What to do first
Before commissioning a post for a trainee on the Scientist Training Programme (STP), you should ensure you know the extent of the training required, and can deliver it in full. If in doubt, contact the School or your local Health Education England office or equivalent if you are based in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Contact your human resources department as soon as you have confirmation of a trainee and ensure you are aware of any processes you need to follow.
These may include:
- Vacancy approval processes
- Organisation-wide induction procedures e.g. mandatory training sessions which will need to be booked in good time
- Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and reference approvals
- Preparation of any honorary contracts that may be necessary.
Even for an in-service trainee (i.e. an existing staff member who has achieved an STP place) there will be human resource implications such as backfill to recruit, clinical work to rearrange or honorary contracts for rotations outside the employing organisation. Before requesting a funded STP place you should have already obtained accreditation from the School as a training centre for the STP.
You can begin the process at any time by completing the initial self-assessment form for training departments.
Familiarise training staff with the STP curriculum
Essential reading for staff involved in training is the STP curriculum for the relevant specialism. It is the blueprint for the training period, setting out all the learning outcomes and competencies to be achieved and the assessments to be performed. It includes generic professional competencies and specialist scientific competencies. Trainers will need to know it well, and should be able to brief other colleagues. It should be the basis of the trainee’s training plan. All training staff should also be familiar with the assessments the trainee will complete.
Analyse the curriculum for training you cannot provide
Even in the specialist learning outcomes there may be some that you cannot provide in your department because you do not handle that particular type of work/equipment/process. Consider well in advance how any such gaps can be filled by, for example, periods spent in other departments. If this highlights something your department particularly specialises in, or does differently from others, you might also think of offering an opportunity to other STP trainees from elsewhere in the country to benefit from brief visits, workshops or demonstrations.
Develop a training plan
The trainee will take ownership of the training plan when they start. But it can be helpful to have an outline training plan prepared in advance using the competencies and assessments in the curriculum as a basis. It should have some fluidity to be able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and cater for the trainee’s speed of learning. It can be reviewed and amended as often as is needed. Training plans can be developed within the e-portfolio system OneFile and you can watch a short video which shows you how to do this.
To prepare the plan ideally you would consider:
- The STP curriculum
- The trainee’s academic timetable and exam schedule if available
- Key School dates for the period e.g. STP Induction day
- The diary availability for the training officer and all supervisors (for work and holiday commitments)
- The departmental diary.
The plan should:
- Set realistic goals for achieving the learning outcomes aiming for steady progress over the entire period
- Contain milestones so that the training officer can evaluate progress and work with the trainee to keep the training on track (perhaps simply in terms of the percentage of competencies and assessments which should be achieved by given dates) and observing progression rules set by the School for the programme
- Be flexible, with review dates to adjust the forward planning according to achievement
- Have a timetable for the rotation year, with dates as accurately identified as possible. In some cases you may find dates are fixed by the rotation providers and you have to work around them.
The plan would identify the staff in your department for the various training roles and any others who will be able to provide training in specialist skills or processes. It is best practice to ensure time is specifically allocated to these individuals for these roles. Download a copy of our example training plan with a suggested contents list.
Think about making the training plan an accessible document for all departmental staff. It will enable other staff and trainees to develop a better understanding of what the trainee is doing and make the demanding nature of the programme evident. It will also encourage others to contribute to the training process and demystify the nature of a training regime that might at first sight seem ‘privileged’ to others.
The rotation phase
For the rotation phase of the STP consider contacting (and preferably meeting) rotation providers to agree dates and supervision arrangements. You may need a formal agreement; download a copy of our example statement of agreement. Consider the use of honorary contracts with rotation providers if they are from another organisation. Your human resources department may need to advise on this. Check first whether the arrangements are included in your Learning and Development Agreement (LDA) with your local Health Education England (HEE) office (or country equivalent). For private providers offering rotation placements, check whether a service level agreement is required.
Try to produce a detailed plan for the first rotation, with the key tasks, learning outcomes and a timetable. Rotations may be in small departments without a great deal of resource, and they should not be expected to produce the plan entirely in isolation. The overall responsibility for planning with a trainee lies with the named training officer/co-ordinator; however, for specialist rotations it is the rotation host department that will have the best understanding of the area of work in question. Therefore, best practice is for the training officer to take responsibility for a plan being produced, and ideally to produce it in co-operation with the rotation provider.
Patients and the public
The patient must be at the centre of all the trainee does and this should be reflected in the training plan. The trainee must be encouraged to understand the patient’s experience and journey through the healthcare system. Different scientific disciplines will involve differing degrees of direct contact with patients. It is still necessary to build a strong patient focus into the training. Trainees who have significant clinical interaction with patients will naturally be assessed on their patient facing skills. You may also collect patient feedback on their performance.
For those who have less occasion to meet patients, plan to ensure that opportunities are deliberately built into the programme.
For example, trainees from time to time attend:
- Meetings of disease specific groups such as patient support or rehabilitation groups
- Patient feedback meetings with a relevance to their work;
- Patient support groups such as Macmillan centres.
The trainee should be encouraged to consider the ethical, psychological and social impact of their work both on the individual and wider society. Broader public engagement could involve attendance at careers events, public forums or governance groups within the organisation to get a better understanding of the wider implications of their work. You may wish to encourage trainees to sign up as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics network (STEM) ambassadors and encourage them to form networks and organise their own meetings and journal clubs.
When your department applies for accreditation as a training centre, one of the issues the School as accrediting body focuses on is Patient and Public Involvement. It is important that everyone in the department reads and understands the principles and values described in the NHS Constitution.
Develop contingency plans
You cannot plan for all contingencies but you can have a process to follow: a list of contacts, some alternative activities held in reserve. This is another aspect of training in which a strong network locally and nationally will help a great deal. You can also go to a number of sources of support, advice and information, including the School, your local HEE office healthcare science lead (or country equivalent), or your organisation’s lead scientist or learning and development/education and training lead.
Remember that the trainee is normally supernumerary and is pursuing academic study
In all of your planning for the trainee, remember that the training posts are normally supernumerary, and that time must be provided for the academic study element including the MSc research project which will be undertaken in the workplace. This is particularly important in the case of in service trainees, because the department will be used to relying on them to provide service. Clinical exposure is an essential element of training; however the department should be able to function normally without their contribution to service provision. The trainee’s colleagues should be aware of this.
The trainee should also be aware that an entitlement to study time does not necessarily mean they can take the same day every week as a ring-fenced study day (unless the training officer/department decide that is the right approach). The trainee needs to be flexible about study time.
Identify the people in the department and elsewhere who will fulfil the main training roles
The roles are training officer, training co-ordinator, training supervisor, and assessor/ rater/reviewer.
In a small department, a single person may fill several of these roles. The training co-ordinator role is designed for training consortia: he/she has an overview of all trainees within a consortium, who may be placed in a number of different Trusts or organisations. This role may not be applicable in all cases and may be combined with the training officer role.
Before the trainee arrives, it is best practice to identify the training officer and/or co-ordinator, the training supervisor for at least the first rotation, and any staff in your organisation who will be assessors; to ensure they are briefed and prepared. Training works best as a team effort. As long as the training co-ordinator/officer retains oversight, there is nothing to prevent trainees being coached and mentored in particular skills, procedures etc. by a competent, less senior member of staff. Less senior staff may also be involved in assessing the trainee’s competence, provided there is quality control from the training officer. However, trainees should not assess other trainees.
Learn how to use the e-portfolio system OneFile and explain it to others
Staff involved in training in any capacity should be familiar with the functionality of the OneFile e-portfolio system. Trainees and training officers will be given access to the system early on in their training by the School, usually after the STP Induction day has been held.
As soon as trainees and training officers receive their account details, we would very strongly recommend logging in to OneFile and editing your profile so that you sign up to receive email notifications from the system. Notifications are not sent out until you elect to receive them!
Training officers/co-ordinators are also strongly advised to familiarise themselves with how the OneFile service works by viewing this range of short ‘How to’ videos about the various features of OneFile.
Ensure the training officer has completed the School’s ‘Train the Trainer’ session
The School runs train the trainer sessions which focus closely on the requirements of the STP, the types of assessment required and the standards of evidence expected. It is important for the sake of quality and consistency of training standards that all training officers have the necessary preparation and familiarisation with OneFile, the assessment methods and the type of competency evidence expected. Best practice would be to book on a train the trainer course with the School as soon as you have confirmation that you have a trainee.
Arrange for all necessary ICT access
The trainee will need appropriate IT access in order to complete their training and academic studies.
Check that services are available at the trainee’s workstation
Allocate a workspace for the trainee and ensure they are accommodated with others and not isolated. IT or other workstation equipment should be ordered well in advance. The work area should be prepared before the trainee’s arrival.
Establish whether you need to arrange any financial support
Think about funding for your trainee if you send them to other locations for parts of the training or any other financial need arises either for the trainee or for any training staff. A discussion with your finance manager should take place before the trainee starts to ensure appropriate funds are identified and allocated. Ensure that the trainee is familiar with the process to apply for funding to attend conferences and so forth.
If possible prepare a standard agreement with other training sites
Training officers/co-ordinators still have responsibility for ensuring trainees receive an acceptable quality of training while at another site. Best practice would be to have a simple written understanding between the departments about the purpose, standards and expectations. This may be covered in your LDA arrangements, unless the other training site is in a different local HEE area (or country equivalent). You should ensure there are robust governance arrangements for any trainee working outside the employing organisation. Download a copy of our example statement of agreement.
Notify the trainee of the rules of the department
Trainees are departmental employees and at least a month before they start must be notified of start and finish times, dress codes, shift patterns, notice periods for time off etc. It may be a good idea to send a copy to the Higher Education Institute (HEI) so that academic tutors are aware of the constraints under which the trainees are working. If the trainee requires a uniform, inform them well in advance, and arrange for fittings in good time. The uniform should be waiting for them when they start. Trainees should also be provided with badges which identify their role and status.
Arrange an early meeting with the trainee before they start
We will send you full details of your trainee when the offer is made and accepted. Invite them in as early as possible to meet colleagues and see the department. This provides an opportunity to discuss expectations and establish rapport. It is a chance to find out a little more about their interests, experience and skills, which will help your planning process. It is also a good time to explain the likely arrangements that will be made for rotations and any other time at external sites. Some trainees in the past have been surprised by the amount of travelling they have to do – it is best for them to be prepared. If possible, arrange for an extended visit – consider a week’s honorary contract, perhaps with hospital accommodation.
Speak to somebody who has already been involved in STP training
The most useful contacts will be in your own scientific specialism. You will probably know of someone through your professional network or professional body who has already been engaged in training a healthcare science trainee in your field. If not, the School can give you a list of contacts. This will be an opportunity to discuss best practice.
Prepare staff including other trainees
Staff in the department or trainees on other schemes will need to understand some elements of the training programme. It may be worth considering hosting an ‘STP familiarisation’ meeting open to all staff in the department.
Some topics to cover would be:
- It is a national level competitive scheme leading eventually to registration as a clinical scientist
- It is part of a suite of schemes at all levels, which form a common education and training framework for healthcare scientists
- Trainees are supernumerary and will be studying concurrently for their master’s degree
- The academic study may be undertaken in the workplace, and the trainee will be engaged in study for at least one day per week (as well as studying in their own time)
- The scheme is designed to develop fully rounded professionals, and encourages working across professional disciplines and developing management and leadership skills
- The scheme will involve long periods away from the department at other work bases, on rotation or other specialised short placements, or on block study at the higher education provider.
This is also an opportunity to explain the work of the School, its themed boards and Training Programme Directors.
Trainees can also bring a valuable new perspective to your department. Their questions and reactions can be useful to existing staff. Make them feel that they have a role in improving the department. Ideally trainees should be in the same offices as other department members. Trainees have reported that they learn most about how to do the job from overhearing and engaging in everyday conversations between staff. This informal learning is invaluable and ensures the trainee integrates into the team. Make sure trainees are invited to and participate in departmental meetings to understand the wider implications of their work.
Prepare to be active in imparting knowledge and skills
The academic part of the programme is at master’s level and the trainees will all have a good level of scientific understanding. However, no programme can teach everything that is needed for professional practice, and innovation happens very quickly in science. Training officers should prime staff in the department to be generous in passing on their own knowledge. In addition to scientific knowledge, there is a wealth of other knowledge and skills in, for example, practical tasks, professional practice, health service management, and patient facing competencies.
Establish contact with the HEI
Ideally, establish a working relationship with the programme lead as soon as possible. This is an integrated training programme and works best if the academic and work based elements are working co-operatively together.
Build networks within your organisation
Departments covering other science specialisms within your organisation may have STP trainees. There are potential areas of common training, particularly in generic professional competencies. You could find out who else in the organisation has trainees, and discuss what capacity can be shared. It is a good idea to involve the lead scientist as he or she should have an overall view of all trainees in the science area. Your local HEE (or country equivalent) healthcare science lead should also be able to help. Details of existing regional healthcare science trainee networks are also available.
Inform your learning and development manager and lead healthcare scientist
The person responsible for learning and development in your organisation, and your lead healthcare scientist, should be informed in advance that you have an STP trainee joining. They may have useful resources and planned events which can contribute to training, particularly in the generic professional competencies. They will also know what support is available.
Send background reading to the trainee in advance
Documents that are required reading such as organisation wide policies, departmental guidelines, practice advice, rules and regulations could, if it is within your organisation’s normal practice, be emailed to the trainee in advance.