How does an F3 year work?
A foundation year 3 (F3) year works like a gap year for doctors. F3 is a term for junior doctors who have completed their F1 and F2 foundation programme but have not started their next formal training programme. For some doctors, F3 lasts for more than one year.
Some doctors choose to take a gap year after completing their core training programme and before moving into speciality training. This structure works similarly to an F3 year, but doctors would be working at ST2/ST3 level.
This article will outline how to plan and prepare for your F3 year including almost 40 options available for doctors during their F3 year. The categories we will cover include:
1. Clinical work
2. A career break
3. Working abroad
4. Alternative careers
6. Developing your portfolio
How to plan your F3 year
Why are you taking an F3 year?
The first step in planning your F3 year is to write down and understand what you want out of your F3 year. This could be anything from flexibility, work-life balance, or experience. You will get the most out of your F3 year if you have a goal in mind.
What can doctors do during their F3 year?
The next step in planning your F3 year is to research the options available for doctors. We have supported doctors in their F3 year for more than a decade and have written this comprehensive guide to highlight the opportunities available to you.
1. Locum doctor
Whether you want more experience in a specific specialty, experience new hospital environments, or save money for a big purchase, locum work is a popular option. The flexibility to choose when and where you work and have access to shifts at hospitals all over the UK with just one registration are some of the main reasons why doctors choose locum work in their F3 year.
To learn more about working as a locum doctor and with a locum agency, register with A&E Agency today.
Find out how Dr Qadir's F3 year with A&E Agency supported their GP career.
Find out how Dr Mickleburgh made the most of their F3 year with A&E Agency.
2. Clinical fellow
A clinical fellow is a substantive junior doctor working in a contracted and specific department for 6 or 12 months. These jobs are available via NHS jobs.
3. Trust grade doctor (LAS)
Trust grade doctors are employed directly through a Trust rather than Health Education England (HEE). LAS (locum appointment for service) are usually the equivalent of ST1-ST8 and are temporary roles that fill a gap in service for a hospital.
4. Trust grade doctor (LAT)
LAT stands for Locum Appointment for Training. LATs are normally recruited to cover maternity leave or for trainees going out of programme, for up to two years. The grade is usually ST1-ST8. Whilst technically no longer an F3 year, it is an option if you’re not ready to start your specialty training or are taking an F4 year.
5. February rotation
Some specialties have ST1 February rotations which allows for 6 months out of formal training between August until February. This allows 6 months of taking an F3 and then commencing your training programme after a shorter break.
6. Bank work in the NHS
A bank in the NHS or a staff bank is a pool of doctors who are registered with a trust to pick up non-permanent work. This could be shifts or long-term placements. A bank is the first port of call for temporary staffing teams and unfilled bank jobs are then typically sent to locum agencies. Bank work in the NHS suits doctors wanting to work at one hospital if your speciality has guaranteed vacancies.
7. Private hospitals
Working in a private hospital can diversify experience and CV. There are many private healthcare providers in the UK for doctors who want to work as RMO’s and fellows. Be the first to know when we have new private hospital roles by registering with A&E Agency today.
1. Business interests
Some doctors-turned-entrepreneurs pursue business interests during their F3 year. A way to keep up on your clinical skills whilst doing this would be to utilise the flexibility of locum work and pick up ad hoc shifts as you build your business. Business or personal interests can be medical and non-medical, such as tutoring, blogging, podcasting, or producing music.
Watch our Q&A with Doctor and entrepreneur Dr Ghafoor, who worked as a locum doctor with A&E Agency.
Travelling is the number one reason we hear from doctors who want to take an F3 year. The most common plan for F3 is to work as a locum doctor for 6-8 months and then travel for 4-6 months. Popular destinations include South America and Asia so during your working (and saving) months, you can research your destination as well as get your visas, immunisations, and insurance organised. Then the only thing left to do is to enjoy every moment of your travels.
3. Career break
In the interest of finding a work-life balance, some doctors take a career break during their F3 year to spend time with friends and family. If this isn’t an option for you financially, you can supplement this with ad hoc locum work which fits around your social schedule.
4. Doctor jobs in Australia
Australia is a popular option for UK doctors working overseas. Australia’s skilled migration programme offers several temporary and permanent residence visa options to overseas trained doctors who hold qualifications that are equivalent to Australian standards. A&E Agency works with hospitals across Australia, facilitating permanent jobs and relocation support for doctors.
5. New Zealand doctor jobs
New Zealand recognises the General Medical Council as a competent authority which means UK non-specialist doctors can apply for registration in New Zealand via this pathway. Recruitment to junior doctor positions is managed individually by each District. That means you will need to apply directly to vacancies at the districts you are interested in. You can view a selection of jobs available on the BMJ Careers website.
6. Volunteer work
Doctors can volunteer in a few different ways. This can include providing medical support overseas, caring for people with neglected tropical diseases or supporting trauma patients after bouts of conflict in their country. These jobs require at least ST3+ level experience and three months travelling or working in low- and middle-income countries.
If this is something you would want to pursue in the future, your F3 year could be spent building your skills for a future Doctors without Borders (MSF) job including learning a language, engaging in global health activities, and working in similar organisations in the UK.
If you choose to work outside of the NHS during your F3 year, there are clinical governance factors you should consider. Indemnity insurance is essential for all clinical roles but particularly when you are working outside of an NHS setting in an alternative job that's related to health and social care services. Check any companies are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England, The Care Inspectorate in Scotland, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in Ireland.
Here are some of the most popular alternative jobs for doctors.
1. Clinical research physician
Working as a clinical research physician enables you to expand your professional network, enhance your learning and development, discover new areas, and make a real difference without the unsocial hours. Be the first to know when we have new clinical research physician roles by registering with A&E Agency today.
Watch our Q&A with Dr Mohammed who worked at a Clinical Research Physician during their F3 year with A&E Agency.
2. Medical writing
Medical writing or MedComms can include writing educational content, medical journalism, scientific pieces, or marketing to promote materials for healthcare professionals. Most doctors seeking this as an alternative career would need to work for an agency initially.
3. Aviation and space medicine
Whether you want to progress in the military or as a civilian aviation and space medicine (ASM) specialist, further training is required. In your F3, aerospace medicine short courses, practicing medicine in severe environments, post-graduate courses and portfolio work including research and poster presentations in ASM can make you an attractive applicant in this niche career.
4. Diving and hyperbaric physician
Junior doctors wanting to pursue a career in dive medicine or hyperbaric medicine can undertake courses or taster days. You can look for taster days, dive medicine courses, annual scientific meetings and online diving medicine modules and assessments via DDRC Healthcare in Plymouth.
5. Maritime medicine
Maritime medicine jobs are commonly known as cruise ship doctor jobs and require broad medical experience including primary care, emergency medicine and anaesthetics. Employers require a minimum of 3 years post-graduate experience, so you need to work in a relevant speciality during your F3 year to meet the criteria. Courses which may support your future cruise ship physician application include ACLS, ATLS and STCW.
6. Expedition or wilderness medicine
If you have an appetite for expeditions in the mountains, jungle, desert, or sea and want to travel the world, you may enjoy expedition medicine. These jobs can be difficult to find for those new to the game so volunteering, training courses and plenty of research are good starting points. Useful resources include The Adventure Medic and World Extreme Medicine.
7. Sports medicine
Doctors in sport and exercise medicine treat people with sport and physical activity-related injuries. There are only a handful of NHS doctor roles in sports medicine, and they require six years of training so are not an option during your F3 year! Some options in your F3 year within this field include becoming a football club doctor and football academy doctor. The Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine UK shares regular information on short courses and further education to support doctors aspiring to work in sports medicine.
8. Driver medicals
F3 doctors can assist in the completion of driver medicals in the UK. Driver medical doctors tend to have flexibility over their own shifts with locations available all over the UK. Training and admin support provided. Be the first to know when we have new driver medical doctor roles by registering with A&E Agency today.
9. Crowd doctors
Working as a crowd doctor can be fun if you like music or sports, but proper training is required. The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh’s Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care offer courses and certifications including Crowd Doctor & Practitioners Course. F3 doctors who have undertaken Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) & Major Incident Medical Management and Support (MIMMS) are especially welcome to apply for crowd doctor roles.
10. TV work
Lights, camera, action! Our F3 doctors debuted as extras in the film and TV industry last year as producers sourced real medics to add authenticity. Whilst acting is a rare opportunity, you can work as a doctor behind the scenes as a production unit medic. Do your research into companies offering this work to check if they are CQC registered. Most organisations will require you to have a valid ALS certificate and minor injury competency including wound closure.
11. Aesthetics doctor
Aesthetics is a competitive market but a route that doctors take in their F3 year. Some doctors start their own companies and others work for established brands on a commission-based model. Aesthetics training is required initially and on an ongoing basis due to the higher risk of complications, continuous updates, and trend-led demand from patients. Research all companies, insurance and ensure you have appropriate training before working with patients.
12. Slimming clinics
Clinician-led weight loss management is increasing to ease the burden on the NHS through secondary prevention. A weight loss doctor is someone who specialises in the treatment of patients who are finding it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. All clinics require doctors to be qualified and GMC-registered, but some only employ GP’s so it’s worth doing your research into which jobs will accept F3 doctors. Do your research into companies offering this work to check if they are CQC registered.
13. Medico legal work
Jobs in the field of medico-legal depend on your years of clinical experience. In your F3 year because you have less than 5 years of clinical experience, you can start with SHO level jobs such as claims handler. Jobs are advertised on NHS jobs, or you can contact an NHS trust’s medico-legal team directly and explain your interest.
Medical education postgraduate qualifications are an established form of development offered between royal colleges and universities. Certificate programmes usually require approximately 10 hours commitment per week, whereas diploma and master’s courses are commonly full-time. Your interests could include subjects to strengthen your application for alternative jobs for doctors or business interests.
2. Clinical educator
Teaching or lecturing medical students is an option for doctors with clinical experience in primary or secondary care. You can find clinical educator, medical educator, and programme tutor jobs online or by speaking to a trust’s medical education team.
3. Teaching fellowships
Clinical teaching fellows are fully qualified junior doctors. The role is usually undertaken 'out of programme', over a 12-month period, and will normally focus on teaching undergraduate students in a particular specialty area.
4. NHS Clinical Entrepreneur programme
The NHS CEP programme aims to empower healthcare staff to develop and learn. It is a one-year programme, that can fit around your work. It includes mentoring, events, workshops, and professional development to help you achieve your goals. You can apply via the NHSCEP website.
5. National Medical Directors Clinical Fellow Scheme
The scheme is designed to identify and support doctors in training who present with the clearest potential to develop as medical leaders of the future. This scheme is for doctors in training from all specialties who have completed both years of foundation training by the start of the fellowship, commencing 1 September, each year. You can register your interest on the FMLM website.
6. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)
LSTM offer short courses, masters, research degrees and professional diplomas in a range of subjects. Masters’ programmes start in September and run for a research project and dissertation. Courses range from 3 to 13 weeks, providing an intensive study option allowing you to combine working and learning. You can view the full list of programmes here.
Non-training doctors of any grade need to complete an annual appraisal as a mandatory requirement set out by the GMC. This includes doctors taking an F3 year. You will be required to keep and develop a portfolio to record evidence or personal and professional skills, knowledge, and competencies. Be careful not to declare any activity in your portfolio prematurely as this may be seen as misleading by employers and the GMC.
At A&E Agency, we support the doctors who work with us via our dedicated appraisal and revalidation team.
Putting together presentations is a good option in your F3 year to strengthen your portfolio for job applications. Presentations can be in the form of slide decks or poster displays and appropriate evidence would need to be supplied for your portfolio.
2. Quality improvement (QI)
For doctors wanting to pursue a career in primary care, quality improvement activity (QIA) is required every year alongside projects. QIA can be focused on individual self or your practice as an organisation. There are lighter activities you can do during F3 which are quick, easy and build the habit of continuous and progressive development. Bradford VTS covers this topic is detail.
Royal colleges have prizes and awards there are open to doctors and trainees. You may have the extra flexibility during F3 to pursue hobbies or passions associated with the prizes. These include speciality specific criteria, innovation, digital health, journalism and more. If your goals and achievements in F3 meets the criteria be sure to apply in July. The prize demonstrates your hard work and an excellent contribution for your portfolio and the first prize can be up to £1000.
For alternative careers, clinical practice, and medical innovation, there are hundreds of courses that will improve your skills as a doctor, continue your professional development and showcase your interest in areas for future applications. There are lots of courses listed throughout this article and you can check the individual Royal College websites for more information.
The BMJ offers many opportunities for first-time authors and newly qualified doctors to get published. You will usually need to come up with an idea from things you have learned, patterns you have observed or myths and false news you have seen online. It’s imperative that your work protects patient confidentiality and safety.
6. Membership exams
Royal College membership exams are a pivotal part of the specialty career ladder but require significant time for preparation and revision. Working as a locum doctor gives you the flexibility you need to prioritise studying whilst still working clinically in the NHS.
We’ve searched the internet and spoken to former candidates to create one stop guides for all your MRCEM, MRCOG and MRCP resources and guidance.
Watch our Q&A with Dr Prempeh who completed their membership exams and portfolio work whilst working as a locum doctor with A&E Agency.
How to prepare for your F3 year
It’s never too early to start planning your F3 year. Depending on what your goals and interests are, you might need to prepare documents or meet application deadlines.
For F2 doctors, applications for core and specialty training in August open as early as November. Applications for February training open as early as July. If you are applying for training, you will need to have applied for a training post by these deadlines. It is worth thinking about your plans after foundation training as early as possible so you can decide if you need to meet these deadlines or if you are taking an F3 year.
If you are looking to carry out locum work, locum agencies require compliance and registration documents, and some are only valid for one year. It is best to register around May so that your annual documents don’t expire just a few months into your F3 year. This way you can obtain a reference from your final F2 placement but won’t be stuck applying for crucial documents like your DBS or references, during the busiest time of year.
At A&E Agency, we’re passionate about the quality of our people and proud of the services we provide. We have supported thousands of doctors through their F3 and medical careers. We are continually expanding our portfolio of work so you can find locum work, that works for you. If you would like to speak to a member of the team regarding the opportunities available for your F3 year, register with A&E Agency today and a member of the team will be happy to support you.
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