FFICM with Family.

by Dr. Claudia Porteous

Don't listen to them, it's more than possible.

Exams and children. Two words that are normally only in a sentence with negative words sandwiched between.

I have completed all my training in ITU with children (also daringly choosing to work flexibly and without a Y chromosome!).

I have fought against people’s negative expectations every step along the way through my training, but when I started talking about exams the negative/pessimistic comments came flooding in.

The story constantly being fed to me was that exams with children were impossible, not even worth trying etc, etc, etc. I hope I can prove to you what a load of tosh that is.

Passing your exams whilst, pregnant and/or with children is not only possible, but probable, below are my reasons why.

You manage your life and you are resilient. 

Firstly, you are not going to allow this exam, and your result in it, to become your life.

You know that stress, getting kids to put their shoes on for example, is real and this is just a hoop to get through.

You don’t get to this stage of training, with a family, without developing extraordinary time management and organisational skills. These will come in useful.

You have self-confidence.

From the very start of my training I have had some comment along the lines of “why are you doing this?” on a weekly basis. This has given me years to hone my game face, something that very much came in use with the more challenging examiners.

Your life has changed, your revision will evolve.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are differences between the way you revise pre and post kids.

Obviously, you have way less free time, but you are also far less likely to spend all night going ‘Out Out’ or be used to spending all day in bed watching Netflix.

Your life has changed, you have changed and therefore your revision must change too.

So down to the practicalities, this is the way I did things – obviously there are many ways to skin a cat.

Maximising the quality and quality of your work.

I revised as much as possible when I was at work or when the kids were asleep.

My kids wake up at the crack of dawn. Mornings were out, so I did several hours at night.

I revised in my lunch break, using my phone to revise as much as possible in work.

I tried to optimise my time as much as possible, so I listened to podcasts or recorded myself reading my notes for my commute.

I dedicated as much time as possible to practice VIVA/OSCE sessions.

I find shame is a really useful emotion to stop me spending hours procrastinating, it also really motivated me to get feedback on technique, timing, other people’s ways of explaining/organising topics.

Try to record yourself talking, its exquisitely embarrassing but you will pick up on your presentation style and areas you can improve on.

I had to start my revision months earlier than my colleagues without kids, because I wanted to protect time with the kids, that was my compromise.

Optimise your life outside of work.

I know I can concentrate much better after a run, so i made time to run before a revision session at least once a week.

I sat the final FRCA straight into the FFICM – so pretty much revised for 18 months straight. I didn’t really want to lose my work/life balance completely, so I kept a night for myself a week. I think it really helped me to maintain focus whilst revising by building in time for downtime.

You likely have a lot of your plate, outside of work/revision. Try to get as much as possible help with the other stuff, such as a cleaner, Hello Fresh, extra childcare sessions, grandparents etc. Even if it’s just for the immediate pre- exam period.

It’s not all bad.

I really hope this helps to kill some of the unnecessary scare mongering, passing your exams is not an impossible feat, it is just another hurdle to get over.

To end on a positive note, I was once told that mums (sorry dads, but mother nature chooses you every other time) have the highest pass rate of all viva candidates. I have absolutely no evidence base for this, but in my limited experience its actually true.

Oh and I passed, all of the exams, the first time.

Best of luck.