3 months until STP applications open!

So you want to apply for the STP 2019 intake? Read on to hear our top tips for making that application stand out. These tips are tailored purely for the written application and we will do another post later on to tackle the interview process.

If you’re not sure about the process for the application there are basically 2 parts:

–       Aptitude tests: Mathematical and logical reasoning.

–       Personal Information and short written answers to 4 questions.

It’s important to realise that your answers to the 4 questions (and any other information you put in your application) won’t get looked at unless you pass your aptitude tests. So preparation for these is key. I would say that it’s probably not necessary to start practising just yet, but the earlier you start, the better your chances are of doing well. There is one practice test provided for free online to practice, but there are other practice websites you can pay to access.

The questions. These questions are designed to find out if you have the experience, passion and mindset to work in your chosen specialism. The key to answering these questions is fitting your answers to the person specification on the NSHCS website and backing your points up with real-life examples. For instance, if they ask something to do with the NHS values and standards (spoiler alert- they probably will!), you can say that you’re caring and compassionate – but it’s even better if you can write about a time where you showed you are caring and compassionate. Now, the key to doing this is having those real-life examples to draw on. So that’s where we are going to focus. If you’re applying this year you have around 3 months to get some experience worthy of the 250 words you get to answer each question.

Here are some things you could realistically do in the next 3 months:

Get experience in the NHS/any healthcare environment (Yes- even if you’re not patient facing!). The truth is, you don’t know what it’s like to have your job revolve around patients until you’ve done it. You don’t realise how important each individual will be to you (even if you never meet them!) until you’re involved in even a tiny fraction of their care. This kind of compassion is something that can’t be learnt, it can only be gained through experience. If you feel this way when you’re working to do the best for a patient this will come through in your application. I know what you’re thinking- “It’s not that easy to get a placement in a hospital” trust me, I know! But healthcare is so much more than just hospitals in the same way it’s so much more than just doctors and nurses – as you all well know. If you want to apply for cardiovascular science and can get a week shadowing in a cardiology department that’s amazing. If you can’t there are always places where you can do voluntary work. What about volunteering at a care home once a week? Be a little bit creative, anything that means you’re helping people and actively exhibiting the NHS values and standards is going to look good.

Do something in a team. Whether it’s a sports team, an events team or something at work this one is so easy to do and such an important skill to have. Teamwork is huge in the NHS and it’s impossible to do your job on your own as a healthcare scientist. Being in a team shows that you can communicate well and can work with others. It’s even better if you can show that you’ve led a team. In a sports team for example, great if you’re team captain- you can lead and inspire others and make difficult decisions. But it’s still possible to show leadership skills even if you don’t fancy taking on quite so much responsibility. For example, taking charge of the equipment and making sure everything is accounted for at training every week. Or organising uniform and kit for the team. These types of roles still require leadership (and organisation, and enthusiasm, and a multitude of other qualities) and can be translated for any type of team. Just remember, the STP is looking to create healthcare science leaders so if you’re a little bit shy, now is the perfect time to come out of your shell and try something new (a la Joe’s post a few weeks ago!).

Really swot up on your specialism. Healthcare science is a really exciting place to be right now. There are incredible developments happening left, right and centre in all specialisms. If you can show that you’re keeping up with the latest developments in your field this shows you really are interested and passionate not just saying you’re interested and passionate. You don’t even need to sign up to a specialist journal (though I’m not necessarily saying you shouldn’t if you want to) because everything is on the internet these days.

Finally, take advantage of twitter, careers fairs, open days and talks. There are trainee networks, trainees and scientists all over twitter, mostly who are happy to answer questions. I’m not saying to cold-DM (is that a thing?) or @ any and all of these people on twitter, but realistically if you have a specific question most people want to help. The National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) also regularly have stalls at careers fairs and will send trainees along to man these stalls. It’s also not uncommon for them to ask trainees to go to universities and give talks if they’ve been requested, so keep an eye out for all these things. NSHCS also have details of departments holding open days and what specialisms they’re holding them for on their website so this can be a good resource for finding out more. Of course, I couldn’t write this without mentioning us! Feel free to reach out to us- let us know if there’s something we can write about that you think would help.

Disclaimer: Doing all of these things or none of these things will not necessarily guarantee you an interview or mean you definitely won’t get one. These are just a few things that we think will help you gain some good experience that you can draw on to write about in your application. Also, as good as networking and reaching out to people is, I can absolutely guarantee that “knowing someone” is not going to get you a place on the STP. No one can just “put in a good word” for you. Showing that you’re passionate about science and healthcare through your actions is the best way to get you through to interview.

We hope you found this useful! As always, if any current trainees (or even people who assess the applications – if you’re reading?!) have any tips of their own to add, please feel free. And as mentioned before – if you think you have a topic that you want us to write about, please let us know. Until next time!

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Author: Jes

I am a trainee clinical bioinformatician working at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. I am passionate about increasing awareness and discussion about healthcare science and particularly the routes into the field.

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