SO WHAT TO DO WITH THIS TIME AT THE REST STOP COMMONLY KNOWN AS F3?
Locum:you have your full registration now, so you are not bound to a particular school or location. Many take up the opportunity to join locum agencies or even bank agencies at a hospital they are familiar with and like working at. You can have your pick of which jobs to take, tailor your working schedule and swell up your depleted financial coffers in the process. It also helps to be strategic when it comes to locuming in F3, as you can speak about all those specialty locum jobs you worked at your chosen specialty interview (if you are that way inclined). And as a locum, you can engage in annual appraisals and take up opportunities to advance your CV.
Enhance Your Specialty Experience:if you do begin to have an idea of a chosen specialty, or you were not able to get a desired specialty post first time round, use the time to enhance your CV by collecting more experiences. Establish contacts and do some work experience, spend some days shadowing at a facility. Attend workshops, seminars and conferences. Sort out your portfolio! Now you have the time that someone who may currently be in training may not have – use it to your advantage!
Travel:All that time climbing the ladder and most of us never stopped to take in the view of the world around us! Yes there was elective, but that whizzed past us in a flash. For some, an existential foreboding and desire for adventure/rest grants the push of the ‘STOP’ button allowing you to get off, take off your stethoscope and lanyard, pick up your shorts and passport and head for blue seas and blue skies.
Explore Other Interests and Hobbies, or Set Up a Venture:it’s amazing how much time you may find yourself spending during training working through on-calls, and rushing to complete your portfolio in the midst of your day-to-day workload. Some may place almost everything else in their lives on the backburner. F3 year grants you the time and space to pursue those things you love. Some medics have even used the time to set up websites, blogs, businesses and charities and get them up and running before jumping back onto the career wagon.
Spend Time with Loved Ones…and REST!:An F1 car needs to stop at a pit-stop to have some time out of the race to get fixed-up and made fighting-fit again. While it is easy to fill up such a break with a jam-packed timetable, make the most of your free time to spend time with those who love you most. Life will teach you that such moments are priceless. And if you have found yourself burning out or crumbling down with exhaustion, take the time to rest and heal your mind, soul and body.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Think about how much time you are taking off:Will it be one year? Two years? In your decided time period, will you be working and if so how regularly? Set yourself SMART goals for your break and make sure you have back-up plans in case your preferred activities fall through.
Think about your finances (!):This is a major point. When you are on a training programme you have a steady flow of income. Will you be able to support yourself if you take a year out? If you have plans to travel or plans which do not involve working agency shifts, have you saved enough money to withstand any unexpected hits to your pocket?
Speaking of locuming, consider your options when it comes to agencies:There are some very good agencies out there, so ask around and ask colleagues/friends about their experiences and preferences. Also keep in mind that it can take a while to sort out your paperwork and complete registration before you are good to start working shifts for an agency. So if locuming is on your heart, get the ball rolling as early as possible. Another thing to think about is joining the bank staff at a hospital, particularly if you’ve really enjoyed working at a hospital in your training or would like to work at a hospital closer to home. Bank jobs tend to pay better than locum jobs and can be less hassle.
Think about work destinations:If you have sights on pursuing a job in warmer climes, sort out the logistics as early as possible and apply early! Particularly if you are headed to the increasingly-popular Australia and New Zealand areas.
Stay Updated, Stay Protected:Keep tabs on your GMC registration, and also take out some indemnity insurance…just in case!
Become The Person Your Specialty Is Looking For!:If you begin to fall in love with a specialty during your time out, review the specialty’s Person Specification (via the link at the end of this post). What things are you missing at the moment off of your potential application? Use the time you have to fill in the gaps in your CV and bump up your chances of a successful application!
Ask around:As with anything in medicine, ask your peers and colleagues about their experiences or experiences of those they know. You are not the first to walk this F3 path and you won’t be the last. Find out what’s worked, what hasn’t, and figure out what may be best for you!
As you approach the end of your time away from training, remember to be honest with yourself.Reflect on your career expectations and the additional (life) experiences you have gained. Hopefully you will now have a better understanding of what lies in wait for you and which road you believe lies ahead.
It is important to remember that F3 is not for everyone. If you have that fierce drive and determination to press on into specialty training and race onto that road to consultancy, and you want to keep that momentum going, go for it! Let that fire rage on! If you have decided to keep on keeping on, that’s great!
But there are many who have found themselves exhausted, buckling under the workload and now apathetic towards medicine. Those who have been rattled with confusion as to what the next step in life entails, or wide-eyed with fear as their specialty application fell through. Don’t feel that you need to make a career choice by force, or feel any pressure from your peer group. Take the time if you need to! Sometimes taking a pit stop in training is all it takes to remind you of why you made the decision to enter this rewarding profession, and crystallise in your mind the right place for you!
I will end by advising this: It is oh so better to take one or two years to make sure you are doing the right thing and going in the right direction for you, than to press on and realise a decade into the future that you made a mistake which you could have avoided if you had simply taken the time…
Dr Jermaine Bamfo