How to Get Colleague Feedback for Your Appraisal as a Locum Doctor
So, you have stepped off the ‘training treadmill’ and are working as a locum. Congratulations! There are so many amazing things that the locum life can offer, but it isn’t always smooth sailing, even we have to admit.
One of the challenges you will face as a non-training doctor is your appraisal.
Honestly, we are reluctant to even call it a challenge, because they are really not so bad (and can even be enjoyable). They are generally less work than the ARCP which trainees have to do each year, but because non-training doctors find them stressful, we have decided to mention them as a ‘challenge’.
Appraisals are annual meetings to help you prepare all of the necessary evidence to support your revalidation application. As a UK doctor, you are required to revalidate every five years to maintain your license to practice, so your annual appraisal is an opportunity for you and your appraiser to check in on your progress.
There are certain types of evidence that you must provide in order to revalidate (which happens every five years after your full registration with the GMC), one of which is colleague feedback (also known as multi-source feedback, or 360 feedback).
If you are a locum that frequently moves Trusts or wards, jumps in and out of teams faster than you can say ‘GMC Good Medical Practice’ then collecting colleague feedback may feel like an impossible task.
But, we are here to tell you how you can do it and to give you practical and easy tips to accomplish it.
☝️ Note that this blog is part of a wider series about appraisals and portfolios. More information about feedback requirements, how to collect it, and how to present it at appraisal can be found in the Feedback section of our Portfolio Companion - your master guide to appraisals and portfolios. We did hours and hours of work and research so you don’t have to, and have compiled everything we know in the Portfolio Companion. It’s the bee’s knees if we may say so ourselves.
🩺 What are the revalidation and appraisal requirements around colleague feedback?
Appraisals are the yearly check-in meetings you have with an appraiser, which are meant to constructively guide you in the right direction for meeting your revalidation requirements. Revalidations are five yearly meetings that assess whether or not you are meeting the GMC’s guidance set out in Good Medical Practice, and whether or not you should be allowed to continue to practice medicine in the UK.
The GMC states that at least once in your revalidation cycle (every five years), you must collect, reflect on, and discuss appraisal feedback and feedback from your colleagues.
You must impartially choose colleagues from various roles (i.e. clinical, admin, managerial, domestic services etc) who you encounter across the whole scope of your practice.
🤔 Why do I need to collect colleague feedback?
The GMC states that this feedback should help you understand how those you work with view your practice. It is meant to help you identify areas of strength as well as areas for improvement.
You should use the feedback as a prompt for reflective practice, and discuss with your appraiser whether you have or plan to make changes to your practice as a result of your feedback.
💬 What constitutes feedback?
There are two types of feedback you can collect:
Formal feedback is the anonymous feedback that you must collect, reflect on, and discuss formal feedback at least once in every revalidation cycle. You should use a standard questionnaire that is validated and confidential like this one: GMC standard feedback questionnaire for colleagues.
Informal feedback is unsolicited feedback provided by your colleagues, patients, or their families and carers. If it is a complaint about you or your team, you must declare and reflect on it at your appraisal for revalidation. If it is positive feedback, then you don’t have to save it, but it is nice to hold onto and present at your appraisal if you have it.
❓ What questions should I ask in my feedback?
The GMC specifies that you should use standardised questionnaires wherever possible to ensure that your feedback results are valid, objective, and confidential.
You need to carefully consider how to balance the information you need to collect from your respondents in order for their feedback to be useful to you vs how you can protect the anonymity of your colleagues.
For example, if you only work with one physiotherapist and would like to collect their feedback, then don’t ask them to put their job role on the feedback sheet as this would not preserve their anonymity. Instead, ask respondents to simply choose from clinical vs non-clinical.
🖥 Can I use a digital feedback service?
When you did your ARCP as a trainee, you will probably have used Horus to email requests for feedback to colleagues, and your educational supervisor will have reviewed the responses before they showed them to you.
As a non-training doctor working towards an appraisal, you may not have a free ePortfolio service or an educational supervisor to collect your responses. This is particularly true for locum doctors. However, this doesn't mean that collecting colleague feedback is impossible.
🌍 What if I am a locum and don’t work with the same people regularly?
If you locum across Trusts or departments often then you may find it difficult to build enough of a rapport with your colleagues in order to ask them for feedback.
However, there is no GMC stipulation that states you must have worked with a team for a particular amount of time before you can collect feedback. One shift, or even one interaction, is enough for you to collect feedback for the purpose of the appraisal.
The more difficult issue will be getting people to actually take the time to fill out your feedback form. Their main worries will be about confidentiality and the time commitment.
To help persuade people, we recommend:
👉 Ask your colleagues in person if they would mind filling out a feedback form. Once they verbally commit, they will be more likely to actually do it and also will be expecting the form to show up in their inbox.
👉 Give them a deadline and explain that you need it for your revalidation and that it should only take them 1-2 minutes. Ask them to please try and complete the feedback within a set period of time. The reason for this is that you are more forgettable as a locum, and a lower priority on the list of task that this person has to deal with. Adding a small sense of urgency may bump you up a few spots.
👉 Let them know that the feedback is confidential and helps to improve your practice when you work across teams so that you can be a better locum. This shows them how doing the feedback may benefit them in the future rather than being simply a favour to you.
👉 Expect a very low response rate, so your volume of requests should be high. Send out lots of feedback emails - if you move around a lot as a locum, consider collecting 3-4 emails per shift/ group of shifts from those colleagues that you interacted with the most.
👉 You may get slightly more responses with printed forms. If you are struggling to get feedback via digital surveys, consider bringing a few printed forms to a ward and giving your team five minutes to fill them out while you get ready to leave at the end of a shift. If they all leave the forms together in one place for you to collect, they will still be confidential.
We don’t recommend:
👉 Waiting until the end of the year to start collecting feedback. Even if you are universally loved and your department raves about you, you will still get a reasonably low response rate for your questionnaires, so you should give yourself lots of time to do this.
👉 Trying to bribe your colleagues with chocolates. If you are liked, then you are likely to get positive feedback anyway, but if you are disliked, then this comes across as blatant bribery, which doesn’t go down well at all.
👨 Who counts as a colleague?
As a locum doctor in the NHS, you will almost certainly have some kind of colleague unless perhaps you are locuming out of hours in a very quiet morgue (is that even a thing?). You may, however, be doing additional non-NHS work outside of your locum role, which could involve working remotely or working alone.
If you are a lone worker and don't have ‘colleagues’, then discuss with your appraiser in advance who you should collect feedback from. Think broadly about the teams and environments you work within, and consider any other professional with whom you interact or liaise. They do not need to be clinical or even work within the NHS!
🥼 How many colleagues do I need to collect feedback from?
We have scoured the GMC guidance for you and can say with absolute certainty there is no minimum number of responses you need to collect.
On the one hand, this is great because whatever you can achieve should be good enough, but on the other hand, there is a lot of variability between appraisers and what one appraiser may find acceptable will not meet the standards of another.
Most people aim for a minimum of 11 or 12 responses to ensure anonymity. Over five years, this is definitely achievable!
🚩 What if my colleagues flag up concerns?
When asking for feedback, colleagues may flag up concerns or highlight issues with your work. The point of anonymous feedback is to allow your colleagues to feel comfortable enough to do this, knowing that you will never know who wrote what.
Your colleagues’ responses should always remain anonymous to you, but you should consider how issues raised will be addressed if you are not collecting feedback through a supervisor (like the Horus ePortfolio).
If you do get ‘constructive feedback’, then reflect on it, and consider what you may have done to warrant the comments you received. Use the Collect → Reflect → Discuss model when building this section of your portfolio to ensure you demonstrate learning and growth from your feedback.
💻 How do I upload my feedback evidence for my appraisal?
If you are in England, then you will use the MAG form to present your evidence for appraisal. Section 10 of the MAG form is where your feedback will go (this includes both colleague and patient feedback) and looks like this:
You should include your reflection on themes you have noticed, areas where you are doing well, and areas you could improve in the future. If you plan to change your practice, include a brief description of how you plan to change it and what benefit you hope this change will bring.
If you want to know more about collecting colleague or patient feedback for the purpose of appraisal, including tips and tricks on how to get it and how to store it in a portfolio, then check out our Portfolio Companion, which is the ultimate portfolio resource for UK doctors.
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.
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