Are you taking a year out of training but not sure what to do with it? Have you considered taking a teaching job? Getting a teaching job has become increasingly competitive in recent years, especially at big University Centres. Here’s how to make your application stand out and get your dream job. Welcome to my ultimate guide to becoming a Clinical Teaching Fellow!
Who are clinical teaching fellows (CTFs)?
Teaching fellows are junior doctors that could be at any stage of training; from F3s to speciality registrars. They dedicate a proportion of their time to teaching. This is usually for undergraduate students, but some jobs also include facilitating postgraduate teaching. Some roles are 100% teaching, whereas some are as little as 20%. The rest of your time is filled with either clinical work or research.
Who are teaching fellows employed by?
The trust employs teaching fellows to deliver teaching to undergraduate students. The funding for this comes from Health Education England.
Why should you consider doing a teaching fellow year?
Doctors become CTFs for a multitude of reasons.
- It’s brilliant fun. Teaching is a gratifying experience, but normally we are too busy within a training post. Trying to balance providing the best care for our patients, attending our mandatory teaching, finishing the ward round and actually having a social life makes it almost impossible to commit to regular teaching. The job allows you to focus on teaching without constantly worrying about your other responsibilities.
2. Get yourself a free qualification! Most teaching fellow jobs include funding for a post-graduate certificate in medical education (PGCert). The PGCert is worth at least a few thousand pounds. This involves learning education theory, and how to apply it to your teaching. Plus, this will add some more letters after your name, and who doesn’t like more letters!
3. Boost your CV. Teaching experience is an essential part of your portfolio and scores big points on most post-graduate training schemes. For context, leading a 3 month teaching programme can get you more points than having a PhD. It’s a no brainer! You’ll be able to create your own educational research project, and it’s very realistic to aim for a publication. What’s more, you will have plenty of time to get a few audits and QIs under your belt. It’s also the perfect time to revise for postgraduate exams.
4. Develop yourself as a teacher. Teaching is part of being a doctor. Everyone has to teach, regardless of speciality. There are medical students in both primary and secondary care, and you cannot run away from them! By taking a teaching fellow job, you will start to pick up on small things such as the importance of having a quick ice-breaker and using educational technology such as Kahoot and Mentimeter.
5. Enjoy that sweet, sweet 9-5 life. If you are hoping for an excellent year without any on calls or night shifts, there are many teaching fellow jobs that offer this. You no longer need to check your rota to see if you are free that weekend to do something with your friends because you always are. Taking annual leave no longer depends on charming your rota coordinator, so say yes to that last-minute ski trip! You automatically get Christmas off! Plus, there are no students in the summer, so you have a much lighter workload!
How much do teaching fellows get paid?
It depends on the trust, but most teaching fellows will get paid the base salary of their training stage. If you have just completed foundation training, that would be approximately 39.5 K. Check this useful BMA page for more details. But, if you need a little bit of extra cash for that ski holiday that you have always been dreaming of, you could always do locum shifts to boost your salary.
How are teaching fellow jobs structured?
The structure of the job varies. The jobs could be 50:50, where you spend half of your time teaching and the other half in a clinical speciality. For example, you could be on orthopaedics and have alternating teaching and clinical weeks. Or you could be on an 80:20 contract and do four days of the week in teaching and one day a week doing something else. Some jobs are flexible in how you can spend your non-clinical time. This could range from taking the time for revising for exams, doing audits/QIs, or being a supernumerary on a speciality of your choice. I use my clinical time attending Urology theatre and clinics. It is always wise to check the job advert for details of this.
How to find teaching fellow jobs?
The majority of the jobs are advertised through the NHS jobs website. They start to get released slowly from February time all the way to August. Make sure to set email alerts so you do not miss any of them. Make sure you allow enough time to fill in the application form. I had to fill in one application form and used to apply to several different jobs. It took me around 4-5 hours of pure concentration to complete all the sections as you need to write various statements on topics such as teamwork, leadership, etc. So don’t underestimate this.
What aspects of your portfolio should you focus on?
The more, the merrier. There is no real minimum amount set for this. Some of the current CTFs had sporadic bedside teaching, while others designed courses and taught over multiple years. You will be asked about this at the interview, so the more you have done, the easier it is to talk about it.
Make sure you do this in a structured way, in collaboration with the undergraduate or post-graduate departments, so you could get someone to certify your teaching sessions in the form of a certificate.
Moreover, collect feedback for any teaching session you do. This could be as easy as having a QR code to a google document with questions on there. A great tip that I learned from Ollie’s article (http://medprojecthub.com/core-anaesthetic-training/)
These will definitely give you an advantage both at showing your interest and familiarising yourself with some of the educational jargon you could use in the interviews. There are so many courses out there:
– There is a foundation in medical education course which is free by the University of Bristol (found here). This has changed because of COVID 19 restrictions. The latest cohort was done over two half days of virtual tutorials. There is some pre-tutorial material that you should read through beforehand.
– In the South West, there are multiple virtual courses such as the ‘Train the trainer’ course, which are run by the foundation schools.
There are also paid courses out there, which some people have found helpful. However, I recommend looking for the free ones first.
Other aspects of your portfolio
When applying for these jobs on the NHS Jobs website, you will be asked to fill in various sections such as previous leadership experiences, poster and oral presentations and publications. It is unclear how much weight different trusts place on these aspects of one’s CV, and it varies between trusts. All the above would still give you more things to talk about at the interviews and help you for future applications, so I would not simply neglect them. But if you have to choose between one or another, I would focus on teaching courses and experiences instead of the others to secure the CTF job.
In summary, doing a CTF year is a great chance of boosting your CV, improving your teaching skills and having a social life. I strongly advise contacting current teaching fellows in the job so you can properly understand the day to day role. In my next article, I give you some tips on how to get ready for your teaching fellow interviews – there are recurrent questions and themes that I encountered no matter what trust.