This blog is written by Rachel, one of our Bath Department of Health alumni and currently on the NHS Scientist Training Programme. The Careers Service thanks Rachel for her excellent blog and wishes her all the best in her future career. If you would like to find out more about this graduate programme, which opens on the 18th of January 2022, please see more information on the NHS STP website. The NHS STP is having a Q&A webinar on Monday 17th January. In addition, have a look at our resources on MyFuture that can help you with an application.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and where your work/study?
I graduated from the University of Bath in 2021 having studied Sport and Exercise Science with a professional placement. During my placement I heard about the Scientist Training Programme (STP) with the NHS. I successfully applied to the STP for cardiac science in January 2021 and I am now a first year at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge and I am completing my part-time masters with Newcastle University as part of the programme.
Why did you choose the STP?
I have always been interested in medicine and caring for people; however, I have also struggled with being somewhat squeamish. For me the STP was perfect, balancing my interest in medicine without the exposure to the gory side of Doctor’s work. In addition, I found the idea of doing another degree straight out of undergrad a bit tiresome, but I also did not want to completely step away from education. The STP was exactly what I was looking for because you are learning on the job, with set hours a week set aside for studying. There is also a well-set career pathway, so I know there are options for me after I complete the STP.
What is the STP?
The STP is a 3-year paid training programme where you complete a part-time masters while also working in a trust in your chosen specialism in a supernumerary role. I believe that there are a wide variety of specialisms on offer to applicants each year and details of these can be found on the National School of Healthcare Science website.
As part of the training there is a requirement to complete competencies in order to evidence your skill development in your particular specialism. In addition, you also study for a masters part-time. In my year, for cardiac science, this took place at either Manchester Metropolitan or Newcastle University. In your second and third years, you will be required to complete a research project.
The Application Process
The STP is something I would highly recommend applying for if you are interested in working in healthcare. The process is highly competitive and can vary year-on-year, so you need to plan ahead and stay organised with requirements and deadlines, especially when completing both the STP application and university.
There are various stages to the application process. At one point, you will be asked to rank the trusts that are offering places that year in your specialism, from your top to least preferred. You can also list trusts that you would not want to be offered a place at. Following this, the healthcare school then ranks all applicants and then according to both ranks, you will be assigned an interview at one hospital from your list, or a place on the waiting list. If you decline the interview, you will not be offered another place so make sure you would accept an interview at all the hospitals you have ranked.
What were the challenges applying for jobs in your final year?
I would say that one of the biggest challenges about applying to the STP in your final year is juggling the workload. I found it really useful to set aside a couple of hours each week to solely focus on the application. This meant that for those hours, I wasn’t being distracted by my to-do list for university. In addition, applying in my final year of my undergraduate degree meant that I had little opportunity to have gained professional experience. However, I found it helpful to have completed a year’s professional placement with Bath as part of my degree.
What are your tips for students wanting to get on to the NHS STP programme?
- Keep an eye on the Healthcare School website as the application process can change at any time.
- It is a very competitive application process, but I would recommend you try and just focus on yourself. They are not looking for people who already know how to do everything in the specialism, it is a training programme after all. Instead, they are looking to see if you have the right characteristics and motivation to complete the programme. If you do not have healthcare experience, then write about your experience in other environments where you have demonstrated the same or similar skills.
- Speak to people. I think I spoke to about 10 STP trainees before and during the application process. It is so important that you know the role you are applying for. Also, for my year, the Healthcare School held a Q&A session to give applicants a space for them to ask any questions they had about the application process.
What are the reasons you think you were successful in getting your current role?
Linking back to the previous question about the challenges applying in your final year, I knew going into the application process that I did not have any experience in cardiac. So instead, I demonstrated what potential I had and how my current experience and attributes would relate to cardiac science. Also, like I have previously spoken about, the fact I had a year’s professional experience really helped as well.
What additional tips do you have for sport or health science students?
I have met a high number of STP’s who have come from sport and exercise science backgrounds. It seems to be a good degree to have come from especially for the physiological sciences (specifically cardiac and respiratory and sleep sciences). I would say Bath really sets you up for the STP in terms of workload and the fact the course is very evidence-based. So, have confidence in yourself!