunities - a couple of virtual teaching sessions over free lunch hours throughout the year might be easier and more affordable for you than paying to attend several full day conferences.
Elevate your evidence to the next level
This step is our top tip for making your portfolio amazing, and it helps with your appraisal too.
Your appraisal will require you to explain your evidence, rather than simply presenting it. It uses the collect, reflect, and discuss model but many doctors mistakenly leave the ‘reflect’ step until later making it much more work.
Instead, invest a few minutes after attending CPD to write down the following:
👉 The name of the session
👉 How long it was (how many CPD points it was)
👉 The key learning points
👉 Any ways that the learning will influence your clinical practice going forward
These points can be brief; aim for 2-3 sentences for a 1 hour (1 point) CPD activity. The benefit is that the quality of your evidence is instantly much higher and you have saved yourself the struggle of doing this work at a later time (which you’d have to do anyway for appraisal).
💼 In summary
👉 Your portfolio should represent you and your career comprehensively.
👉 Your portfolio should hold a record all of your professional activity.
👉 Your portfolio should be easy to use and maintain.
👉 Your evidence should be easily accessible and adaptable.
👉 You should add to your portfolio regularly and use it to audit your areas for improvement.
👉 You should invest a few minutes after collecting evidence to make it higher quality.
By following the above tips (which may only take you a few minutes very few days or weeks) you can end up with an amazing portfolio that is easily transferable to appraisal, killing two stressful birds with one stone.
This article is part of a wider series of resources designed to support doctors through the process of building great portfolios. The heart of this is Messly’s Portfolio Companion, which is a detailed set of guides, templates and tools to help you build and manage your portfolio with confidence. For other articles and discussion on the topic, click here.