How to arrange a surgical taster week

What is a taster week?

A taster, as defined by the Foundation Programme, refers to a brief period, typically lasting from two to five days, during which a foundation trainee spends time in a specialty they haven’t previously worked in. The primary goal is to offer an understanding of the specialty’s work and to encourage career reflection. Each foundation school has its own process for arranging tasters, often aligning with local study leave policies.

To arrange a taster week, foundation doctors must first discuss the opportunity with their educational supervisor, obtain written approval from the consultant overseeing the taster, and then submit an application to the postgraduate medical education team for review. While the expectation is that tasters occur within the trainee’s foundation school, exceptions may be considered if the desired experience isn’t available locally.

How do you organise the taster week?

The easiest way to arrange a taster week is to discuss with your own educational supervisor your desired taster week. Your supervisor may then be able to put you in contact with the educational lead in the specialty of your choice. Alternatively you can contact the educational lead of your chosen specialty, by speaking to other foundation trainees working in the department or by looking up their contact details on the hospital intranet.

Following this you should plan a timetable. Your timetable should include a variety of clinical duties such as: Attending theatres (helping you obtain your logbook numbers), clinics, shadowing on-call doctors, attending the ward round and attending multidisciplinary meetings.

How a department should organise the taster week

You should discuss with the supervising consultant what you want to get out of the taster week. You should try and avoid tasks that have little learning and are pure service provision and instead should aim to be supernumerary and aim to have a timetable that includes a mix of: Attending theatres (helping you obtain your logbook numbers), clinics, shadowing on-call doctors, attending the ward round and attending multidisciplinary meetings.

Tips and tricks

  • Contact your postgraduate medical education team – they typically have a list of local tasters that are already available.
  • Contact seniors working in the department early on in your taster week.
  • Utilise the contacts made in your taster week to discuss future ambitions e.g. further experience in the specialty, research or audit work.
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