I'm considering doing an FY3: what are my options?

Deciding whether to take an FY3 is a big decision. Dr Seema Pattni shares some advice on exploring the best choice for you.

After finishing the foundation programme years (FY1 and FY2), some doctors choose not to go straight into specialty training. This time taken out of training, typically for a year, is known informally as FY3.

There has been an increasing uptake of FY3 over the last decade. When I graduated from medical school in 2010, 17% of foundation doctors took an FY3. By 2019, 65% of foundation doctors were taking an FY3. Since COVID-19, and the multitude of its effects on doctors' experience of work and training - mental, physical and emotional health, personal life and relationships - there's an even bigger appetite for taking an FY3.

Why take an FY3?

An FY3 offers time to pause. After years of intensity in medical school and foundation training, an FY3 can come as a welcome break and an opportunity to recuperate. It's not uncommon to feel worn out, or even burnt out, after foundation training. Taking a year (or more) out from structured training, demanding rotas and exams is an opportunity to reflect, refresh and energise.

Many doctors opt to take time out because they're unsure of which specialty they want to commit to. It's okay to be in this position. Not everyone knows what they want to do, and specialty training can be long, exam intensive and challenging, so although you can change or leave specialty training, it's advantageous to have certainty when deciding upon a track - taking an FY3 gives you more time to decide.

For doctors who are decided on a specialty, an FY3 is a great time to further develop and strengthen your CV and portfolios. Bear in mind that you'll be required to fulfil your GMC registration requirements in the first few years of your career as a doctor and work in an approved practice setting. Read the MDU's advice here.

By the end of foundation training, some doctors contemplate leaving medicine altogether. This is another big decision. Taking an FY3 allows you to explore your options and consider non-clinical or non-traditional roles.

What could your FY3 look like?

Your FY3 will be unique to you and your reasons for taking one.

There is huge scope and possibility when embarking on an FY3. Some doctors view it as a prolonged elective but with the advantage of being paid and more senior.

You could choose to locum or teach; do research or charity work; engage in health tech and innovation; venture into a business or creative project; or try a new career altogether! All these options can be in the UK or abroad.

I decided to take an FY3 because I wanted to step off the 'treadmill'. I wanted to explore my interests in medicine, travel and pursue writing, which was a lot to fit into one year!

I started out as a locum in A&E to maintain competencies and fund my FY3. I then moved to a different city to study a diploma in tropical medicine. I chose to do this out of pure interest, with no expectations. The course, as well as my fellow students and professors, turned out to be fascinating.

I then had the choice to carry out a medical research project in Ghana or travel. After some deliberation, I decided to follow my dreams and with the money I had saved I back-packed solo across Asia and blogged about my travels.

It's absolutely fine to have no set agenda during your FY3. Whether you find yourself on a medical boat on the Amazon River, or working locally as a clinical fellow, the experiences you gain will be a great asset to you personally and professionally for years to come.

How to decide on an FY3

It's important to make decisions that resonate with your core values to get the best out of your FY3.

Understanding what really matters to you, from a personal and career perspective, is key to effective decision making - you are much more likely to have a satisfactory and fulfilling experience.

Take some time to reflect on the following.

How you feel

Identifying whether you are worn-out, in need of a break or change, or yearning for a different challenge will help you decide on taking an FY3.

What energises and inspires you

Exploring this will help you to decide on how to best use your FY3 for personal and professional growth.

Financial circumstances

Planning on how you can afford and sustain time out of paid training is integral to having a secure and enjoyable FY3. Consider bursaries and paid opportunities. Assess how an FY3 will affect your savings, investments and responsibilities.

Personal circumstances

It is essential to review how an FY3 will impact on your personal commitments or visa requirements.

It can be helpful to work through these points with a coach or mentor. Talking to other doctors about their experiences of taking an FY3, or continuing straight into training, will also be useful.

Taking time out

Taking an FY3 is not for everyone. It can also take time to adjust to change. Feeling guilty about taking time out of training is not unusual.

However, FY3 presents space to assess where you are now and where you want to be. Time out of training can bring invaluable experiences, which improve your career prospects and personal fulfilment. Slowing down and taking time out often leads to more certainty and confidence in pursuing your long-term goals - and following a path that is right for you.

This page was correct at publication on 14/08/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Dr Seema Pattni

by Dr Seema Pattni

Dr Seema Pattni is a careers coach for female doctors. She is a qualified GP who has worked across the UK and around the world; in the NHS and the private sector. She has developed and led services in homeless health inclusion, social prescribing and family planning.

She graduated from Imperial College London with an MBBS and a BSc in Neuroscience and Mental Health. She took time out of training at various points in her career to explore what she wanted from her career, and to travel.