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Life as a foundation doctor

This page provides an overview of what to expect from foundation training.

After medical school, you are officially registered as a doctor and start your foundation training. The foundation programme covers 2 years of training: F1 and F2. Run by the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO), you will follow a supervised, vocational curriculum, made up of placements across various medical specialties (such as psychiatry, obstetrics, oncology etc). The transition to foundation training marks the move into employment as a medical professional, where you continue to train through on-the-job learning.

Foundation training allows doctors to put into practice what they have learned at medical school, as well as providing them with the further practical experience needed to work independently and safely as a doctor. This training covers not just core clinical skills, but also professional competencies such as communication and teamwork, and exists to coach generic skills that will help you whichever route you take next.

The first foundation year usually begins in August after graduation from medical school, with rotation to further placements every 3, 4 or 6 months. In each placement, a named senior doctor will assume the role of educational supervisor, providing clinical supervision and a structured learning experience for trainees. Your time is divided between gaining practical experience and in-house formal training. The latter usually comprises at least 3 hours of protected time per week. However, there is also an emphasis on independent learning; trainees are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning by keeping their portfolios up to date, arranging extra placements and spending time on the ward to build on clinical experience. You will also have the opportunity to play a role in the education of medical students, both through practical supervision and formal tutorials and lectures.

At the end of each year, doctors must demonstrate that they have met the standards detailed in the Foundation programme curriculum. This is not done through formal written examination, but instead using a range of assessment tools, including case-based discussions (CBD), mini clinical examinations (mini-CEX), direct observation of procedural skills (DOPS), a logbook of procedural skills (which you must keep updated) and teaching development assessment. All these are recorded in your portfolio, which is a vitally important document to maintain throughout foundation training.

Dr Fiona Tasker speaking at RCP's 'How to succeed as a junior doctor' event in 2014

Opportunities for foundation doctors

The RCP has a number of different events and benefits for foundation doctors, aimed at supporting you in taking your learning into the workplace:

  • The RCP medical careers day is a key event for students. You have the opportunity to learn about the next stage in your training, the 30 medical specialties RCP represents, as well as getting individual advice on your burning careers questions.
  • Our 'Fast bleep the doctor' event is a careers essential, providing an overview of the most common calls you may see, with lots of hints and tips of how to manage being on call.
  • The RCP junior doctor network is your chance to get involved with RCP activity, add to your CV and support your fellow foundation doctors.
  • Write for us! If you would like to publish an article or resource on our website, let us know.
  • 'Specialty of the month' is the RCP's spotlight on the 30 medical specialties that we represent. Learn more about the variety of career choices as a physician and get information to support choosing your specialty.
  • We also have resources to help you prepare for your core medical training, from continuing to learn on foundation to preparing for interviews.

Learn more about the benefits available to you as a foundation doctor member by visiting our membership section.