Getting Into Palliative Medicine
Why choose Palliative Medicine as a career?
A selection of thoughts from those in the field…
• The work is more patient-centred, I find, and I get to give the kind of care to patients that I myself would want …
• It’s a young specialty that’s developing fast … we link well with other specialties that deal with chronic conditions
• It’s got it all: research, management, education, service development … you will find your niche
Do I have the right experience?
Most applicants are physicians with 24 months’ clinical experience, post foundation training, through core medical or ACCS training. Those who have completed General practice training (MRCGP with CCT) are also strongly encouraged to apply. You can consider palliative medicine if you have trained in surgery, emergency medicine or anaesthesia.
Applicants without MRCP(UK) need at least 12 months’ post-foundation experience in a range of acute hospital medical specialties, giving at least four months’ experience managing patients on unselected medical take with ongoing patient management. A further 12 months’ experience post foundation stage is also required in any of the physicianly specialties (see JRCPTB website), or in general practice, anaesthetics, surgery, clinical oncology, psychiatry or paediatrics (a maximum of 6 months per specialty).
How do I improve my chances of getting into Palliative Medicine?
Check the ST3 Person-Specification paperwork available. This is available through the RCP application website:
Measure yourself and your CV against the ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’ criteria.
Market yourself and your interest in the specialty.
It is harder, nowadays, to gain a standalone training post in a hospice, which would give you the ideal experience of what a career in palliative medicine involves and whether you really can commit yourself to it. Nevertheless, look for other opportunities where you can link up with specialists in palliative medicine. For example, as a post-foundation doctor, try to organize a ‘taster-session’ during your training with a local hospice. Why not enter prizes organized by the Association of Palliative Medicine? There are essay prizes for undergraduates or audit prizes for junior doctors.
Note the application deadlines and do not give up!
If you are unsuccessful after both rounds of recruitment, seek advice from your deanery’s training programme director for palliative medicine. If your heart is set on the specialty, consider a non-training grade hospice post, which would give you valuable clinical experience in the specialty as well as demonstrate your commitment.
How do I apply?
Applications (Round One) usually open in February.
Information available on website below:
The application form took me many hours to complete so don’t leave it until the last minute!
What was the interview like?
Three ten-minute stations, each with two or three palliative care consultants on the panel:
• Station 1 reviewed my CV and portfolio – this was an opportunity to show experience of commitment to specialty and clinical experience.
• Station 2 involved discussion of a clinical scenario, clinical governance and ‘hot topics’ in palliative care.
• Station 3 was a role-play to assess my communication skills and approach to an ethical dilemma.
The panelists were looking for ‘good all-rounders’ who showed genuine enthusiasm for and commitment to high quality palliative care. They certainly put me at my ease and weren’t trying to catch me out.
Jenny’s top tips for success!
1. Have a look at the short-listing criteria ST3 – Application Scoring
- Small adjustments to your current audit or teaching projects may radically alter your short-listing score when you come to apply.
2. Get experience of working as part of a Palliative Care Team.
- This is helpful (though not essential) to be able to deal with clinical and ethical scenarios at interview – if you haven’t had opportunity to work in palliative care, try to organize a “Taster” week.
3. Attend a palliative care course and/or conference
- A great way to familiarize oneself with “hot topics” in palliative care research and practice. Ask your local palliative care team about up-coming events.
4. Practice your interview technique
- Run through likely questions or scenarios with a friend or colleague and consider attending a communication skills course.
5. Set aside time to prepare your portfolio
- You will need to provide evidence of all achievements mentioned on the application form and there is strict guidance regarding how to present it.