❓  Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re new to building and maintaining a portfolio as a non-training doctor, these common questions are the best place to start.

Let’s start by busting a myth. 🤯

Non-training doctors sometimes mistakenly think that by opting out of training they have opted out of the need for maintaining a portfolio that trainees face each year.

Sorry to break it to you, but that’s wrong!

Non-training doctors need to maintain a portfolio for 2 reasons:

1️⃣  Keeping records of key documents, achievements, and development helps you prepare for your appraisal and ensures this runs smoothly and helps you stay on top of your personal development.

2️⃣  Keeping your own contemporaneous records throughout your career means that you always have access to important documents in the future, which may be essential when it comes to future job applications, training applications, tax returns, or revalidation.

Common Questions

Click the triangles to expand each answer.

What is a medical portfolio?

Your medical portfolio is an extension of you. It is the biographical record of your career highs and lows, your professional learning and development, and your interests and experiences.

Your portfolio is a constantly evolving thing - adapting and changing to meet different needs over time whether that is applying for a fellowship job or a training post, or completing an appraisal or revalidation meeting.

It is more than just a collection of evidence that becomes redundant after each ARCP or appraisal, but a comprehensive record that should be retained and preserved for decades.

It is essential that your portfolio remains confidential and not include any identifiable patient information.

What should I include in my medical portfolio?

We have suggested a structure and contents for your medical portfolio with the hope that you will adapt it to meet your varied needs throughout your career. Ultimately, the information that you choose to include will depend on your personal circumstances, and what you plan to use your portfolio for.

If you are preparing for an appraisal, you should be able to pick the relevant information out of your portfolio each year to populate your appraisal document (use the Medical Appraisal Guide (MAG) in England, or the relevant form for Northern Ireland, Wales, or Scotland).

If you are organising a physical portfolio for a specialty application then you will be told in advance how to structure the information to save the examiner time and frustration.

Do I need to include ALL of this information?

No, you can choose to include as much or as little to keep in your portfolio as you like! It’s up to you.

We have outlined everything that could be included in a medical portfolio, and hopefully have explained why we think a document or section should be included.

Sometimes we have included documents because they are frequently asked for when you move jobs or Trusts, and sometimes we have included them because they can be hard to track down at a later date. Sometimes, you won’t know you need a document until way down the line and you regret not having it to hand.

Should I have a digital or physical portfolio?

Appraisals ask for digital documents, specialty applications ask for paper, and medical HR departments often want a mix of both. Trying to juggle all of these inconsistent demands can be both a headache and a time-waster, which is why we recommend that you keep both a digital and physical portfolio at all times.

It can be catastrophic if documents are lost or damaged so having both digital and physical copies of your portfolio is a sensible idea.

A physical portfolio is a folder of hard-copy documents and original documents. It is worth keeping physical printouts of evidence that might be hard to find again later down the line (i.e. online certificates, CBDs, DOPS, and emails).

Your digital portfolio should have scanned copies of the same documents as well as large digital files that don’t necessarily need to be printed unless specifically requested (i.e. evidence of MAST). Make sure that digital documents are stored securely (password protected) and are accessible on more than one device in case of loss, theft, or damage.

What should my physical portfolio look like?

A physical or paper portfolio should be kept in a smart-looking level arch binder with your name either on the outside or the first page. We advise either plastic or faux-leather covers instead of paper, card, or fabric. This is because they are less absorbent of spills and easier to keep clean in the long term.

Use dividers to define sections of your portfolio, and clear plastic pockets to separate documents. Put the title of each document on a sticky label on the plastic pockets.

You can either group each unique document into its own plastic pocket, or you can spread out documents across several pockets so they can be read entirely without taking them out. This second method keeps your documents pristine for longer and can save examiners time at interview.

Your portfolio folder could cost anything from £3.99 to £60+ depending on the level of luxury and customisation you want, but remember that it is purely personal preference how much you spend on your physical portfolio. You don't need to spend money on an expensive portfolio for the sake of your career.

Which digital portfolio platform should I use?

Training doctors will have free access to an ePortfolio provided by their Trust or training college (Horus in England. Turas in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales).

If you are staying in your foundation trust as a non-trainee, you can ask the Trust to extend your access to your ePortfolio platform however, it’s a gamble as to whether or not they will agree to do that.

As a non-trainee, you can use any digital platform you choose as long your appraisal document is submitted using the right form. We recommend a well-organized Dropbox account. There are online portfolio platforms though they’re generally not free to use, so be sure to check the costs first.

What is considered evidence for a medical portfolio?

‘Evidence’ is the stuff you fill your portfolio with, and can come in a number of forms.

This is not an exhaustive list, but is an example of the kind of things that can be considered evidence:

Physical evidence
  • A degree, diploma, or other certificate
  • A legal document i.e. a CRB disclosure or a signed contract
  • A signed reference letter, a thank-you card, or a feedback sheet
  • Signed CBD’s DOPS, or Mini-CEX’s
  • Records of Supervision (ideally countersigned by a supervisor)
  • Personal Development Plans (ideally countersigned by a supervisor)
Digital evidence
  • A photograph or video
  • A screenshot of an email (with any confidential information redacted)
  • A PDF of your research, audit, or QI materials
  • A PowerPoint of any teaching or presentation materials you have made
  • A spreadsheet or other summary of attendance to teaching or CPD
  • A spreadsheet or other summary of your (medical/surgical/other) procedure logbook
  • Typed reflections on cases, discussions, teaching, learning, CPD or feedback
  • A PDF with collated anonymous feedback (ideally countersigned by a supervisor)

Unless you have been told to use a specific template or GMC-approved standardised questionnaire (i.e. for colleague or patient feedback) then you can use a generic system for collecting evidence. Generally, it should be ratified (i.e. signed or stamped) by a colleague, supervisor, or Trust to show authenticity but this is not always essential.

❗️Remember, it doesn’t matter whether the evidence was originally a physical or digital document, you should still save both physical and digital copies (unless the document is very easy to locate again should disaster strike).

What is a medical appraisal and revalidation?

Appraisals are the non-training doctor's version of an ARCP (Annual Review of Competence Progression).

Appraisals are annual meetings used to check that non-training junior doctors and Consultants are continuing with their learning and development outside of a training programme. Revalidation is the 5 yearly cycle of review that confirms whether a doctor can maintain their license to practice medicine in the UK.

Appraisals are meant to be constructive discussions, not pass-fail exercises. Based on the portfolio evidence collected by the doctor being appraised, personal development goals (PDPs) are set for the year coming to help ensure that revalidation requirements are met before the revalidation deadline.

The purpose of appraisals and revalidation is to look at whether or not a doctor is meeting the standards described by the GMC’s Good Medical Practice document. We talk in depth about the GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidance and what it means for your medical appraisal, in our blog ‘What evidence do I need to prepare for my medical appraisal.’

The GMC states that doctors out of training should do an appraisal each year, but they can miss a year without jeopardizing revalidation under certain specific circumstances. In order to maintain a license to practice in the UK, doctors must engage with the 5 yearly revalidation cycle whether they are in training or not.

What actually happens in a medical appraisal meeting?

We get asked this question a lot and so we decided to write an article outlining exactly what happened in a real appraisal meeting. of course, every appraiser will have their own approach to how they prefer to run the appraisal, but if you want to find out how a typical appraisal meeting might go, check out our article ‘What actually happens in a medical appraisal meeting.’

How does a portfolio support my appraisal?

Annual appraisals require doctors to provide a variety of evidence to support their ongoing ability to practice medicine in the UK.

Ideally, you should be able to extract the required evidence and information from your well-maintained portfolio with ease, and slot it into the relevant sections of your appraisal document. Without an up-to-date portfolio, your appraisal can be a rushed, stressful, last-minute scramble to pull together all of the bits needed.

The key to successful appraisal and revalidation is maintaining a high-quality portfolio. We explain this more in our article ‘How to ace your annual medical appraisal.’ and ‘How Investing in a Great Portfolio Can Prepare You for Your Appraisal.’

How much evidence should I include in my portfolio for an appraisal?

There is a lot to say about appraisals, but in summary:

Appraisals have criteria that you must meet, and criteria you should meet. There is no set minimum or maximum quantity of supporting information to collect. Instead, quality over quantity is encouraged.

Reflective practice is a highly valued tool for exploring both positive and critical experiences, and appraisal guidance is explicit that you must provide reflections to complement your supporting evidence.

Your portfolio must sufficiently cover the whole scope of your practice (including clinical, educational, research, academic, managerial, leadership, and voluntary work).

Read more about collecting evidence for your appraisal in our blog ’What evidence do I need to prepare for my medical appraisal.

If you have more questions about medical portfolios that aren’t answered here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at support@messly.co.uk.