The following information is obtained from the Academic Trainee Guidebooks 2012-2013, written by Dr Liz Goode (ACF Gastroenterology) and Dr Jamie Mackay (previously Academic F2, now Radiology specialist trainee), within the Norwich Clinical Academic Trainees.
Download a PDF copy of the ACF Guidebook.
Where will I be working?
The majority of the clinical training will take place through the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), however the rotation may also include the James Paget University Hospital, Great Yarmouth and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn. The academic training takes place at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which, along with NNUH, is part of the Norwich Research Park.
Will I have a supervisor?
As an ACF, you will have an Academic, Educational and Clinical Supervisor. Your Clinical/ Educational Supervisors will be responsible for your clinical training, and will have minimal involvement with your Academic responsibilities. Your Academic supervisor will be responsible for supervising your progress through your academic training programme and research project.
What formal research training will I receive?
As part of your training, you will attending taught modules at the UEA over a two-year period.
You must complete four core modules:
- Introduction to Research Methodology (20 credits)
- Further Quantitative Research Methods OR Further Qualitative Research Methods (20 credits)
- Research Governance and Ethics (20 credits)
- Writing Grants and Refereeing Papers (20 credits)
You must also complete two out of four optional modules:
- Self-directed literature review (20 credits)
- Systematic review/Research synthesis (20 credits)
- Advanced Statistical Methods (20 credits)
- Health Economics (20 credits)
Assessment for each module is in the form of written assignments. Completion of 6 modules gives a total of 120 credits and the award of a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Health Research, which is a mandatory achievement during your ACF. By submitting a dissertation in Year 3, the ACF can be awarded a MSc in Clinical Research – this however is optional. The decision to pursue a Masters degree or a Postgraduate Diploma is taken on registration for the course at the start of your ACF.
Before you can attend any of the above modules, you must first register with the UEA by completing a separate application form for the MSc in Health Research. You need to complete this application regardless of whether or not you wish to complete the MSc in Health Research or just the Diploma. This is requirement of the university and application forms can be obtained by contacting David Craythorne or email@example.com. They are also available via the university website. The modules begin in September and therefore it is advisable to complete your application well in advance. The closing date for September admission will be in mid August, however if you miss this deadline, you can apply for January start date instead.
Your tuition fees for the Diploma/MSc in Health Research are covered by the funding for your post, and this will be dealt with by University. Where the application asks for information regarding who is funding your degree simply state that you are an ACF. For general enquiries regarding the post graduate diploma/MSc in Health Research contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The provisional dates for the 2012-13 MSc in Clinical Research can be obtained by contacting Julie Loughridge.
Once you have received confirmation that you are registered for the course, you must submit your module preferences to Julie Loughridge or email@example.com. You should ensure that you obtain the leave from your clinical duties to attend these modules well in advance. Leave to attend these modules should (technically) not be taken as either annual leave or study leave, as it forms part of your academic commitments. The clinical rota coordinator at NNUH is Mr Kevin Long, who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. He can direct you to the correct person in each clinical department to contact regarding rota issues. You will need to arrange the leave to attend the taught modules yourself – this will not have been pre-organised for you.
What are the markers of a good project?
Ask yourself: is this project achievable within the timeframe available?
Remember, if you want to do anything involving funding and/or ethical approval then you really need to start several months before your actual academic placement.
Will I obtain a tangible output from this project?
This isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of your academic time, but at the end of the day as an academic you will be judged on what you publish. If you aim to have a completed or near completed piece of work by the end of your academic stint then you'll have a better chance of getting something out than if you take on a large, nebulous subject without clearly defining your aims, or just by being over-ambitious. It's good to ask your supervisor about this outright at the start, to make sure that they are aware of your goals
Am I making the best use of the expertise available?
Ok, so you may want to be an orthopaedic surgeon, but didn't get the orthopaedic academic job and have the public health academic rotation instead. This should be seen as an opportunity. Rather than coming up with ideas about hardcore orthopaedic research projects, think laterally and try to integrate your interests with those of your supervisors and their research groups. By doing this you will benefit from closer supervision and be able to use the expertise around you to help you obtain a high quality output from your academic time.
Is my supervisor interested in this topic?
Linked to the above – beware the supervisor who is very ‘hands-off' and wants you to do your own thing. This may seem like a good idea at first (lots of free time...) but at the end of the day, it's a waste of time for both you and them if you get nothing out of it. At this stage in our academic careers it's undoubtedly a good thing to have someone breathing down your neck, checking your work thoroughly. One way to ensure this happens is to pick a research topic close to your supervisor's heart.
Are other people interested in this topic?
Discuss your ideas with friends and colleagues. Does your research question grab them? This is also an opportunity to be warned off some supervisor ‘pet projects' that are best avoided (although see above – this only applies if it really is a dead end research proposition that you can't see yourself getting any output from).
Will I have an academic ARCP and how do I prepare for this?
At the end of each academic year, alongside your clinical annual review of competency progression (ARCP), you will also attend an academic ARCP. In most circumstances your academic and clinical ARCPs will be held together in one meeting. In preparation for your academic ARCP you should:
- Contact Jennifer.Baker@uea.ac.uk to request the addition of the academic curriculum to your NHS ePortfolio
- Set out an academic personal development plan (PDP) at the start of each year, outlining your aims and objectives for that year
- Keep a log of all meetings with your academic supervisor and what was discussed
- Ask you supervisor to produce a report on academic progress before your ARCP
Records should be kept on paper using the forms provided by the National Institute of Health Research Trainees Coordinating Centre (NIHRTCC). These forms can be found in the appendix of the Academy of Medical Sciences guide; ‘Supplementary Guidelines for the Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) for Speciality Registrars undertaking joint clinical and academic training programmes'.
I need some desk space at UEA - how do I organise this?
During your academic time/rotation you may require a working space over at UEA - this is provided according to availability. To organise desk space at UEA contact Carrie White.
Do I need to attend a Good Clinical Practice (GCP) Course?
Before you are allowed to undertake any kind of clinical research, you must complete a course in Good Clinical Practice (GCP). This course can be undertaken as an online course by registering at NIHR CRN Learn. You will need to follow the online instructions to ‘request' this course, and once your request is approved you will be sent an email, enabling you to access the online GCP course. This can be completed in 2-3 hours. It's best to print a copy of your certificate and retain this for future reference. The GCP course can also be undertaken as a one day course through NNUH by contacting Sarah Mann. The online course is free; there is a small charge for the one day course the cost of which should be covered by your NIHR funding (around £50). Both online and day-courses have a test which you need to pass. The advantage of the online course is that you can repeat the tests as many times as required. Your GCP certificate is valid for two years, following which you must revalidate. We recommend you complete this early on, as you cannot undertake clinical research without it.
How do I make the most of the opportunities at UEA?
One way of doing so is to become an honorary member of staff, by means of an Honorary Contract. All ACFs are encouraged to apply for one. It's best if you start off by discussing whether you fulfil the criteria with your supervisor. If you both think you're eligible, send your CV along with a letter of support from your supervisor to the Norwich Medical School manager, Carrie White. The letter of support should be a short statement outlining how your experience to date means you are eligible for an honorary contract with UEA, and what your plans for your Academic Clinical Fellowship are.
How do I get a campus ID card?
The main administrative hurdle you will face at the start of your attachment is obtaining a campus card. It is best to apply for this well in advance of your actual academic placement beginning, for several reasons:
- It allows you to use the UEA's ejournals – they have a larger collection that you'll get with an NHS Athens password alone.
- It allows you access to UEA computers, which feature useful programmes (EndNote, SPSS, Stata etc) to help you plan your research.
- It allows you to use the UEA library, should you wish.
Applying for your campus card is fairly straightforward – just follow the steps outlined below:
- Fill in the application form V1. For the purposes of this form you are classified as a ‘visiting academic'. Make sure you tick all four boxes under ‘Visitor Requirements' at the bottom of p2 (red box in fig 1). Fill in your start date for as soon as possible, and your end date for the end of your F2 year (blue box in fig 1).
- Email a copy of this form to Carrie White, Medical School Faculty Manager. CC in your academic supervisor, who can confirm that you require the access if necessary.
- Carrie White will countersign your form. Once she has done this, you need to take 2 passport sized photographs to the UEA library building
- They will then print your campus card, and you're ready to go!
Alternatively, once you have registered for the MSc/diploma in clinical research, you will be invited to fill out an online enrolment form and upload a photo for your ID card. You will then be issued with a UEA ID card and email address. The campus ID card can be collected from the IT help desk on Floor 0 of the UEA library.
How can I get involved in teaching medical students?
There are a number of ways to get involved in teaching at the Norwich Medical School.
- The first is to become a problem-based learning (PBL) tutor. PBL tutors will be allocated a tutor group of approximately 10 medical students, and will be expected to conduct up to 30 tutorials lasting per year on an allocated day/time each week. There is the opportunity to split a group of students amongst a group of tutors (maximum of 3 tutors), such that each tutor takes the group for a semester. You will need to attend a training session before you can become a PBL tutor. If you are interested in this, please contact Dominique Hubble. This is probably the most involved of all the teaching options, and will require setting aside ~4.5 hours/week to do properly, but has the advantage of catering for your own personal development/learning as well and allows you to guide a group of students over an extended period of time which can be very rewarding.
- Consultation skills teaching is another option. The Medical School has a number of trained actors and pre-prepared scenarios illustrating difficult situations in which communication with patients or their relatives is role-played by the medical students. Thus, there is less preparation on your part, and your job is to oversee the ‘consultation' and provide feedback to the students. Once again, training in this method of teaching is available at the Medical School – the contact to express an interest is Helen Adcock.
- A 3rd type of teaching you can get involved in is Long-Case Teaching, to 3rd and 4th year medical students. These are very similar to the CbDs you have to do as part of your clinical training/ePortfolio requirements. Students are asked to see a patient, and then come see you in pairs for an hour long session in which they present their cases and discuss the issues arising from their assessment of the patient. You can ask questions to determine their knowledge of the field and provide feedback. To get involved, contact Jacqui Empson-High.
- Most clinical modules that the students undergo have at least one structured patient teaching session incorporated. This involves having patient volunteers attend the session who allow the students to take histories and perform clinical examination; your role is to chair the session and make sure the students pick up some learning points by the end of it. These sessions are organised within the departments, so it's best to contact your departmental lead for teaching:
- Rheumatology: Dr Tarnya Marshall
- Gastroenterology: Dr Ian Beales/Dr Andy Hart
- Cardiology: Dr Santosh Nair
- Endocrinology: Dr Rosemary Temple
- Medicine for the Elderly: Dr Lesley Bowker
- Neurology: Dr Paul Worth
- Respiratory Medicine: Dr Andrew Wilson/Dr Crichton Ramsey.
The other opportunity for teaching is to become an OSCE examiner. UEA students have frequent OSCEs at the end of each rotation and examiners are always required. To be trained as an OSCE examination and become involved in this, please contact Jacqui Empson-High.
Are there any courses/conferences you recommend that I attend?
These will depend on your speciality and research area, so discuss this early on with your academic supervisor so you can plan ahead, book the required time off and arrange funding to attend.
An excellent training and networking opportunity is provided annually by the NIHR Trainees Meeting. Details are provided on the NIHR Website.
Norwich Clinical Academic Trainees
Confused by the maze that is clinical academic training? As an ACF, CL or Academic Foundation Doctor in Norwich, you'll never be lost and alone! You're automatically eligible to become a member of the Norwich Clinical Academic Trainees (NCAT). We meet regularly to discuss issues affecting academic training at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital and the University of East Anglia. NCAT allows us to take an active role in shaping our training, by bringing problems and possible solutions to the attention of all trainees and the University and hospital authorities. NCAT gives us all an opportunity to share ideas and learning opportunities as well as seek advice and support from colleagues. NCAT also organises relevant workshops on topics such as 'academic mentoring' and ‘How to gain research funding'. This will be a great source of support for you during your training, and attendance at these meetings is highly recommended.
The Chair of NCAT represents ACFs, CLs and Academic Foundation Doctors on the NATO Board, providing a direct link with the organisations responsible for our training. The current representative is Dr Nicholas D Gollop. To join the NCAT mailing list, and if you have any training issues you'd like to discuss, contact Nicholas via email.