Your Echocardiography trainee has arrived; what’s next?

A trainee's first month is crucial as their impression of the department will be formed in the first few days.


It is important to be aware of the HEI delivery model prior to a trainee starting; programmes may start with the trainee attending the HEI early in their employment. In these cases, trainees should ideally have at least a few days of familiarisation with the clinical department before starting at the HEI.

The first month of the clinical training period is crucial. Much of the trainee’s impression of the department will be formed in the first few days. It makes for a great start if they find everything in a state of readiness when they arrive. This is best for the department too, it prevents staff spending time and effort on last minute preparations.


Share with the trainee what you have planned

Send the training plan to the trainee in advance

Before the trainee starts, provide them with a copy of the outline training plan. Best practice would be to email a draft to the trainee a week before they start and ask them to read and make comments to it.

Initial ‘meet and greet’ with the trainee

Ideally the training co-ordinator/officer should meet with the trainee in the first few days (as early as possible after induction). The initial meeting provides an opportunity to ensure the trainee fully understands the role and function of the department(s). Supporting material should be provided to the trainee (for example any documents or slides describing the department’s work, produced for other occasions). This might also be an opportunity to meet other new or existing trainees.

Schedule a planning meeting

You may wish to combine this initial meeting with a planning session, or perhaps schedule another meeting quite soon. At that session, you would mainly discuss the scheduling of training: the aim is to ensure that what you have set out is practical and feasible. This will include making sure you have catered for the HEI timetable, and any holidays. Make it clear in the first meeting that there is scope for flexibility, and changes in circumstances can be reflected in revisions to the plan.

The meeting may explore the possibilities for the trainee to attend operational, clinical or governance meetings, and also any relevant conferences (conference costs should be discussed, as the trainee may be required to source their own funding).

During the meeting you should also agree dates for subsequent one-to-one meetings between the training officer and trainee. The output from the planning meeting should ideally be an agreed action plan charting early milestones, with targets indicating what competencies you would expect to be achieved, with dates.


Share your understanding of the training roles

Review the training plan and the training role descriptions with the trainee. The training officer may act as the assessor for all competencies or may delegate to other experienced team members. Ideally, give them the names and contact details of the staff members who will be acting in each capacity. With those named staff members, review the requirements and ensure they are ready to undertake the specified tasks. If staff members are new to OneFile or need a refresher, recommend they watch a range of short ‘How to’ videos about the different functions of OneFile. Remember, access will only be given when the member of staff is nominated by the trainee. Where possible, provide some practical examples of the various assessments, and establish a shared understanding within the department of the standard of evidence expected, and the acceptable length of response time.

Prior to a trainee nominating their assessors on OneFile they must discuss and agree appropriate assessors with their training officer. When the trainee’s activity is periodically reviewed on OneFile, the training officer must review the assessors, in order to confirm they are all appropriate to act as assessors and have performed the task appropriately.


Identify a buddy and/or mentor

As well as the formal training roles, best practice would be to identify a ‘buddy’ from among existing staff or other trainees, someone who already knows the department reasonably well and can support the trainee in an informal pastoral capacity. Another valuable asset would be a mentor – someone who has gone through BSE Accreditation already and can advise from recent experience. Many employers have a mentoring training program that you can tap into to ensure trainees and mentors get the most from the experience. Provide the trainee with details of any essential contacts in the region, and ensure they know the identity and contact details of the relevant Training Programme Director at the School.


When the trainee starts

Provide them with a workspace

Ideally on the first day of clinical practice all the necessary physical arrangements should be in place and ready for use, for example:

  • a desk
  • equipment (calibrated and working)
  • a security badge or pass
  • a workspace PC/laptop with all necessary software and network connections
  • provision for possessions (such as a personal locker)

Trainees should also be made aware from the outset of practical arrangements e.g. policies on reimbursement of expenses.

Provide an induction

You may have a standard practice for welcoming new trainees and staff into the department. Induction should include an introduction to the organisation, with all the practicalities such as pay and conditions, annual leave, health and safety, and mandatory training. As part of the induction the trainee should meet with their line manager and key people within the department/ organisation, be shown where the operational policies can be found and have a tour of the workplace. The trainee may be new to the area. Best practice is to provide them with a document containing useful local information about the hospital and the wider area. Hospital maps with the main amenities are particularly useful.

Tasters – departments and tasks

Consider an orientation programme so that from the outset the trainee gets to see the range of tasks performed by your department and can get an overview of any other departments with which you have regular contact. The trainee will need as full a picture as possible of how the department’s work fits in with that of others.

Have specific activities timetabled for the first few days

It is frustrating for a new trainee on starting a placement having nothing specific to do – for example, being told to spend the first day reading various policies or guidelines. A good timetable should include some practical tasks e.g. setting up or calibrating equipment, observing tests – which will help them settle in and feel actively engaged.

Ensure the trainee attends the ETP Induction

All ETP trainees are invited to a national induction event by the National School of Healthcare Science; this may be held online. If the trainee has joined you before this event, you should ensure they attend.


Discuss with your trainee what is expected from them

Take time at the outset to discuss what is expected from the trainee. Topics to cover would include:

  • There is an expectation on them to be proactive in organising their own training.
  • They are responsible for managing their training and academic workload, and submitting work for assessment at timely intervals spread throughout the training.
  • Although they were recruited to a national training scheme, their contract of employment is with the trust and they are expected to follow all the normal requirements of departmental staff e.g. professionalism, discipline, and notification of absence.
  • Patient focus is central to the programme and throughout their training they should seek ways of understanding the impact of their work on patients.
  • Despite the department’s commitment to the training they must understand the constraints of working in a busy department, and be mindful of time and staff resources when seeking help from others.
  • They are responsible for acting ethically and should be aware of the Health and Care Professions Council’s guidance on conduct and ethics for students.

You should also be clear about what you will undertake to do. For example, a frequent source of anxiety for trainees is delay in obtaining feedback on competencies submitted through OneFile. You should agree reasonable timescales and commit to deliver them; ideally within two weeks and no longer than four weeks. Trainees can feel they need everything to be perfect before submitting work or assume that write-ups should include a large amount of theoretical background. Encourage the trainee to submit evidence early to get feedback and establish what is required. You should also remember trainees are not expected to be competent in their specialism at the start of their training.

Keep it relevant

There is a danger that training can feel like a tick-box exercise. Make sure the trainee completes work that is meaningful and useful for the employer. Involvement in project work, equipment commissioning, audits of clinical procedures etc. can often satisfy multiple competencies. Look for opportunities to give the trainee’s work wider recognition within the department, for example by asking trainees to present it at departmental meetings.

At the end of the first month

Ideally your first review of progress should happen no later than the end of the first month. However, in some cases timing may vary depending on the HEI timetables, and trainees may only be in the department for a short time before going to their HEI. If this happens, the review should take place after the first significant block of time the trainee spends in the department.

A typical review would cover:

  • How the trainee is settling in
  • How the physical arrangements are working
  • A report from the trainee on progress with the academic work
  • Any problems with the training plan or adjustments needed
  • Feedback from you on the trainee’s professionalism/ fitness for practice
  • An account from the trainee about progress including work in preparation for submission in OneFile
  • Feedback from others in the department – the more feedback you can obtain in the first month, the better
  • Confirmation that the trainee has completed any mandatory training required by your organisation.