Intended for healthcare professionals


National foundation trainee presentation day

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 22 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2482
  1. Victoria van Hamel Parsons, fourth year medical student, Oxford University, Oxford, UK,
  2. Danya Bakhbakhi, foundation year 1 trainee, Bristol, UK
  1. victoria.van-hamel-parsons{at}


Victoria van Hamel Parsons and Danya Bakhbakhi want more opportunities for foundation doctors to present their work

Audits, conferences, and presenting are daunting prospects at the beginning of the foundation programme. There is a growing expectation among employers, however, that foundation doctors should, during their training, seize any opportunity to participate in audit projects and present their findings at national conferences. One such conference, the national foundation trainee presentation day, took place in February. It was the first national event of its kind, and it offered the opportunity for trainees to submit posters (on audit or non-audit projects) or give oral presentations, which were judged by a panel of experts from a variety of backgrounds. Trainees from throughout the United Kingdom attended, showcasing work completed during the foundation programme. But what was the point?

A forum for sharing good practice

As a foundation trainee you may consider yourself to be a tiny cog in the huge machine of the NHS. However, as Stuart Carney, deputy national director of the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO), said, opening the conference, foundation trainees have much potential to “impact positively on patient care, as agents of change in the NHS.”

It may seem that changing practice is impossible, with so much variation and limited communication among hospital trusts. Without conferences such as this one there would be few forums for the opinions of foundation trainees to be heard, yet it is foundation doctors who perform many of the day to day tasks where small improvements could make a big difference to the quality of healthcare. Such conferences can give trainees a sense of enfranchisement and help them to believe that their observations, research, and suggestions are vitally important to the improvement of healthcare throughout the NHS.

Exchanging ideas

Conferences such as this one are not just an opportunity to improve clinical practice—they also offer the opportunity to improve your research and skills. Presenting a project she was yet to begin, Lucy Pocock, a research associate, provided a guide to getting ethical approval and preparing for an ethics committee meeting—an essential task if you want to get a research project off the ground.

Smaller conferences can also provide a unique chance for trainees to get feedback on their work or presenting skills. Certainly there was much scope for exchanging ideas at the national foundation trainee presentation day, and input from other foundation trainees can be invaluable for improving your project. For example, as Francesco Egro took questions on the interactive e-tutorial he had produced on basic burns management, a trainee in the audience told him that during his presentation she had come up with a plan for a randomised controlled trial for the project.

Professional development

As entrance to specialty training posts becomes more competitive, having presented at a national conference can help make your CV stand out from the others. The Modernising Medical Careers’ person specifications for specialty training make it clear that audits are an integral part of career progression and state that it is essential that all applications demonstrate “understanding of the importance of audit and research.”1 The “desirable” selection criteria emphasise this further, demanding “evidence of relevant academic and research achievements, eg . . . publications [and] presentations,” along with “evidence of active participation in audit.”

Alistair Fairfield, a foundation year 2 trainee at Weston-super-Mare, said that most trainees are fully aware of the benefits that presenting at national conferences can afford. “Doing presentations like this is really helpful for applications—it’s what employers want to see,” he said, but he admitted, “When you first start [as a foundation doctor] it’s the last thing on your mind.”

Although the presentation day was a national event, it was organised exclusively for foundation trainees. Does this devalue the points given for “national” presentations in the person specifications for specialty training applications? When we put this question to those attending, they replied that the real benefit of the day was that it offered “a stepping stone to bigger conferences” and that by building confidence in “a non-threatening forum” trainees can improve their presentation skills in front of peers before presenting at larger events. Anna Taylor, who spoke about the causes of jaundice in adults in primary care, is going on to present her work at the annual conference for the Society for Academic Primary Care in July.

In future

It is clear that sharing good practice and identifying areas for improvement in a large organisation is healthy. Industries that depend on a high degree of reliability, such as aviation and the railways, have adopted tactics to ensure the sharing of information, with an astonishing effect on their safety statistics. Perhaps we have fallen behind. We need to learn from our mistakes together, and conferences offer the perfect opportunity to do this. But first we need to identify the obstacles to establishing a culture in which foundation doctors are encouraged to audit and present, both for their own benefit and that of their patients.

Factfile: National foundation trainee presentation day

  • When: 3 February 2011

  • Where: University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Education Centre

  • Categories for submission: Oral presentations (10 minutes, with two minutes for questions) and two poster categories, audit or non-audit


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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