Frequently Asked Questions
about Professional Support referrals
- How can I find out more about the Professional Support Service?
- What are the reasons why trainees might approach the Professional Support Service?
- How quickly will my referral be processed?
- Will my referral be treated in confidence?
- How will I know which Associate Dean I will see and what do they need to know about me?
- What happens after I have seen an Associate Dean?
- If I have already discussed my situation with my trainer, and maybe they have said there is nothing that can be offered, is there any point in me referring myself to Professional Support?
- I feel like my situation is very sensitive. I am not sure I can risk talking to someone I don't know about what's been happening to me. What if they don't think I should be at work?
You can read information about what we do on our website and by reading through these FAQs. It may be that your training programme director or educational supervisor has suggested you look at the information and even maybe that you should complete a referral form. Don’t be worried about doing this. Once you have made an enquiry via the referral form, we can let you know what support is available and you can decide how you follow on from there.
There are many different reasons trainees contact us and we don’t want to be prescriptive. But to give you some examples:
- Enquiries often centre round career decisions, such as what you might want to do next, considering changing career or maybe you are struggling with some aspect of your chosen career.
- It might be that you want to talk about a unique career opportunity that has come your way or that you want to explore.
- It may be that you want some advice about less than full time training or perhaps an out of programme opportunity. You might want to discuss how your training can work best alongside your health or personal needs. There may be some aspect of you daily work that is troubling you.
The majority of trainees who come to us for help have already discussed their situation with someone, generally their educational supervisor. In fact, educational supervisors often recommend that trainees submit a self-referral to us. You don’t have to have spoken with somebody else first, we recognise that there might be sensitive issues that you might want to talk to someone outside your immediate training environment. It is helpful for us though if when you complete the form you give a very brief summary of any steps you have already taken with regard to your enquiry.
Once you have submitted the electronic referral form, it will be reviewed by a member of the Professional Support team and we will do our very best to respond to you by email within 5 working days.
What we advise next will depend very much on the nature of your enquiry. We may signpost you to services at NHSE which can support you, or it may be that we ask if you would like to have an appointment with one of our Associate Dean advisors. If we offer you an appointment, try to respond to us as soon as you can to confirm you are happy to meet with an advisor, and we will liaise with you to arrange a time for you to meet with them. Meetings will usually take place on Microsoft Teams, which we will set up, and they normally last for an hour. It’s best if you can find a time where you can have privacy for this meeting and you won’t be interrupted, and where you can reliably access the internet.
Depending on the discussion, our Associate Dean may suggest a subsequent meeting or follow up, which again we will contact you directly to arrange.
If you self-refer, then your enquiry will remain confidential. It may be that after meeting with an Associate Dean, they suggest others may need to be involved, but that will only be acted on with your agreement and you will have sight of any correspondence that ensues.
If you are referred by your educational supervisor then we will let them know the recommendations we have suggested – such as taking up some coaching or an appointment with one of our Associate Deans. Your educational supervisor would only be invited to attend this meeting if you want them to. If you do meet with one of our Associate Deans, with your agreement they will send a summary of the meeting and any suggested actions to your educational supervisor so you can then take that forward with them.
It’s really important that trainees see coming to Professional Support as a positive thing. We are here to help you and your trainers maximise your career potential.
It may be that you have an existing link with one of our Associate Deans and you might want to request to meet a specific person. Wherever possible, we will try to help with this.
All our Associate Deans are experienced trainers and clinicians. Some have more expertise in areas such as career advice, less than full time training, supported return to training, or neurodiversity. However, they very much work as a team. They are there to support you in your choices and decision making. They are not necessarily there to “fix things”, but to help you find a way forward. Our principle is that the meeting allows you to talk about your situation in your own way and find answers with support from us rather than us telling you what to do.
The Associate Dean you see will have seen your referral form, and any other information you wish to provide, and they may also review your trainee file to understand your training history. They will not have any discussions with your educational supervisor prior the meeting, unless that is something you have both agreed to.
Part of the meeting will be about what your next actions will be and often what else you might need to help you. Between you, you will agree where you should go from here and if others need to be involved at this stage. If that is the case, you will have access to any correspondence with a third party.
After the meeting, the Associate Dean will complete an encounter form which outlines the discussions had and agreed next steps. You will be sent a copy of the encounter form and if you choose, you can then discuss this with someone else or add it to your portfolio for reflection.
In many cases, trainees find the initial meeting might just be about talking through their situation and the action might be simply to spend some time thinking over what was discussed and perhaps to meet again. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t a useful meeting!
If I have already discussed my situation with my trainer, and maybe they have said there is nothing that can be offered, is there any point in me referring myself to Professional Support?
The vast majority of trainers on our programmes are very experienced and can ably direct trainees where they can go for advice or help. Or indeed provide that help and support themselves. This is one of the reasons we suggest speaking to your trainer first. However, sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone else, especially if they are not from your own speciality or workplace.
There may also be less well-known avenues an Associate Dean can tell you about, or it can be that just the opportunity to talk with someone you have not spoken with before opens up doors you had not considered.
I feel like my situation is very sensitive. I am not sure I can risk talking to someone I don’t know about what’s been happening to me. What if they don’t think I should be at work?
All our Associate Deans are experienced at talking to trainees and will always approach your situation with professionalism, kindness and without judgement. Information will always be treated with the utmost confidence and only be shared with your permission, with those who needed to know and who you were aware of.
We completely respect that in the workplace people do not necessarily want their health details, for example, shared with others. However, sometimes there are very important reasons why your trainers should know about something which might potentially impact on your work. But this knowledge should and can be limited to a small number of people who you have agreed should know.
Things which are happening in your personal life are just that – personal to you and it is important that you know we completely respect that. If after discussion with an Associate Dean there is agreement that some information should be shared, then that will only be done with your permission and for valid reasons involving your training and role at work.
Very occasionally we meet with a trainee, and it becomes clear from the discussion that there are significant concerns for that individual’s wellbeing. In that rare situation we would share our concerns with you and ask you to seek urgent medical support from your GP. We would ask you to confirm that this has been done. This is because we have a responsibility to you to help you manage your health in difficult circumstances. Please understand this is only ever done in a supportive manner.