A taster week offers a firsthand experience in clinical radiology, allowing you to assess your interest and suitability for the field. It also serves as an excellent opportunity to network with radiologists, build relationships, and potentially secure mentorship or letters of recommendation for future endeavours.
You’ve got a GMC number and finally started your job in NHS. It’s now time to think about the next step in your career. You are curious about Clinical Radiology as a speciality pathway and started searching for information on the internet, but you really want to experience what it’s like working as a clinical radiologist before applying.
Arranging a taster week is a valuable opportunity to gain insight and experience in the field, but can also very daunting considering the lack of information around how to go about doing this. A taster week allows aspirants to shadow radiologists, observe procedures, and interact with healthcare professionals in a radiology department.
In this article, we will explore the process of organizing a taster week in radiology for UK graduates and IMGs and provide helpful tips based on information from my personal and colleague’s experiences:
What is the purpose of a taster week?
A taster week offers doctors the chance to gain firsthand experience in clinical radiology, allowing them to assess their interest and suitability for the field. It also serves as an excellent opportunity to network with radiologists, build relationships, and potentially secure mentorship or letters of recommendation for future endeavours.
It is also essential you have evidence that you have completed a taster week or peroid of formal shadowing when applying for a radiology training post.
Choosing your placement: Where should you do your taster week?
Now that you know what a taster week is, it is time to start the process to organise one. Start by identifying hospitals or radiology departments that offer taster week opportunities for radiology aspirants. The best way to start is to approach your local radiology department. Most hospitals have their own system for arranging and booking taster weeks and your local radiology department should know what this is, or be able to point you to the correct person within the department to contact. You many have to ask a few people before you finally reach the right person!
You could also look for other teaching hospitals or academic centres and contact them. Bear in mind, some places may give peiority to doctors working at their local site.
Contacting the Radiology Department
Once you have identified potential hospitals or your local departments, reach out to the radiology department directly. Consider using email as the primary mode of communication. Introduce yourself as a doctor (don’t forget to mention what job grade and trust you are currently working) interested in arranging a taster week and express your desire to gain exposure to the radiology field. Be clear about your goals and expectations. It is always best to approach the consultants and if they agree, which most of them are very happy to, approach their secretary to set up a date.
Now comes the difficult part, talking to your rota-coordinator regarding dates and getting this time approved. This will be a hurdle based on how hectic your rota is, but once this is done, the rest falls into place. All trainees should have a dedicated educational and clinical supervisor who should be able to assist you with this. If you are an IMG you should also have an educational supervisor and they should be able to assist you with knowing what study leave/study budgets you can access.
Our advice is to: “Ask, Ask, Ask ” colleagues and staff at the education centre of your trust so you do not miss out on opportunities to avoid annual leave for undertaking a taster week.
Information to mention in an email requesting taster days
Add subject line: Taster Week.
Add your name, brief introduction about yourself, and current placement/level if applicable.
Add brief information on why you wish to undergo a radiology taster week.
Add dates you are available for a taster Week.
Flexibility and availability
Be proactive and persistent
If you haven’t received a response within a reasonable timeframe, don’t hesitate to follow up politely. Radiology departments receive numerous inquiries which is no surprise considering how popular the specialty is and that taster weeks provide marks in the self-assessment scoring section of the ST1 application. It’s possible that your initial communication may have been overlooked. Express your continued interest and inquire about the status of your application.
Preparing for the taster week
Once your taster week has been confirmed, prepare yourself for the experience. Research the department and its procedures to familiarize yourself with common practices and protocols. Be proactive in learning about the specific area of radiology you’ll be exploring during your taster week. This preparation will allow you to make the most of your experience and will help you to engage in meaningful discussion with radiologists.
Make a list of your objectives and communicate them to your supervisor so you can reflect on them after the taster week, such as:
- Get more insight into the training pathway and additional training opportunities.
- Ask registrars how to make a successful application and do well at interview
- Expose yourself to multiple modalities – plain radiographs, CT, MRI, USS, fluoroscopy and intervention.
- Practice reporting a few scans with the consultants/ registrars.
- Discuss with consultnts the future of radiology and how it is set to change.
- Do a radiology related audit during your taster week.
- Ask about the various exams during radiology training and how to best to approach them.
For more information read Life as a Radiology Trainee.
Professional conduct and observational skills
Reflection will be the single most important thing to focus on after your taster week is over. You do not want to get selected for the interview and when asked about your experience you are unable to give any answer except a generic one like “It was an amazing experience”, or “I learned a lot about radiology”, or “I found out how interesting radiology was”. Having a reflection written on your e-portfolio will make the interviewers weak at their knees and you remember what the exact experience was which will make you stand out during the application process.
The proof says it all
Finally, no matter what you do, do not forget to get a letter or certificate on the official letter head of the specific NHS trust to show as proof. if not, all would be in vain. As soon as you get this, put all the evidence in a separate folder so you do not end up searching all over your mobile or laptop or email looking for evidence once applications are open. Remember: If it is not valid or presented, you won’t get points for it during the interview process.
Taster week letter template
Hospital headed paper
To whom it may concern
I am pleased to confirm that [Name] has completed a 3-day taster program in our Clinical Radiology department from [Start Date] to [End Date]. [Name] has shown a strong commitment to learning and a genuine interest in the field of Radiology.
The aims and objectives of the Taster Week were: [insert information and confirm this has been achieved].
As requested, please find below a timetable for [Name] during their taster period:
[Taster Supervisor Name]
Organizing a taster week in radiology requires thorough research, preparation, and proactive communication. By reaching out to radiology departments, showcasing your interest and experience through a well-crafted portfolio, and demonstrating flexibility and persistence, you can increase your chances of securing a valuable taster week opportunity.
Remember to approach the experience with professionalism and a genuine desire to learn. A successful taster week can provide invaluable insights, mentorship, and potentially open doors for your future career in radiology.