The 'F3' Year: Taking Time Out of Training - Part 1

The race to reach the top of the tree in Medicine is one that can be relentless.

Many of us have engaged the zeal, determination and relentless drive (traits which are required to reach the medical summit) at various stages of our educational life. From Secondary School, we pressed on and pressed hard, jumping over every barrier placed in front of us – whether it was achieving your expected grades, to passing entrance exams and interviews; jumping straight into medical school or finally arriving there by way of BSc.

Even when the euphoria of passing your finals deteriorates into stress and toil as you meander through the first few weeks of foundation training, your innate drive will likely begin to pressure you into thinking forward towards the next big hurdle you need to jump over in your career – the process of specialty training applications and making the difficult decision of which specialty you will be entering into.

For some, they have the special grace to have known what specialty they want to pursue a career in. But it also appears that a growing number of people come to the end of their foundation years with no real consensus regarding what specialty to choose, with the path forward appearing even more fuzzier than it did at the start of F1! Only 43% of junior doctors in 2017 entered straight into a UK specialty training programme on completion of F2,which is a substantial decrease from 71% in 2011.This drop in numbers can be partly explained by the rise in popularity of the option of taking an ‘F3 Year’.

Why the rise? There are many potential reasons. For some, they may have reached that period in F2 where specialty applications take place none-the-wiser as to which training branch they want to enter, or undecided as to even whether they want to pursue specialty training at all. Some may not get their desired training post/job and have nothing concrete planned for the next year. There are those who have been burnt out by F1/2, those who have become disenchanted with the system as they’ve waded through the thick mud of red-tape and poor working conditions which can be found in various corners of the NHS. There will be those who have encountered physical or mental health issues, or have more extra-curricular responsibilities which they want to address.


Should you take a break after medical school? Well truth-be-told it’s advisable to jump straight from medical school into foundation training. Not only is it the well-worn path, and one taken when you arguably have the greatest amount of general medical knowledge you’ll have in your life (keyword:arguably); but the support of medical schools in helping you cross that threshold into foundation training and help you get those training wheels off and hit the ground running cannot be underestimated. The additional support of your peer group is also important, for F1 can be daunting and heavy and particularly stressful and great comfort can be taken knowing that you are in a group of people having similar experiences. Also remember that you need to complete F1 year to complete your provisional registration with the General Medical Council (GMC) and attain your full registration and become eligible to practice independently.