How to make the most of the ePortfolio

The 'How to make the most of the ePortfolio' guide is designed to help make the most out of the ePortfolio in order to showcase your best work and maximise learning.

ePortfolios are increasingly being used at medical schools and training programmes to assess relevant competencies and to encourage life-long learning. In an evidence-based and competitive era, a mindful approach to ePortfolios will allow you to make them work best for you, putting you in the best light for your assessors.

This guide will help you learn how to showcase your best work and maximise learning with the ePortfolio.

Familiarise yourself with the curriculum

Ensure you understand what skills and competencies are expected of you by the end of the year so that you can achieve all of the goals set out in due course, whether you’re studying or in training. The portfolio itself contains the curriculum, which you may refer back to regularly to check which areas need more attention.

This often means planning ahead to seek out opportunities, but if you anticipate struggling to find opportunities to fulfil an aspect of the curriculum, seek advice from your seniors early on. For example, you could leave your bleep number with the medical registrar on call to alert you when a particular procedure comes up. It’s important not to be shy in asking a senior to fill out a ticket supervised learning event (SLE) for you, ideally prior to the SLE taking place. Other ways to ensure enough numbers of ticket responses are to: 

  •  send more than the minimum number of tickets in case your colleagues go on annual leave or don’t make it in time 
  •  send gentle reminders along with a personal email or remind them in person
  •  ask your seniors (of different grades) who you know are more involved in teaching and who are more familiar with your commitments to fill out tickets
  •  plan for the opportunities to carry out SLEs: on-call shifts, supervisor meetings, ward rounds (including post-take). 

It’s a learning tool 

Whether you’re uploading a procedure or SLE, or proof of presenting at a conference, your assessors are interested in what learning points you extracted from the experience. You can add more value to your case-based discussion if you read around the topic from the most current guidelines. Why not add the certificate from the online BMJ module you used to learn alongside it. 

In a few months’ time, you will have accumulated a series of procedures where you explained the challenges you came across and how your observer helped you overcome them.

Showcase your best

Much like interviews, your Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) panel want to see your greatest potential and highest achievements. If an audit or quality improvement project is expected of you, choose one you’re able to complete (including re-assessment after intervention) where you exhibit initiative in designing, organisational skills in gathering the people and tools needed, and time management.

If teaching is your forte, you can upload a sample of your best feedback forms or a sheet of the summative feedback. 

Use reflections to your advantage

The ePortfolio has a section of reflective practice taking you through the stages of constructive reflection. Reflections are a useful way to cover certain aspects of the curriculum you haven’t been able to send an SLE for. It is also an opportunity to show where you have gone above and beyond in your training. The reflective format can help generate discussion and action points for improvement as well as develop ideas for quality improvement projects and new teaching/training programmes.

It is a fruitful way to build on personal development and show your transition into an independent critical thinking doctor

Be sensible, it’s not a diary

Similarly, recognise your work is read by others. Health Education England released a case in 2016 whereby a foundation year 2 doctor was taken to court based on evidence on his ePortfolio. Transparency, honesty and openness should lead a reflection; yet, be aware that it can be a legal document. The ePortfolio is meant for your professional growth and learning. 

Technology is your friend 

The beauty of electronic evidence is that it can be amended as you please. It’s a live, easily accessible catalogue of your achievements and experiences and you'll be able to refer back to your electronic library when preparing for higher post interviews. It holds your seniors’ feedback and your 360 degrees evaluation, and a valuable feature for you to take advantage of is the personal library function where you can catalogue, organise and upload documents as you choose.

It’s your own personal record of your achievements, available at your fingertips. 

Start early

As a devoted fan of Saint-Exupéry, in my training I envisioned the consequence of neglecting ePortfolio tasks like a giant Baobab, an African tree that can reach an enormous size. It need not be. Be aware of the ‘minimum’ requirement and aim to achieve this in the early stage of your training (certainly achievable in the first semester). This will not only give you peace of mind but it will leave you with plenty of time to build and shape your portfolio according to your strengths and future aspirations.

You do not want the heart-sinking feeling of potentially repeating the year if the requirements have not been met, which does happen.

Specialty rich

If you have in mind the specialty (or specialties) you may want to pursue in the future, feel free to accumulate SLEs, reflections, conferences and procedures related to that field. This may come in handy months or years down the line during the job application period where you’ll have ready a collection of evidence of ‘commitment to specialty’.

Nevertheless, ensure a fair spread of evidence representative of your current curriculum. You do not want to be the one with missing evidence by sign-off for the year. In conclusion, it’s vital to recognise the purpose of the ePortfolio isn’t to create mere lists, but to show in-depth reflective writing with useful feedback from seniors and colleagues. Health professionals – be it students, trainees or locums – are encouraged to take ownership of their education and training more and more. Gathering enough of the correct kind of evidence will support you in your professional development and personal growth, as well as in passing your next ARCP/revalidation stress-free. 

Veronica Melchionda, foundation doctor representative for the RCP's Student and Foundation Doctor Network