Developing a training plan for your Echocardiography trainee

Last Updated: 28th May 2021

A good training plan should be realistic and achievable but flexible enough if needed.

The training plan should be agreed with the trainee after 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 ETP curriculum
  • the BSE syllabus and exam schedule
  • the trainee’s academic timetable and exam schedule if available
  • key School dates for the period e.g. ETP 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)
  • be flexible, with review dates to adjust the forward planning according to achievement
  • have dates provisionally scheduled in for the BSE written and Practical assessments, with dates identified as soon as available. Dates are fixed by the BSE and you will have to work around them. You should aim to schedule the written exam in the Spring of the first year and the Practical Assessment in the last month of the programme. Resits are allowable if necessary – please see the completion requirements for more details.

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.

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.

Involve patients and the public in the training plan

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, and it is necessary to build a strong patient focus into the training. Trainees will be assessed on their patient facing skills. You may also collect patient feedback on their performance.

For example, trainees from time-to-time attend:

  • clinics
  • 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.

If your department applies for full 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 Health Education England office healthcare science lead, or your organisation’s lead scientist or learning and development/education and training lead.

Remember that the trainee is supernumerary and is pursuing academic study

In all of your planning for the trainee, remember that the training posts are supernumerary, and that time must be provided for the academic study element. 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, and assessor.

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, 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.