Message from your HSST Training Programme Director
Dr Lisa Ayers
Welcome to the February HSST monthly memo. Firstly, I would like to say it is great to be back and to say a massive “thank you” to Owen who has covered the HSST Training Programme Director role for the last year. I know that many of you have caring responsibilities and many have or will take statutory leave during the HSST programme, so here are a brief set of reflections on my recent experience of returning to work in case they strike a cord with any of your experiences.
This has been my second period of maternity leave, the first being 5 years ago whilst I was in the midst of FRCPath examinations. With the benefit of hindsight, I have been able to relax and enjoy this maternity leave much more than first time round, despite Noah arriving in the height of the 2nd wave and with full lockdown in place. Home schooling with a newborn and no external support was no joke!
I returned to work last month when Noah was 11 months old and these are a few things I have considered over the past few weeks:
Your immediate team make all the difference
I am so grateful to Owen for taking on the HSST Training Programme Director role. It was very comforting to know it was in such safe hands. Since I have been back Owen has continued to cover this role as I am slowly getting back up to speed. The whole team at the NSHCS has been amazing in supporting me and making my return to work as positive as possible.
Baby brain can be a good thing
I have always disliked the term ‘baby brain’ due to its negative connotations and its use to make people feel less capable during pregnancy, post-partum and when returning to work. However, baby brain could be interpreted differently. There is increasing recognition in job descriptions and person specifications for resilience, compassion, empathy, patience, in addition to the staples of problem solving, time management and multitasking. These are the exact same skills that you consistently work on and are tested on whilst in a caring role. By no means is this the only way to develop those skills, but it is a very intense period of time when you are solely focused on them. Therefore, the changes that someone may experience following a period of leave to care for another person should be embraced by organisations and not viewed negatively.
Being realistic is key
Being a healthcare scientist, and especially being on the HSST programme, is about embracing opportunities and that often involves taking on additional responsibilities. This doesn’t change following a period of leave, but it does become even more important to prioritise and identify those opportunities which bring the greatest benefit. It is important to be open and honest with others about what is and what isn’t possible for you, helping to set expectations early on and being consistent. I am guilty of always saying “yes” and then considering afterwards if what I have agreed to is achievable. This is something I will continue to work on!
Enjoy the downtime
The weekend and evenings have now become even more important to focus on family time. I don’t always achieve this, but I am trying. Of course Noah has picked these last few weeks to stop sleeping as well as he had been. At first this felt really stressful. Why now? How am I going to get anything done in the evenings? How am I going to function the next day? However, I have realized that this time together whilst everyone else is asleep is really precious and has actually eased some of the inevitable mum guilt.
Overall, I am so pleased to be back. Speaking to my trainees, workplace supervisors and my colleagues energises me and gives me focus. However, missing spending all my time with the boys and their antics is hard. (I know I am already looking through rose-tinted spectacles at maternity leave and forgetting how tough much of it was.) I aim to listen to my own advice and to strive to achieve the goal of work/life balance whatever that may be during this new phase and try to be realistic with myself.
Changes in your training
It is important the School be made aware of any changes to your training which may impact on your ongoing progression, participation or completion of the programme. The School will co-ordinate with commissioning teams and universities to make sure all organisations involved in your training are aware of the latest position to ensure you receive appropriate advice and support so that your training programme can be managed effectively. This applies to all trainees in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Examples of circumstances in which you or your training officer must notify the School:
- Statutory leave – we will need to know the dates of intended leave (maternity, paternity, parental, adoption leave) and any flexible arrangements requested on return so that your programme and training plan can be reviewed and your revised completion timeline confirmed.
- Long term sickness absence – any period of sickness over 6 weeks or more should be confirmed with the School or if there are multiple short term absences that trigger local employer policies. It is an opportunity to seek advice about processes that can support your training, such as the Exceptional Extenuating Circumstances policy, and to seek support from the training support team in the School to discuss matters with you and your training officer in more detail. Click here to find the Exceptional Extenuating Circumstances policy.
- Changes to your training officer/supervisor – this needs to be updated in OneFile but the School also needs to know for accreditation purposes and to ensure that we are communicating with the right people at the right time about your training. Click here to find the change notification form.
- Decision to leave the programme – it is important that you get in touch with the School if you are considering leaving the programme, particularly if this is as a result of issues with your training. Try to speak to us early to get advice and support so that you can determine if leaving is the right choice for you. We will always support your decision to leave but if we can help with any issues that are influencing that decision then we would like to know to see if we can resolve them with you.
- Transfer of training or early employment – there is a policy for this so please review and submit an application as soon as you receive the offer, or earlier if possible, so the School can review and confirm if your training can continue to be supported in your new department. Click here to find the transfer of training policy.
Any changes of the above nature should be communicated to firstname.lastname@example.org and the relevant team in the School will advise you.
Information for supervisors
Train the Trainer events
Are you interested in attending a series of Train the Trainer events?
If you have recently added your details to our waiting list there is no need for you to register. Everyone from the waiting list will be invited to one of the sessions taking place during May 2022.
Employers expressing an interest in taking HSST trainees
The HSST is a 5 year funded programme with an additional 12 months unfunded period to allow for completion of all programme requirements such as the academic dissertation or professional examinations. The commitment for employers taking a trainee is therefore up to 6 years in total.
Employers must also be willing to support trainees where breaks in training are required and which may result in extended training time e.g statutory leave, ill health, disruptions due to service pressures, COVID-19 etc and so should provide a training contract which will provide some flexibility to enable trainees to complete the programme successfully within an extended time period.
Any additional time on programme beyond 6 years may require an application via the National School of Healthcare Science Exceptional Extenuating Circumstances (EEC) process and trainees/departments should liaise with the School in good time to discuss their circumstances where this is applicable.
Missed a previous edition of the HSST Monthly Memo?
We’ve published copies of the Monthly Memo for HSST trainees and supervisors on our website.