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Supporting doctors returning to training after time out


Out of the 50,000 doctors in England currently in postgraduate medical training, roughly 10% are taking time out of training at any one time. A doctor might take time out for a variety of personal or professional reasons, to gain additional experience or qualifications, or a career break.

“I know that there are a variety of reasons why a doctor might take approved time out of programme. In many cases it will also benefit their learning, for example, should they seek to develop their skills elsewhere.  These are highly committed, hard-working and intelligent individuals who want to get back into training, and it’s right that we value and support them to restore their skills and confidence.” Professor Wendy Reid, Health Education England Director of Education and Quality, and Medical Director

SuppoRTT was developed to provide targeted assistance to help doctors get back “up to speed” when they return to training. Our Supported Return to Training strategy and investment plan outlines HEE's ten commitments to support trainees with their return to training. 

How can HEE help returners?

A trainees' time out of programme is coordinated by local HEE offices; including before, during and after. Doctors returning to training can access personalised advice and support through their local HEE office. We have created resources for everyone returning to training, a trainee will develop their individualised 'return to training' package with their appropriate Educator/Supervisor using their local HEE SuppoRTT Team processes.

Each regional HEE office offers a slightly different “menu”, but because the programme is individually tailored, there is room to request things which a trainee requires, providing it is approved by their Supervisors/Educators.

SuppoRTT can offer: 

  • A period of enhanced supervision
  • Refresher courses and simulation training
  • Mentoring or professional coaching
  • Conferences and workshops
  • Funding for other courses or development, as individually required

Contact your local HEE office: 

Access our SuppoRTT  digital and online resources page

HEE engaged in an evidence-gathering exercise; engaging with trainees, medical Royal Colleges, the BMA Junior Doctor’s Council, trainers, educators, employers, HEE’s local offices, the Leadership Academy, patient representatives and the General Medical Council.

HEE received strong feedback that support for trainee returners is inconsistent across location and specialty. Returning to training after time out of practice is a challenging process and that the associated impact on confidence poses the main concern to trainees and trainers alike.

The biggest concern for returners was a lack of confidence in their clinical knowledge and technical skills when they returned to training after time out of programme. While some excellent examples of tailored and accessible support were provided for returners, trainees also reported:
 - a lack of guidance on the exit and re-entry process
 - a lack of contact with supervisors whilst out of training.
 - a breakdown in pastoral relationships resulting in no clear line of responsibility (who to approach to discuss Less Than Full-Time training, for instance)
 - support was only received when proactively sought out.

“After being OOP for over three years my confidence working in a clinical environment has reduced. I am specifically concerned about my how lack of confidence will affect my decision making, and worried that during busy on calls I will be indecisive and struggle to get things done” Clinical Research Fellow and ST5 in Respiratory and GIM

Webinar - Returning to Paediatrics training series: essentials to ensure a successful return to work following a break from clinical practice

Dr Trisha Radia and Dr Sarita Depani provide top tips to trainees who are on/are about to go on a clinical career break due to, for example, maternity, paternity or carer leave, OOPE, OOPR (out of programme education/research) or health reasons. 

Paediatric Return to Acute Clinical Practice (PRACP) Videos

Five videos developed by London Paediatrics covering topics: 
 - Less than full time training
 - Human factors
 - Returning to clinical practice - barriers and solutions
 - Sleep management
 - Serious incidents - a resource guide for trainees

Useful online resources:

British Medical Association - returning to clinical practice after an absence

MySuppoRTT website

Case study: Suzie Pomfret

Suzie Pomfret is an Education Fellow doing an MD in Medical Education, out of programme for research (OOPR). She also took time out of program for maternity leave (9 months) after the arrival of her son, Max and is due to go on maternity leave again soon.

Read Suzie's story
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