How to get to grips with the AFP
You've probably heard 'AFP' crop up numerous times in conversations with friends, but may not really know what it's about. Maybe you're not at all interested in research or academia, so don't even want to start thinking about it. But its entirely possible that you may discover a passion for research or academia by doing an AFP!
What is the AFP?
The Academic Foundation Programme is a two-year programme for junior doctors, which provides dedicated time to explore an academic interest and develop skills for their future careers, alongside their normal duties as foundation year doctors.
The way this is split up depends entirely on the deanery you apply to. For example, a typical programme over two years would involve six 4-month blocks over two years (e.g. general surgery, geriatrics, infectious disease, emergency medicine, cardiology, and then a research block).
Some deaneries offer a longer period of time in research (such as an 8 month block), whilst in others you do one or two days a week for the whole year.
Wait...there's different types?
The programme can be divided into three branches: Research, Medical Education and Leadership & Management. There are approximately 450 jobs available per annum, accounting for 5% of foundation programme places.
Why do people like to apply?
The AFP provides you with dedicated time early on in your career to work out whether academia is really for you. It also allows you to build your CV within your two-year foundation programme, rather than taking time outside of your job to partake in CV-building activities.
It is another chance to get into the deanery of your choice, as you can apply through the usual FPAS pathway too, and the SJT score does not matter as long as you pass. See our previous post on the FPAS application for more information.
For those of you thinking about a career in academia in more depth, you may also be aware that the AFP is a nice stepping stone to the next stage of academic training, the ACF (Academic Clinical Fellowship). Some deaneries also offer Medical Education PGCert funding (which scores you crucial points when applying to core/speciality training).
What are the drawbacks?
- Competitive application process, requiring an interview, often at a similar time to finals/SJT
- Less time on the wards to complete the same mandatory clinical competences as your colleagues on the foundation programme
- Lower pay during your research blocks
10 quick tips on how to secure that spot.
- Speak to current AFP doctors – What does it consist of, pros and cons. You can start by signing up to our mentorship scheme. Simply indicate that you're interested in the AFP on your sign up form, and we'll put you in touch.
- Get involved in audits/QIP/research projects - Unlike FPAS (after the 2021 application), research points do count for the AFP. Check out our previous blog post here where we discuss the importance of getting involved with research, despite it not counting for FPAS anymore.
- Organise and assist with teaching - ever wondered why people sign up for positions in university MedSocs, and help run student tutorials? Maybe start to consider in what capacity you could get those teaching points in - most universities will provide you with so many opportunities for this. Pick a subject you enjoy, find a group of students to talk at, send those feedback forms round and you're off to a good start!
- Prizes – look for opportunities to win prizes not only nationally, but also within your medical school.
- Present at conferences – Posters/oral presentations – this ones a bit trickier. We're hoping to provide you guys with opportunities for research very soon.
- Use the rule of three for white space questions (WSQ). White space questions are a specific question type notoriously used in the AFP interviews. The rule of three we recommend is: 1) highlight your key achievements 2) use buzz words for key skills you’ve learnt 3) reflect on your experience. So instead of saying 'I did an audit on xyz', you can say, 'After participating in xyz audit, presented at x conference, I won y prize which taught me z.' Minimise lengthy descriptions because of the limited word count. We'll go into detail on how to smash your application very soon.
- Check deanery programme structure - Is there scope for PG certification? Does the programme consist of 4-month blocks, or is it 1 day per week over 12 months? Some deaneries, e.g. Edinburgh, do 8 month research blocks. This is a lot of time out of clinics, especially if you're not yet sure that academia is for you. Additionally, some deaneries let you self-design your rotations (meaning you cherry-pick the rotations you want). This can be good, but also may mean you could miss out on core medical jobs. Pre-set blocks generally tend to have a good variation of specialities, equipping you with key skills.
- Check deanery-specific application requirements i.e WSQ, decile cut off scores, interview format. There is no standard AFP application. Whilst most do ask for white space questions and interviews, only a few use a decile cut-off. Some deaneries have a low threshold for an interview, whilst others (like London) have a scoring system to decide who they would interview.
- Practice for the interview using the GMC Good Medical Practice guide and the Medical Interviews book by ISC Medical. The interviews are pretty similar to those for core/speciality training so even if you don't get an AFP post it's good practice for the future.
- Worried your CV isn’t built enough? Doesn’t matter... just apply! You genuinely have nothing to lose.
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