To F3 or not to F3?
If you’re planning an F3 year, you should be clear on what you want to achieve during that year, so that you can get as much from your F3 as possible.
If you're sure an F3 year is for you, this article contains a detailed breakdown of the different jobs and options available for your F3 year, with information and links for each.
First, what is an F3 year?
If you take time away from a training programme after your Foundation Training, that's called an F3 year. You won't be part of a training programme, and won't be recognised as a doctor in training by the GMC, but are still eligible to practice. That is different to an ‘out of programme experience’ (OOPE) where you are still part of a training programme but are taking a year off.
For some, an F3 year extends in F4 and beyond, but others will apply to specialty training mid-way through the F3 year and start training the following August.
What are the reasons to take an F3 year?
1) Broadening Experience
The generalist nature of Foundation Training means it's often hard to get the breadth of experience before you commit to a long training programme. Also, as certain training programmes can be intensely competitive, it's helpful to get some additional experience to boost your application.
If this is your main factor for taking an F3 year, you might want to consider clinical fellowship posts in your chosen specialty which give you the opportunity for regular hours, whilst allowing the time to focus on your own learning and development needs. Trusts often offer training and support as part of the role, or offer a part time PGCert in Medical Education alongside your clinical duties.
Before accepting the position offered, consider what your development needs are and negotiate to ensure that you’re maximising your exposure to the opportunities you want.
2) Recharging Batteries
Many Foundation doctors are pushing through to the end of F2 with the feeling that it’s time for a break – either to travel, or just to take their foot off the pedal.
Taking a step back from training can provide you with the space needed to take stock, or even take some control back over your life. The time out of training can be a timely opportunity to consider the sustainability of your current approach to your work and life.
If your main goal is to recharge and reflect, you might want to consider locum work either through a local bank or an agency. You can earn your F2 salary in as little as 2 or 3 days per week, giving you time and space outside of work to reflect and charge. However, beware that your income will be variable so you will need to be comfortable with taking a little risk.
3) Having an adventure
As a natural break in training, the F3 year is also a great opportunity to try something completely different. That might be working overseas for a year (Australia and New Zealand are the most popular destinations) or working as an adventure medic.
4) Exploring Other Options
For some, the experience of those first few years has left their impression of medicine a little tarnished. It can be wonderfully satisfying, but it's also incredibly challenging.
Your F3 year is a great opportunity to explore ways in which you can put your medical skills to use which are outside of the world of hospital medicine. That might mean adding strings to your bow such as education or academia, working in a healthcare startup, medical journalism, medical writing or something further off the beaten path.
If you'd like to learn more about other career options, the Alternative Careers for Doctors Facebook group is a fantastic community of like-minded clinicians who are exploring alternative career options.
Some questions to ask yourself...
This leaves the question ‘what’s right for me?’
The honest answer is that you need to create the time and space needed to explore what it is you want, both out of your career and your life. It can be really useful to find someone to act as a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas, be that critical friend to challenge your assumptions and perceptions, and ultimately, to support you in exploring not just how to achieve your potential but reach beyond it.
Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- Am I sure I am ready to commit to specialty training?
- Which parts of being a doctor do I love? What would allow me to do more of that?
- Which parts of being a doctor do I dislike? What has stopped me from enjoying my F1 and F2 years?
- What do I value most? Flexibility, learning, certainty, support?
- Where do I want to be in 5 years?
- What opportunities are available now which could help me on your road to who you want to be?
Final thoughts and other resources
If you are thinking of taking a career break or are struggling with you career direction, then consider accessing a Career Advisor through your local Trust or Deanery. They can help with practicalities and also in understanding the options available. An alternative is Career Coaching. Working with a Coach will enable you to explore not only what you’d like from your destination, but your own unique path to get there.
The Foundation Year 3 Doctors group on Facebook has over 3,000 current and aspiring F3 doctors, so is a great place to ask questions and connect with other doctors.
This article was based on thoughts provided by Laura Blackburn. She is a Medical Registrar with an interest in education, coaching and mentoring. She has just completed a year as a Health Education England Coaching and Mentoring Fellow. Through her company Transition Solutions, she provides group and one-to-one coaching for professionals. Particular areas of interest are career coaching for doctors and supporting professionals returning to practice following career breaks. Coaching will support you in exploring your values, motivations and goals and help you achieve the career you really want.
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