At the start of the training period
It is important to be aware of the dates when the trainee will be doing their academic learning at the university prior to the starting. Some programmes start with the trainee attending from October to November, in these cases, trainees should ideally have at least a few days of familiarisation within the clinical department before starting university.
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 as it prevents staff spending time and effort on last minute preparations.
Share your training plan with 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. The first week should usually be taken up completing Trust/organisation induction, mandatory training, and departmental induction.
Initial ‘meet and greet’ with the trainee
Ideally the training officer should meet the trainee in the first few days, 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), There should also be an opportunity to meet other new or existing trainees.
Take time at the outset to discuss what is expected from the trainee. They are responsible for managing their training and academic workload and submitting work for assessment at timely intervals spread throughout the duration of 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, trainees must understand the constraints of working in a busy department and be mindful of time and staff resources when seeking help from others. Trainees are responsible for acting ethically and should be aware of the Health and Care Professions Council’s guidance on conduct and ethics for students.
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), if working off site virtually, the trainees should still have access to library services and online work folders etc
- 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
Department induction and mandatory training
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 is quite likely to 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.
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 too. The trainee’s line manager should ensure that normal employee appraisals are completed. Objectives should be set around the STP requirements.
It is also vital to ensure the trainees attends the School STP induction event. which is usually held in the second or third week of September. This is a national event where all STP trainees can meet fellow trainees and start to form new relationships that will become a good support network for them for the duration of their training and for many years after.
First planning meeting with trainee
Consider arranging a planning session within the first two or three days of the start of the first rotational placement. At that session, you would mainly discuss the scheduling of training: the aim is to ensure that what you have set out is practically feasible. This will include making sure you have catered for their 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.
Although the training officer is initially responsible for the training plan, it is a good idea to jointly discuss, develop and agree the training plan with the trainee – communication and collaboration is key. Overtime, the trainee should take more and more responsibility for their training plan.
The meeting should explore the possibilities for the trainee to attend operational, clinical or governance meetings, and any relevant conferences. For each year on programme, the Trust is allocated funding of £2000 for education and training support for the trainee to use primarily for travel and accommodation expenses and for attending training and conferences outside of the department. This must be utilised in line with Trust/organisation expenses policy.
During the meeting you should also agree future meeting dates for comprehensive reviews of progress, it is a good idea to keep in touch with your trainee while they are at university and throughout rotations (ideally about halfway through each rotational placement). The output from the planning meeting should ideally be an agreed action plan charting the milestones for the rotational period, with detailed short-term targets indicating what competencies you would expect to be achieved, with dates.
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 delivering 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 specialty at the start of their training. Having an audit trail of their learning journey on OneFile is good practice.
Share your understanding of the training roles
Share the names of all the other staff in the department who will be involved in STP training. Share the different training role descriptions with the trainee giving them the names and contact details of the staff members who will be acting in each of the training roles. Ensure staff members 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 that the trainees has nominated, to ensure 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 existing 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 the training programme already and can advise from recent experience. Most 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.
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 a full 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, and recording tests – which will help them settle in and feel actively engaged.
Keep it relevant
There is a danger that the training scheme 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.
First review meeting
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 to cover any identified gaps in knowledge
- 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
Subsequent one to one review meetings
When the trainee is based more permanently in the department after completing rotations, the one-to-one meetings should continue at least every fortnight but ideally scheduled with sensitivity for crucial points in the academic cycle such as exam times.
Trainees can feel reluctant to criticise supervisors or senior staff. In review meetings ensure you also ask open questions 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.