RCOphth’s 2023 Ophthalmology ST1 national recruitment interview on the Eye to Eye Podcast Notes.

For those in the know, the RCOphth Eye to Eye Ophthalmology podcast historically interviews the lead for national recruitment every year around interview season. with a 20-30 minute QnA session.  It offers an interesting insight into how the process is organised, structured, and gives real insight into what they are trying to test for. Our blog post summarising the last interview is here: https://stinterview.com/2021/02/04/eyetoeye2021st1ophthalmology/

This year Adam Bates has joined as the new lead for national recruitment for ST1 ophthalmology interviews, and in the podcast, he answers some really interesting questions about the process. We’ve listened to it and would also like to share our notes below.

You can listen to the podcast here: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy9jYjM3OWJjL3BvZGNhc3QvcnNz/episode/ZDEzMDU2YzYtZDg5MC00YjQ5LTgwYmQtNDVlOTI0ZmIwMWZj?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwiQ6vW4zo39AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAQ

We’ve put in bold and underlines the most high-yield and relevant facts for you all below.

Podcast Notes

Will recruitment be virtual? are there any plans for a F2F style?

  • Virtual for the foreseeable future
  • Feedback from candidates are that they are happy to do it virtually, people found more comfort in going back F2F.
  • Interestingly interviewers liked to go F2F due to the social element of interviewers.

Would 1 station still be a valid assessment?

  • Statistically, the communication station was the most robust out of the other interview station.
  • A longer process doesn’t mean it’s more validated or fair.
  • Future years may incorporate back a clinical station if it’s felt to be necessary, but no plans for now.

What happens if you disconnect during your interview?

  • Interviewers all have a back up phone numbers.
  • Only 1 candidate was offered a repeat interview due to IT issues.

What about mark scheme variability? How subjective is this?

  • Clear instructions for all interviewers
  • This year, they have introduced two assessors for each portfolio, any descrepencies between the two interviewers is flagged to the head of recruitment for arbitration.
  • They made it quite explicit regarding what points are going to be awarded for what achievements.

What are bigger changes?

  • 1 less mark for MSF – but also more for excellent results
  • Intercalated degrees removed from grading – the reason is a nationally
  • Marks for named courses such as microsurgical skills courses are removed – simulation training of any sort is now awarded. Up to 4 hours of any simulation can be awarded for 1 point – this simulation activity

Some pearls to get the marks for your portfolio

  • Vaildating evidence as clearly as possible – signed by a consultant supervisor, evidence of what you actually did is important
  • This is particularly the case for an online things like an e-article or ebook – make it explicit – how many times has it been downloaded or bought? What is the impact?

What are the future aims of national recruitment?

  • Improve inclusivity to black applicants.

What is happening to ST3 recruitment this year?

  • From 2024 – all ST3’s will have to go through the ST1 route, and at their first ARCP, they may be able to move to ST3.
  • The idea with this is it’s a more robust way of assessing these on a WBA and real-world assessment.

What are the impacts on LTFT and training numbers?

  • General trend of UK and NHS – moved to people maximising work life balance and not working 5 days a week. This has an impact on service progression.
  • They are expanding the number of posts by 2 this year – aiming to improve in areas with a lack of staff.
  • There is a redistribution process as well for 5-6 years timeframe – moving away from more well served regions like London, KSS, Thames Valley

What is your best advice for an applicant this year?

  • Read the exam instructions properly.
  • For portfolio marks: If you want to make it clear that it’s a national or international meeting – you need to make this clear why you think that’s the case to the person doing the assessment.
  • Communication station preparation – people do go to courses, people have said this is helpful.
  • Give the patient time and listen to what they have to say… use active listening…
  • and always check that you have answered all their questions

“What is the level of ophthalmology knowledge this year?”

  • It has to be appropriate for a new ST level
  • Usually this will be a medical thing with an ophthalmology related focus, and this will be the case this year.

Our takeaways

  • The process is fair – They are not out to trick you, examiners are standardised and this process is meant to select the best candidates who will become future colleagues.
  • Do your best to evidence your portfolio – As much as you can, a signed letter, and what evidence you have towards which marks you should deserve are important.
  • Don’t neglect clinical knowledge – Whilst it is becoming clear this is not directly tested, the strongest candidates will have a solid basis to communicate around. Things like driving standards and common management plans should be learnt (especially around medically-related conditions) , and you should practice articulating this.
  • Make sure your call set up is optimised – This is an exam, treat it as such, all the way from dress, to background appropriateness, to technical quality and issues. Whilst concessions will be made for technical issues such as calling you on the phone, it is additional stress that you should try and avoid.
  • Practice, practice practice – Although the advice is to show up and be you and be yourself, this is an exam and bringing your A-game to the consultation will be key. Given that communications is in the spotlight, there is no reason not to sharpen your comm’s skills prior to the interview. Practice the key skills mentioned like active listening, and making sure you’ve explored all the concerns.