At our induction day at the Royal College of Radiologists, a poll was taken of all new ST1s about who had come straight from FY2 (foundation year 2) and who had done other training. The result was 50:50, yet people seem to get unnecessarily worked up about it as if the biggest decision about doing radiology is when to start.
The reality is it honestly doesn’t matter, there are pros and cons for both options! Here’s what I think…
Obviously I’m biased, I did my core surgical training before I switched to the dark side (literally) and I am a big fan of getting more clinical exposure. My decision to go into radiology after core training was mainly due to the fact that up until my first year of surgical training I’d never met a radiologist in person. Where I did foundation training you only ever spoke to a radiologist over the phone and they were never that friendly. The hospital where I started my surgical training was a different ball game. There I was, hanging out with radiologists in person and eating their cake as they agreed to the scans I’d requested while teaching me how to interpret CTPAs. After being invited on a taster week by a consultant and realising actually it was really fun, I was under pressure by the radiology team to apply during my CT1 year but I didn’t. I wanted to get my membership exams and finish my core training. As my educational supervisor pointed out, it was better to have the extra year to really boast my radiology portfolio and rather than end up in a grim location in the dark, I could end up with a dream job instead (she was right – I ended up in London, my first choice!). The only thing that got flagged up in my interview was how I would feel coming from being effectively a urology registrar down to a ST1, but a quick answer about having more experience and skills to offer, and the opportunity to learn key skills soon batted that issue out of the window.
A key advantage I would say of doing specialty training is I think that all additional clinical exposure is good experience. It won’t take long for you to be in the hot seat deciding what scans to authorise and having done my surgical training and exams, I feel a lot more confident in liaising with other teams about what the best way to image their patient is and in what timescale it needs to be done. You need to be pretty bold to refuse a scan from a senior registrar and consultant, especially when they have had way more medical experience than you! Another reason is if you went straight in after FY2, you can end up being a consultant by the time you’re 30 and I’m definitely not mature enough for that! However if you’re a graduate medic, then the short medical training for radiology can often be a big incentive.
On the other hand, starting from FY2 isn’t too bad. I mean why put yourself through medical nights if in effect you don’t need to! Radiology is a great training programme and you may as well do something you love as soon as possible! The vast majority of the skills and knowledge you’ll gain during radiology training cannot be gained from training in other specialties so you won’t be disadvantaged. This is reflected in the fact that the Royal College of Radiologists has no arrangements in place to recognise “accredited transferable competencies” from previous training in other specialties.
Also, generally speaking, post FY2 trainees do better in their radiology exams than the trainees transferring from other training schemes. There are many possible reasons for this – they are closer to when they sat finals; they’re often easier to teach and less likely to be ‘stuck in their habbits’; and trainees coming from other specialties may have struggled with their other training, pushing them to change to radiology. The reality is radiology is one of the hardest training programmes to get into, and most people end up taking more than one interview attempt anyway, so if you have any sense you may as well apply and get the interview practice.
If there was a right way to do it, it would specify on the application form, but it doesn’t. Coming straight from FY2 or from specialty training has its pros and cons. If you’ve made your mind up and want to do radiology I would say just go for it. The first few months of my ST1 have made me realise I totally made the right decision and I’m glad I did my surgical training first as I definitely appreciate radiology training a lot more!
This article was written by Dr Rachel Hubbard, an ST1 Clinical Radiology Trainee at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at time of publishing.