On my GP training scheme, at the start of each year, there is an informal session where the new ST1s can have their questions answered by older trainees.
Commonly asked questions include: 'How many ePortfolio entries am I meant to do each month?'
and 'When am I meant to sit the MRCGP exams?' The relevance of clinical diplomas is another query that tends to arise.
What are diplomas?
Diplomas are on offer through many royal colleges and other institutions. They are optional, but enable you to obtain qualifications and recognition outside your chosen specialty.
Diplomas are a good addition to your CV. Doing a diploma not only provides clinical experience and knowledge in other specialty areas, but also demonstrates a range of important non-clinical skills, including commitment to professional development and the ability to manage your time within GP training to complete additional areas of study.
When should I do a diploma?
You can study for a diploma at any time before, during or after GP training. The final year of GP training is often taken up with MRCGP examination preparation, so many GP trainees choose to undertake diplomas in their first couple of years of training.
Which one should I do?
A lot of GP trainees choose a diploma based on their current hospital post, or select one from the range of common, popular diplomas.
However, there is a wide selection of diplomas on offer and it is worth considering what interests you and what you hope to gain from the diploma before you commit your time and money.
Below is an outline of some of the diplomas currently available, based on personal experience, discussion with colleagues and online research.
Tropical medicine and hygiene
The Diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (DRCOG) is one of the most popular among GP trainees.
Many online and textbook resources, and practice questions, are available. There is no requirement to work a minimum time in obstetrics and gynaecology before applying. The current fee is £402.
The Diploma in Child Health (DCH) from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) is a two-part examination, with written and clinical components.
The RCPCH recommends a minimum of six months spent working in paediatrics before undertaking the examination. The current fees are £240 (written) and £386 (clinical).
The Diploma in Geriatric Medicine (DGM) from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is useful in view of the ageing population.
Although there are limited resources and question banks for this diploma, many students use MRCP questions for practice. There is an RCP recommended reading list.
The examination is in two parts, written and clinical. The clinical part is similar to the Practical Assessment of Clinical Examination Skills.
The current fees are £227 (written) and £364 (clinical).
The Diploma in Occupational Medicine (DOccMed) from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine is useful for GPs who are considering working part-time in occupational medicine or who have an interest in occupational medicine in primary care.
Applicants must complete a course at one of four UK centres before sitting the diploma examinations.
The price varies from £1,750 to £2,395. The examinations consist of a written MCQ paper (£423) and an oral portfolio assessment (£440). There is also a certificate fee (£254) for issuing the diploma.
The Diploma of the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (DFSRH) of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists requires completion of three components: online modules for background theory, a 'Course of 5' for small group workshops, then clinical experience and assessments.
During the training, there are opportunities to acquire additional competencies in contraceptive implant and IUD insertion.
These are useful qualifications and may set you apart from other applicants when applying for jobs.
There is an initial fee of £50 to register for the elearning modules. The fees then vary but are in the region of £1,000 for the 'Course of 5' and the clinical sessions. The 'Course of 5' price list can be viewed here: www.fsrh.org/pdfs/Course5List.pdf
Give yourself plenty of time for this course. The online modules are numerous and lengthy, and it can take time to secure a place on the 'Course of 5' and the clinical sessions.
- Dr Burrard-Lucas is a GP registrar in London