The AFP application process can run in parallel rather than against the regular Foundation Programme application. If you apply for the AFP but are unsuccessful, you can still return to the FP. The fact that you failed in your AFP application will not have an impact on your chances of success.
Competition is intense and you’ll need a good record of academic achievement to go with your demonstrable clinical skills. Any published research and awards you have will go a long way towards making your application more appealing.
Having an additional qualification such as an intercalated degree will not be essential, but it does demonstrate some aptitude for academic achievement. If you don’t have this, you can still demonstrate your ability and appetite by undertaking some academic research during the summer vacation. If you’re applying for a teaching or leadership module, it can also be helpful to supplement your medical studies with some teaching. You can also try to get some published work under your name. It doesn’t have to be just a piece of research, it could also be an article or even a letter to the editor of a medical journal.
The assessment process is comprehensive and is designed to ensure applicants have the right aptitude for a career in health academia. It starts with the Situational Judgement Test designed to assess candidates for the Foundation Programme. It tests the professional attributes expected of a trainee undertaking the Foundation Programme.
Applicants sitting these tests will be expected to reply to the questions as they would if they were a Foundation Programme doctor. It will focus on attributes such as patient focus, commitment to professionalism, coping with pressure, effective communication and working effectively as part of a team. Beyond that is the interview process where they will look for people with the special qualities needed to become an AFP doctor.
So, what are those qualities?
- Clinical skills: Although this is a research position your aptitude for clinical medicine will need to be extremely good. You will have to master the same skills in a reduced amount of time.
- Passion: One of the most important qualities you’ll need is passion. They want people who understand what a great opportunity this is and want to take full advantage of it to better help their patients.
- Academic interest: A certain aptitude for research and an interest in your specialist area will of course be a considerable advantage.
To improve your chances at the interview stage it helps if you can talk to someone who is already completing your chosen programme. Research the subject thoroughly, come up with some personal stories which demonstrate how you meet the specified criteria. Think about the research projects you have completed in the past and be sure you can quickly and fully answer any questions you get about them.
Last but not least, if you come to a question you don’t know, be honest. If you try to bluff your way through the interviewers will almost certainly spot it.