Intended for healthcare professionals


Creating a good portfolio

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 12 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b811
  1. Helen Douglas, year 2 specialist trainee in plastic surgery1,
  2. Christopher West, LAT registrar2
  1. 1Sheffield Teaching Hospitals
  2. 2Leicester Royal Infirmary
  1. helendouglas{at}


A good portfolio is crucial for everything from job applications to relicensing. Helen Douglas and Christopher West compile a checklist

The portfolio has long been used in many professions as a method of recording evidence of personal and professional skills, knowledge, and competencies.

In the light of the increasing trend towards providing evidence of lifelong learning, and the 2007 white paper with its recommendations regarding revalidation and relicensing, modern doctors need to be able to prove their continued commitment to achieving new and maintaining existing knowledge, skills, and training goals.

With the recent changes in postgraduate medical education and training, it has never been more important to keep a well presented and comprehensive record of the skills, qualities, and competencies needed to present at educational reviews, training assessments, and interview.

At a recent interview for core training (CT2) in general surgery, I was asked to prepare a five minute presentation on “The Importance of a Surgical Portfolio.” During the wait before the interview, it became clear that it was this part of the proceedings which caused the most anxiety in candidates, as we each have our own method of preparing and displaying our best qualities, which may or may not correlate with the panel’s viewpoint.

Structuring the portfolio

We aim to give a step by step guide on structuring a portfolio to provide evidence of suitability in whichever specialty you have chosen. It can be used in appraisal, learning agreements and reviews, and, most importantly, at interview. It is not meant as a rigid guide but as a framework from which you can draw elements to enhance your existing method.

1. You need a large ring folder in a dark colour (conservative and stays clean after being carried all over the country) with at least eight dividers and lots of plastic wallets.

2. At the front, create a contents page. This will make it easier for the reviewer to find the evidence they are looking for quickly, maximising time efficiency and scoring points.

3. Behind the contents page, put a copy of your CV in a clear plastic wallet (if the interview states not to bring this, you can always remove it but it’s safer to have it with you just in case).

4. Divide the contents of your portfolio into the pillars of Good Medical Practice (listed below) and label the first seven dividers accordingly:

  • Maintaining good medical practice

  • Good clinical care

  • Teaching and training, appraising and assessing

  • Relationships with patients

  • Working with colleagues

  • Probity

  • Health.

5. Place supporting evidence of each of these pillars under the relevant headings—suggestions are given below.

  • Maintaining good medical practice

    • General Medical Council certificate

    • Degree certificate

    • Medical defence certificate

    • Educational contracts

    • Foundation achievement or equivalent

    • Certificates of record of in-training assessment/annual review of competence progression

    • Learning agreements (current and for previous placements)

    • Personal development plan (for the current year and previous years)

    • Self appraisals and reflective practice (for each placement)

    • Examination results

    • Publications and presentations

    • Audits

    • Course certificates

  • Good clinical care

    • Mini-clinical evaluation exercise

    • Case based discussion

    • Directly observed procedural skills

    • Procedure based assessment

    • Surgical/procedure logbook (if medical, a log of arterial lines, chest drains, and so on)

  • Teaching and training, appraising and assessing

    • Summary of specialty teaching received

    • Summary of teaching delivered (with student or junior doctor feedback if possible)

    • Formal teaching delivered (anatomy demonstrating, and so on)

    • Self directed learning—for example, internet learning modules

  • Relationships with patients

    • Patient feedback (thank you cards—with names deleted for confidentiality)

  • Relationships with colleagues

    • Self mini-peer assessment tool

    • 360 degree assessments

    • Goodbye/good luck cards

  • Health

    • Health passport

    • Smart occupational health card (if appropriate)

    • Health declarations

  • Probity

    • Criminal Records Bureau disclosure

6. Label the last divider “Additional CPD (continuing professional development) Evidence.” This should include pieces of evidence that do not fit clearly into any one particular category—that is, foreign language study, outstanding sports or extracurricular activities, learning modules, and evidence of commitment to specialty (for example, elective).

By organising your folder in this way you will be able to provide clearly and quickly the evidence needed to answer common questions asked at interview: “How can you prove you are a good surgeon/medic/general practitioner?” and “How can you demonstrate progression over this time period?”

We all have evidence that we are good at what we do. To maximise our potential we need to display this evidence in a manner that can be seen quickly and clearly in a time pressured situation.


  • Competing interests: None declared.