Filling in applications for training posts requires careful consideration. You will face fierce competition from other trainees, so make a difference, stand out and sell yourself, says Charlotte Hudson.
Medical jobs are becoming increasingly competitive so it is vital you nail your application to get the job you want. One way to do this is to get your own research or writing published to make your application form stand out from the rest. By showing your potential employer that you have had your work published showcases your commitment and drive, as well as your ability to write clearly and persuasively.
Clear and concise writing is a key skill to develop for a successful medical career. Writing comprehensive and coherent patient notes is the cornerstone of good medical practice and will aid your defence should a negligence claim arise against you; so getting your writing published now will put you in good stead for the future.
Writing not only allows you to release your thoughts from your mind, it allows you to get some distance from a clinical situation, problem or career decision, and enables you to think analytically and observe the bigger picture.
How can you get your foot in the door of the publishing world?
1. Pick a suitable topic to write about
ER, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs and House are popular medical dramas that fascinate the public, so as a member of the medical profession you are well placed to write about your unique experiences. Just remember to approach the topics with sensitivity and make sure you don't breach patient confidentiality, or get into trouble with your hospital/GP surgery.
2. Write a letter to a medical journal/newspaper
Writing a letter to a medical journal, or writing to a newspaper about a hot medical topic, can be a good way of getting your name in print without the need for heavyweight research to back up your opinions. Most national newspapers have much bigger circulation and readership figures than medical journals, so it's worthwhile keeping up with public health issues and taking any chance to comment. For example, a well-worded letter to a national paper about how an increase in hospital patients is affecting junior doctors in training might catch an editor's eye.
You don't have to wait eagerly to hear if your article/letter has made the cut; get your words published immediately by posting them onto your personal blog online. You could write about anything medical related and share your thoughts with the public – a regular blog is useful if you plan to try your hand at writing a column, feature or advice page once qualified.
However, this comes with a word of warning. MPS has seen doctors face complaints over unwise commentary. You should always write as if you can be identified, never drop your standards of professionalism, and don't say anything that you wouldn't be happy to put your name to.
4. Remain professional
It is important to remember to maintain good medical practice when writing for newspapers or blogs. Even if your words are anonymised, you should be careful.
- Patient confidentiality always applies. For example, many publications, including Student BMJ require that everyone who submits articles or photos containing medical details has written consent from the patient, whether or not the patient is named in the article.
- Check all your facts. The rules of publishing mean that you could fall foul of laws around defamation (harming someone's reputation) – not to mention damaging your own career prospects – if you publish incorrect or potentially damaging information about people, whether in hard copy or online.
- Don't write about anything that might affect your future career as a doctor, eg, excessive drinking, drugs or the wilder side of your social life. Remember that as a doctor, your personal and professional life can no longer be completely separated.
- Always reference any quotes or information gained from other publications or authors. Plagiarism, or passing off others' work as your own, is a serious academic offence, and could cost you a training post or job.
When filling in an application you should never embellish your experience or abilities, eg, don't say that you have written numerous articles for a newspaper or blog, if you can't prove it.