To F3 or Not to F3?
If you’re planning an F3 year, you should be clear on what you want to achieve during it, so that you can get as much from it as possible.
In this article, you will find out:
- What is an F3 Year?
- What are the reasons for taking an F3 Year?
- Is an F3 Year right for me?
If you're already sure that 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 out of training after completing your Foundation Years, that's called an F3 Year. You are a doctor who is eligble to practice but won't be part of a training programme. This is different to an ‘out of programme experience’ (OOPE) where you are still part of a training programme but are taking a year off.
Some doctors will apply to specialty training mid-way through the F3 year and start training the following August, but some extend their F3 into an F4 and beyond.
What are the reasons to take an F3 Year?
1) Broadening Experience
The generalist nature of Foundation Training means it can be hard to get the breadth of experience you want before committing to a specialty training programme. Also, getting some additional experience in highly competitive specialties can boost your application for further training positions.
If gaining experience is your main reason for taking an F3 Year, you might want to consider clinical fellowship posts in your chosen specialty. They 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 a fellowship role, and can even offer a part time PGCert in Medical Education alongside your clinical duties.
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 regain some control over your life and career. An F3 Year 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, consider locum work either through a staff 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 recharge. However, beware that your shifts (and therefore income) are not guaranteed as a locum 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 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) working as an adventure medic or volunteering with a medical NGO.
4) Exploring Alternative Careers
For some, the experience of Foundation training may have tarnished your love of medicine a little.
An F3 Year is a great opportunity to explore ways in which you can put your medical skills to use outside of the world of hospital medicine without jeopardising all of the progress you have made to date.
You could work in education or academia, a healthcare startup, medical journalism, the pharmaceutical industry, 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.
Is an F3 Year right for me?
The honest answer is that you need to take the time to explore what you want from both your career and your life.
We would advise working through our F3 Workbook to ask yourself some deep questions about whether or not an F3 Year is right for you, but if you are looking for the abridged version, some questions you can ask yourself now are:
- Am I 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 in my life and am I getting enough of that thing as a trainee?
- Where do I want to be in 5 years in my life and my career?
- What would be the perfect job for me to become the person I want to be in 5 years?
Who can help me decide what to do?
Consider accessing a Career Advisor through your local Trust or Deanery. They may be able to help you understand the options available and the practicalities in making them happen. A Career Coach is another person who can help you explore not only what you’d like from your destination, but your own unique path to get there.
Our Foundation Year 3 Doctors group on Facebook has over 6500 current and aspiring F3 doctors, so is a great place to ask questions and connect with other doctors.
How Messly can help
Messly holds a workshop for F2 doctors considering an F3 Year. If you want to meet with like-minded foundation doctors and get guided support working through the F3 Workbook then book a space to join us.
If you decide to Locum in your F3 year, consider using our free Locum Finding Service. We've been trusted by over 7,000 doctors to help them find the best locum shifts and would love to help you too. You can read more about how use tech to get you find the work opportunities here and how we differ from joining an agency directly here.
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.
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors with a comprehensive set of guides to ensure your F3 Year is a success. These guides cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience. Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.
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