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Compiling a portfolio...a guide to a painless experience

Post date: 22/08/2017 | Time to read article: 4 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Emily_HooperEmily Hooper graduated from Bristol Dental School in 2013. She completed DF1 in Bath and has since completed Dental Core Trainee positions in Bristol and Newcastle. She currently works as a DCT 3 in Paediatric Dentistry.


Many young dentists are faced with the labour intensive and quite frankly daunting process of compiling a portfolio for an interview. It is an essential requirement for the National Recruitment process for further training posts (speciality training and dental core trainee posts). It can, however, be a painless experience if you are well prepared and conscientious throughout the year. I have personally had first-hand experience of this and I’ll share some handy pointers to allow this process to be as easy as possible.

Continuing Professional Development

  • Ensure you keep your CPD up to date and keep a note of the number of hours of verifiable and non-verifiable CPD you have.
  • Make sure you complete the relevant feedback forms to ensure you receive your CPD certificate.
  • Print out your CPD certificates as soon as you receive them and carefully file them away. Do not leave this to last minute as you’ll probably have forgotten where you have saved the files on your computer or you can’t find the email with the CPD attachment.
  • Journals commonly have CPD questions to answer, this is easy CPD to gain from the comfort of your own home!
  • Ensure you have a wide range of CPD (reading journals, society meetings, journal clubs, conferences) and also relevant CPD to the speciality you are applying for.
  • Don’t be scared to go to meetings on your own, it is a good opportunity to network and meet other dental professionals. You may be surprised to see some friendly faces there.

Posters, Presentations, and Publications

  • Posters can be presented at local, regional, national or international levels. The following can all be presented as posters; audits, service improvements projects, research and case reports.
  • Ask colleagues if they have a template of a poster, this is something which you may be able to use as a basic layout for completing your own poster.
  • If you are struggling with a topic for an audit or service evaluation, don’t be afraid to ask colleagues or seniors about potential subjects. You never know your Consultant may have a perfect topic but hasn’t had the time to complete it themselves.
  • Presentations at journal clubs or departmental meetings count towards presentations at a local level. Also, have your eyes peeled for local or regional audit days, this is a good way to present your findings at a regional level.
  • National or international presentations can be made at society annual conferences, ensure you know when the deadlines are for submission of abstracts. This can be up to 6 months before the conference is held.
  • Publications are generally the hardest things to get on your CV and people tend to get quite stressed over this. Ask your seniors if there are any case reports which need writing up or otherwise keep a look out for any interesting cases that you see. If you think you see something unusual or interesting, take some photos! These can be incredibly valuable later on.
  • If you have completed a 2-cycle audit or service evaluation this could be suitable for publication in a Clinical Effectiveness Bulletin.
  • Consider writing a letter to the editor about something interesting you have read in the journal.

Research and Training

  • Ask seniors if they are involved in active research projects and whether or not you could have some involvement in the project. If this isn’t possible, active involvement in a research trial maybe looked on favourably to gain a better understanding of how research is carried out. Don’t be afraid to ask the researchers any questions about the design of the research trial.
  • Read papers and ensure you are able to critically appraise them. If you struggle with critical appraisal, look at your local deanery’s website and see if they provide any critical appraisal courses. There are also guidebooks you can buy to help with this challenging subject!  
  • Consider applying for a teaching course. This will enable you to learn about different teaching styles which you can later put into practice.
  • Ask your colleagues if they would like some teaching on a particular subject, this is a good way for you to recap your own knowledge by compiling a short PowerPoint presentation. Always make sure you provide anonymous feedback forms and file them in your portfolio.
  • Make sure you have experience of large group teaching. This can sometimes be hard to organise, but ask colleagues if you can assist with any lectures or courses. There may well be something coming up which would be perfect for a junior like you to present. If you don’t ask, you will never know!

Compiling Your Portfolio

  • Buy a new folder, you want yours to look pristine and in perfect condition. Don’t be tempted to buy a jazzy bright colour, as much as you might like it, you need to remember you want to look sensible and most of all, professional.
  • Print on high quality paper, a ream is less than £10 at the local stationery store. It is a subtle thing to do but it is definitely worthwhile.
  • Print out any presentations fully therefore allowing the reader to easily flick through the slides of any presentations you have given.
  • Print posters in colour and on photo paper.
  • Do not stray from the suggested sections as per the interview guidance form and use file dividers to ensure the reader can easily determine between the different sections.
  • Remember quality not quantity. You will see some people with huge portfolio’s and this can be incredibly off putting and soul destroying. Don’t worry, all you need is a good depth and breadth in your portfolio. You don’t need multiple posters, publications or presentations, as long as you have at least one of each then that should be sufficient.
  • Lastly and most importantly, make sure this is all completed well before the interview date. The last thing you want to be doing is printing off CPD certificates late into the evening the night before.

These are some helpful pointers for compiling your portfolio before the interview. Remember the portfolio station is an easy one to get points on as long as you have worked hard throughout the year.

Good luck!

Emily Hooper

DCT3 Paediatric Dentistry

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