Considerable care and effort is needed to ensure quality of training throughout the programme. The following are some ways of keeping the standards high.
Review the quality of training in the department
You could use trainee feedback, peer review, and training outcomes. Take stock of all training schemes operating in the department, and any quality enhancements that can be made which benefit all. Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Best practice would be for an external peer to help you in the review. Your professional body may advise – several professional bodies have a regional tutor system. A good opportunity for conducting this review is when you are asked to complete annual monitoring by the School in order to maintain your approved accreditation status. You may well also prepare periodic quality assurance returns for other agencies such as your local HEE (or country equivalent) office.
Maintain the quality of training skills among your staff
Try to ensure relevant staff in the department complete the School’s train the trainer session and cascade the training to others. It is also good for a training department to ensure that any staff who may be involved in coaching, mentoring or training have an opportunity to complete some generic training in this area themselves, through CPPD in the organisation. Consider establishing a teaching observation scheme among trainers (e.g. for case based discussions). Critical reflection is key to professional practice. Be honest with a trainee when you are uncertain about a professional situation and articulate your thought process (what are you weighing up when you consider a difficult situation with a patient or colleague?). If they see that you have to do this, they will be more comfortable about asking and discussing approaches to professional practice. Rather than seeing professional practice competencies as separate from technical competencies, highlight how they are integrated e.g. you must communicate well with your colleagues in order to find the best technical solution to a problem.
There are many NHS courses on change management, clinical and information governance and leadership that you can encourage your trainees to attend. Ask them to evaluate the department’s systems/ approaches against this. Be open to the results.
Follow ‘Good Scientific Practice’
The Academy for Healthcare Science document ‘Good Scientific Practice’ sets out the principles, values and the standards of behaviour and practice for the healthcare science workforce. These standards and values must be achieved and maintained in the delivery of work activities, the provision of care and personal conduct.
Follow good practice advice from professional and regulatory bodies
Although this help book provides some generic good principles, it is not designed to offer advice in specialist areas. Your professional body and regulating body will be the best source of good practice advice. In particular, the professional body may have useful mechanisms for quality assurance, including regional tutors or external visitors. Several also publish guidance on training. Many will provide valuable self-audit or review checklists and pro-formas.
Observe other published standards such as ISO or service accreditation
Where there are published standards from your regulatory body or from other accrediting bodies (for example, any service accreditation you are required to hold) you should keep informed about requirements and observe any associated guidance.
Mid-term review of progression
The mid-term review process is facilitated by the School and serves as a check on a trainees’ progress with their learning and professional development.
The review is based on:
- a brief report from the training officer
- a self-assessment from the trainee
- a report from the HEI
This evidence is reviewed by a team of reviewers, who will reach a judgement about whether the evidence supports or does not support the trainee’s progression to Year 3 of the STP.
Have regular meetings with the trainee and other stakeholders
The training co-ordinator/officer should seek to maintain frequent and meaningful contact with the trainee. There should be informal contact as and when circumstances dictate; but you should also timetable a formal structure for giving and receiving feedback. The essential references for these feedback sessions are the training plan and the record of their progress in OneFile.
During the first year on rotation the trainee may be frequently absent from the department. The training co- ordinator/officer still has responsibilities. If a trainee is on a rotation at another site, training co-ordinators/officers should agree a schedule for on the record telephone or web conferencing one-to-one reviews during that period, ideally once a month (although naturally this should be flexible depending on the rotation schedule). The meetings do not need to be long or exhaustive but they should cover the essentials, and you should keep a brief note of any concerns or actions arising from them.
Ideally you should also invite the training supervisor (at the other site) to join every second telephone call for the final part of the meeting, and take an extra few minutes with them in private after the trainee has left the call to give them an opportunity for confidential feedback. The most important thing to record from any of these calls is recognised training needs (which may be identified by any of the parties). Any training needs noted should be included in an action plan with implementation dates. Similarly, any complaints or issues raised by the trainee should be considered carefully and a record kept of any action taken.
Every third call (that is, once every quarter) should ideally be treated as an opportunity to set a small number of ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) objectives for the next quarter. These may simply be identifying competencies to tackle next in sequence, or may include additional objectives identifying personal and professional development needs. In the first year these calls may coincide with the beginning of a rotation. Flexibility will be needed, but it might be useful to discuss with the rotation provider some key objectives for the rotation period. The objectives would then be noted and reviewed at the next quarterly call. The timetable of reviews does not need to be unduly regimented. You should do what makes most sense in the context of the training, and be prepared to adapt the schedule as required.
When the trainee is based more permanently in the department, the one-to-one meetings should continue with the same frequency and cycle of objective setting, but ideally scheduled with sensitivity for crucial points in the academic cycle such as exam times. However, they can provide useful support for the trainee in such times. Trainees can feel reluctant to criticise supervisors or senior staff. In review meetings ensure you also ask open questions using appreciative enquiry. For example, ask ‘what is going well?’ and ‘what would make this a really excellent training experience or department to train in?’ This should make the trainee feel less like they are criticising and more comfortable with suggesting practical improvements. Any changes and adjustments made to the training plan should be noted and kept accessible by both parties.
Ensure electives are appropriate
Discussions about the elective rotation should be had in good time. In the quarterly review of objectives (one to one meeting) immediately before the elective, you should encourage the trainee to set some specific objectives for the elective period, related to the competencies in the relevant curriculum. The essential feature of an elective is that it should contribute to the trainee’s development as a clinical scientist. Trainees have interpreted this in very different ways, from observation of related fields of practice to voluntary healthcare related activities in other countries. Although many trainees choose to travel abroad, this is entirely a matter of preference and many useful electives can be sourced close to home. The trainee needs to be aware that they are required to source appropriate funding arrangements for their elective. You might encourage the trainee to ensure that they have considered any permissions that will be required, for example for travel, honorary contracts or liability insurance. Please be aware that the School has no role in agreeing or supporting the electives.
Ensure the research project is appropriate
The trainee will be undertaking a master’s level research project in the workplace. It is principally the HEI’s responsibility to approve the project topic, following proposals from the trainee; however, if well chosen, a master’s level research project can create great value for the department as well as for the trainee. The trainee should be encouraged to engage a range of stakeholders in evaluating suggested topics.
Source a work based supervisor for the research project
The trainee will have an academic supervisor at the HEI but will also need a work-based supervisor. The work based supervisor should have an appropriate level of knowledge and experience to supervise a postgraduate project. The HEI should provide some guidance. The supervisor does not necessarily have to be in your department. The research project will take place in the second and third years of training, but a supervisor should be identified early and you will need to ensure they know their responsibilities and take on the role willingly. The trainee will need to ensure that all the necessary ethical clearances can be gained.
Mandatory training and appraisal
In addition to the training specific to the STP, the trainee is responsible for ensuring that the statutory and mandatory training is completed and maintained. Trainees should be encouraged to check any requirements for mandatory training while on rotation away from their employing organisation. The trainee’s line manager should ensure that normal employee appraisals are completed. Objectives should be set around the STP requirements.
Delegate where effective
It is generally good practice for a trainee to experience a range of training styles and hear a diversity of views. You might consider whether particular parts of their training can be delegated to others within your department, with the training co-ordinator/officer retaining oversight. This can be beneficial both for the trainee, and for the delegated trainer (as personal and professional development).
Maintain links with the School
The School promotes the highest standards in healthcare science training, and departments can contribute towards this by participating in its activities, in particular:
- recruitment to the training schemes
- station writing and assessing for the final assessment
- attending events and meetings
- volunteering for activities such as training centre accreditation panels.
Training co-ordinators/officers should ensure they receive the School’s e-bulletin and have contact details for the relevant Training Programme Director. The Training Programme Directors appreciate contact and feedback from training officers, as this contributes to the continual improvement and refinement of the programme. Through the School you will also receive information about any changes to the programme or curricula. It will be the responsibility of the training co-ordinator/officer to ensure these changes are applied. Trainers are advised to check the news section of the School website regularly.
Maintain trainer/trainee networks (local and regional)
There may be formally convened networks of training co-ordinators/officers organised by your local HEE office or equivalent elsewhere in the UK. Over and above these, trainer networks can be formed locally, regionally and nationally through professional bodies, social media, or national conferences. Trainees will also form online networks and will meet others in their specialism when they attend their HEI. Other networking forums are meetings and events organised by the School. It is easy to overlook networks within your own organisation. If there are trainees in other specialisms in other departments, the training officers from each department may have valuable insights to share and, in some cases, learning resources that can apply across the whole healthcare science workforce.
Ensure links with wider workforce within your organisation
The programme aims to develop clinical leadership in the healthcare science workforce. Consider any opportunities to engage the trainee in the wider cross professional work and seek exposure in the fields of policy making and management. This in turn raises the profile of the profession as a whole and enhances the reputation of healthcare scientists.
Engage with your professional body
Professional bodies will normally have a long history of training and assessment, and are repositories of best practice, quality standards and expertise. Trainees should be encouraged to explore any professional body membership status open to them (this varies between professional bodies).