How to apply for a Clinical Education Fellow post
To help with the educational challenges created by COVID, we in the Undergraduate Department at Virchester recently advertised for a Junior Clinical Education Fellow on a 12 month contract. To say we were overwhelmed with the response is a bit of an understatement! What really struck me is that we had literally dozens of applicants who failed to promote themselves or their educational interests well so this is a blog to help any applicant think through a job advertisement and application process, using a Clinical Education Post as an example:
DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT
The hard thing for me was that pretty much everyone had done the same sort of teaching. They’d taught medical students informally on the wards or they’d given/organised a series of Zoom lectures aimed at finals or done the same with the FOOT scheme. This isn’t their fault – it’s what the competencies ask for, but because of this it means everyone has done it.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Firstly get in touch with your local undergrad Med Ed team and see if you can do some teaching for them. I’m not talking about the “I’d like to do 2 trauma simulations please ‘cause I am really interested in trauma medicine and simulation” – I am talking about offering to help with the bread and butter teaching sessions that have to be done repeatedly, are time-consuming for the departments, and frankly, after doing 10+, are a bit boring to deliver. I’m talking about the venepuncture or cannulation workshops, examination sessions, or being an ‘examiner’ at the mock OCSCEs. This kind of teaching is important to get on your CV because it shows you have a real interest in the basics and are willing to get your hands dirty with the boring, repetitive stuff which, as a fellow, you are likely to have to do.
If you are an additional faculty member to the lead tutor, ask if you can run one after you’ve facilitated a few and get some feedback on your teaching – ideally in writing (see application form).
IF YOU SPOT A GAP FILL IT
You’ll probably have noticed that there may be areas in the undergraduate curriculum that aren’t covered well by the medical school. Often this can be around the practicalities of everyday medicine. Remember the first time you were called because a patient had fallen – did you know what to do? How about how to document in the notes – did anyone ever show you how to do that? These are gaps that can be filled.
COME WITH A PLAN
I’ve lost count of the number of times a junior doctor has come to me wanting to do a new teaching session and I’ve asked what the objectives or outcome of the sessions will be and they’ve looked at me blankly or said “to learn about [insert every speciality here]”…that’s not an objective/outcome! Come to the team with a lesson plan which should include:
- What the aim of the session is and what the learning objectives are (aims and objectives are different things – if you can’t work out the difference, look it up – if you can’t understand why I’m not telling you here then remember that telling isn’t teaching).
- How many students you will facilitate at a time
- How many sessions you would like to do
- How much time you need for each session
- How much space and what kind of space you need
- How you are going to evaluate the session
- What you need from the undergraduate department
CONSIDER VARYING WHAT YOU TEACH
So many people teach only what they are passionate about and I totally get that – why wouldn’t you! I personally love doing human factors teaching but I don’t get to teach human factors, I have to teach a lot of other things in addition to this. If, for example, your CV only contains surgical teaching from day 1 this might be fine if you are applying for a clinical education role in surgery but if you are applying for other types of education fellow roles (for example general simulation) there maybe doubt in people’s minds about your willingness to teach around other subjects.
DO SOME BACKGROUND READING ABOUT EDUCATION
In my experience, many Teach the Teacher courses are pants. They go into irrelevant or outdated theories of education (don’t get me started on learning styles!) that have no practical application in the real world and, ironically, are frequently taught badly. Ask yourself how people really learn things and then go and buy or borrow this book: Make it Stick: the science of successful learning by Peter Brown et al.
DECIDE ON YOUR EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
How do you teach? What is special about your teaching over everyone else’s that you can apply to all of your different types of teaching sessions. I personally have a few things. I wont list them all but to give you a couple of examples I like to create a safe learning environment to foster discussion so learners know they wont be humiliated if they ask a “stupid” question and I like to produce pre-learning material which can also be referred back to after a session. This kind of thing shows that you are thinking like an educator rather than someone merely passing on information.
THINK ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE TO EDUCATE
This question is bound to come up in some format during an interview about education so start thinking early. What is it that makes you want to teach? Was it because you had excellent role models who inspired you? Was it the terrible role models who made you think “I never want to be like that”? Is it that moment on someone’s face when finally they understand something they have been struggling with thanks to you?
The application form is the key to getting an interview. Usually what happens is that you are scored against the essential and desirable criteria on a scale, but the shortlisters also have some discretion based on the rest of the application. With so many applications to go through you want to be hugging your shortlister (metaphorically) by making their jobs as easy as possible.
- Do apply early! Whilst the closing date may seems weeks away, applications may close early if there are lots of applicants. If you leave it til the last minute you might find yourself out in the cold.
- Do read the essential criteria then tell the shortlister how you meet them, providing examples and evidence where possible
- Do repeat this for the desirable criteria
- Do remember the ‘softer’ bits of requirements such as team working and reliability – as a shortlister we can’t assume that just because you are a doctor you are a team player or reliable (we all know examples of doctors who aren’t) so gain every point you can
- Do go for an informal visit wherever possible. It allows you to meet the person you are going to be working for; you can ask questions about the post; they might divulge things about the post that will be of use to you in your application; you can see where you might be working; they know your face and they will be keeping an eye open for your application form if you make a good impression
- Do Google* the place of work and people who are interviewing – their online presence may help you angle your application towards their interests – people like people who are like them (*other search engines are available but lets face it, no one ever uses them)
- Do get across your passion for education and explain why you want THIS job in medical education rather than A job in medical education – make the shortlisters feel special
- Do keep the application brief. With 163 application no one wants to read something the size of a novel including quotes by Winston Churchill amongst others
- Do read what you have written and then get someone else to read it too. Sloppy mistakes can count against you as they make it look like you don’t care. I have a diagnosis of mild dyslexia so my spelling is often unique and my grammar can be a bit hit and miss, but I always get someone else to read a blog before I post it – do the same with your application forms.
- Do fill in the application form correctly. Fill in all the blanks (reasons for leaving etc…) since leaving things blank makes it look as if you have something to hide. If its not relevant to you then put N/A. Put your teaching experience under teaching experience, put your audits under audit – this makes the shortlister’s job so much easier. You can then expand on these in the supporting information.
- Don’t just say “I am confident I meet all the criteria for this job”. Anyone can write that and many do despite not having some of the essential criteria (see point two of Do)
- Don’t put in a generic application form, it’s obvious when people do this and it makes the shortlisters think that you just want any job rather than this particular one. I appreciate that it is an effort to have to type an individual application each time but with so many applicants to choose from shortlisters can afford to be picky and will look for those people who are willing to put in the effort
- Don’t talk solely about your passion for clinical work when you are applying for an education job. If it is a clinical job with education involvement, people will want to hear more about the education than you think
- Don’t be arrogant! This sounds so obvious but there is always someone who writes “I am the best candidate for the post…” and when they do the question that always springs to my mind is “how do you know when you have no idea who the other candidates are?” (other things spring to mind too but I am told I can’t put them in a blog). The last thing an educator needs to come across as is arrogant.
- Don’t use acronyms or abbreviations without qualifying what they mean especially if you are applying outside your speciality. Ask yourself: will your shortlisters know what the ATACC or CRiSP courses are and what they might be equivalent to?
Assuming you have got through the application process and are invited to interview, you need to prepare in advance and to start thinking about what they might ask you.
- Talk to the current post-holders if possible – what questions were they asked? Interviewers for these post are usually very busy and have little time to prepare (or in my case are lazy) so will often recycle the same questions year after year
- Think about other questions they might ask you
- Once you have an idea of the questions you should then think about what answer the interview panel might be looking for when they ask the questions
- Always have questions at the end. It doesn’t come across well if you have nothing to ask about the post – it comes across as if you aren’t that bothered
Most of these posts ask for a presentation or for you to teach something (we always ask for the candidates to teach us something of their choice in 10min however it can’t be medical and they should be creative)
Often you are asked to do this task first so psychologically it sets the bar for the panel – if you do an amazing teaching session then you will need to do badly in the interview to lose points; if you do a poor task you have to do really well in the interview in order to gain points to bring you back up
- It is a test of your teaching skills so used recognised methods of teaching
- If you are delivering a presentation visit folliett.com
- Practise, practise and practise again; to your friends, to your colleagues, to your family and to your pets and then ask for honest feedback (but not from the cat – they will just look at you with disdain)
- Prepare in advance. Will you be able to share a screen? If you need the panel to have anything to hand (paper, pens, scissors, a chess set, music paper, smart phone to access a QR code – I have been required to have all of those to hand at some point), email ahead of time to give warning
If your interview is over a video link, as many are at the moment, think about the following:
- If you get the choice, I would try to be the first person interviewed or the last because if there are a lot of people of the same standard being interviewed these tend to be the most memorable
- Interviews by video are often more informal than face-to-face ones but you still need to think about what you wear and how you come across
- A stable and fast internet connection – connecting an ethernet cable from your router to your laptop will improve speed and limit the chances of the Wi-Fi dropping out
- Consider using earphones and a microphone to improve sound quality
- Think about your lighting – A window behind you makes it difficult to see you on camera whereas a window in front or even better, slightly to the side can improve the lighting tremendously. Have a play around and see what looks best.
- Think about the camera angle, the problem with using laptops is that the camera is looking up at you which is an unflattering angle and looks slightly weird (as an interviewer I feel as if I am sat on the floor looking up at you). Experiment with getting your camera level at your eye height.
- Are you familiar with the video software that is going to be used – if not then get familiar with it. What can it do, what are its limitations.
- Think about your background – what is behind you? What are the interview panel going to be distracted by. Is there any way you can have a plain background. Try to avoid the background screens provided by Zoom & Teams – if you move around too much or the light is wrong, parts of you sometimes vanish which is distracting
- If you are having to do a presentation, can you beg, steal or borrow an additional monitor so that you can see both presenter view and your audience when you are delivering it
- Look directly into the camera when you are answering questions. There is a great temptation to look at the person on the screen (which is totally natural) but remember to the person watching you that will mean you are looking down when you answer which makes you look like you lack confidence in your answer
- You are likely to be nervous when interviewing for a post, especially if you are a junior who may not have had to interview since medical school. Nerves make us forget things so take advantage of being interviewed via video link and consider having a prompt board just behind the camera with some key words (not a script) on it for key topics that might come up
These are only my thoughts and experiences based on what I want from a clinical education fellow, others may disagree with some of what I have said and certainly for interviews for other posts you need to seek advice from those experienced in that position.