One to One Support

The PSWS provides personal coaching/mentoring for doctors or dentists who self-refer or are referred. The PSWS provides guidance and workshops to help educators manage performance issues in trainees, and also collaborates with trainers to provide personal coaching/mentoring for individual trainees that need additional support to improve their performance. 

The careers service provides local specialty information and career management skills workshops for the Oxford Foundation School. It also provides personal career development guidance for those with a career dilemma, including those with health or disability problems. 

The performance support service is also available to employing Trusts and Responsible Officers in the Thames Valley who can engage one of our coach/mentors to help doctors and dentists not in approved training posts or programmes get back on track following local investigation, Practitioner Performance Advice Service or 

The PSWS provides personal coaching/mentoring for doctors or dentists who self-refer or are referred. This one to one support can support trainees in making career decisions, working towards success in exams, developing professional skills such as organisation, communication, assertiveness, and improving personal wellbeing. 

Where educators refer, this one to one support will include opportunities for the referring educator to contribute to the coaching goals and progress. In order, to maintain the confidential nature of the service, any communication of information to the educator will first be agreed by the trainee. 

The PSWS can also offer one to one support for those returning to training through the Supported Return to Training Programme (here). 

For those not in training programmes, but in need of some one to one support to develop professional performance, support exam preparation, career decisions or improve wellbeing, the PSWS is available for employing healthcare organisations in Thames Valley. These will need funding at the standard rate. 

See below some feedback from trainees’ that we have helped: 

““I wish I had self referred earlier in my career but was under the impression it was for trainees in trouble and didn’t identify as that. I didn’t realise that actually I could do better with their support.” 

“My coach gave me a safe, supportive, non-judgmental space to talk about my career. She asked insightful questions and gave me helpful exercises to do in-between sessions; she also was flexible and fit around what I needed.” 

“I cannot express enough how valuable the sessions with my coach were. Not only was I successful in my interview but I have learnt so much that I can take forward now, and regained positivity. Thank you!” 

“I would strongly recommend PSWS to a colleague or friend. Having help from PSWS was life changing. It meant that I was able to complete my training as my normal enthusiastic happy self and can now look forward to going to work and to continuing to improve and learn as a GP in the years ahead.” 

Postgraduate level exams are often the most challenging exams trainees have ever had to sit, and with the competing demands of a busy life context, a full rota and other training requirements. It is important that trainees do not sit an exam if they know they have not been able to prepare effectively. Even when it feels like preparation has gone well, not all trainees will pass these exams. Failing an exam can be an upsetting experience that can prompt feelings of shock, anger or despair. There can also be a knock on effect on morale, leading to doubts around overall clinical competence or career doubts, even when there is no other evidence to support these feelings. This is all very normal and usually relatively short lived but it can take time and specific effort to rebuild confidence and find motivation to start revision all over again. 

Trainees can self-refer for one to one support with exams at any stage, this might include: 

Help with organising their time to revise 

Support with developing efficient and effective revision techniques 

Developing communication skills in the exam context 

Managing levels of stress and exam anxiety that can significantly interfere with success 

If a trainee has failed an exam twice, it is advised that educators discuss the potential support that PSWS can offer and either encourage them to self-refer or make a referral depending on which is most appropriate. 

Additional Exam support 

Please also see our Neurodiversity page where there is information on the various learning differences for which we can provide assessment and support. Where exams have been failed, we will discuss the possibility of Learning Differences during initial Case Management. 

The PSWS runs workshops on Effective Revision and Preparation for Vivas, keep an eye on our Trainee Workshops page for future dates and registration. 

Our PSWS Resources page has a workbook that provides some information and activities to support individual reflection on how to approach revision in an effective and efficient manner. 

One to one support for careers falls under two broad categories: career decision making and career development.

Career decision making

For some trainees, they have long known what speciality they want to do but this is not the case for everyone and the amount of information and opinions can be overwhelming. PSWS one to one support for making a speciality decision is a space to explore individual values, preferences and priorities with someone who has no vested interest or bias in the decision you make.

In addition, career decisions making might be a decision to change speciality. It can be difficult to turn away from a career path that may be already a few years underway. The sense of sunk cost can be very strong and it often comes with additional considerations of additional time spent in training and financial implications. PSWS coaches can support you in helping to make and confirm your decision.

There are also times when trainees may be considering leaving the NHS or leaving medicine entirely.

Career development

PSWS can also offer one to one support for development of leadership and management skills. PSWS does not specifically ‘teach’ these skills, however, it does offer the opportunity to explore who you are, how you interact with others and the individual challenges you might have in taking on leadership roles.

There are also a number of resources that might be useful for those of you hoping to make career decisions:

The Gold Guide which describes the underlying principles for Foundation and Speciality Training including the roles of those involved and guidance for Less Than Full Time training and Time Out of Placement (Gold Guide – 9th Edition – Conference Of Postgraduate Medical Deans (

Applying for Less Than Full Time training in Thames Valley (Less Than Full Time Training (LTFT) – Working across Thames Valley (

Applying for Out of Programme in Thames Valley (Out of Programme (OOP) – Working across Thames Valley (

Applying for an Inter Deanery Transfer via the nationally coordinated process (Inter Deanery Transfer (IDT) – Working across Thames Valley (

Many trainees, and indeed all healthcare workers, will find themselves in need of additional support with their mental health and wellbeing at some point in their career. For mental health needs, there are a number of resources available, see our Wellbeing page for more links and resources. 

It is not always the case that therapeutic medical input is necessary. Sometimes, through a combination of circumstance and competing pressures, there is a need to find time to focus on your own wellbeing. One to one PSWS wellbeing coaching offers space to reflect on how your values are being met, or not, within your work and wider life. It gives the chance to think about your own wellbeing in a holistic manner, considering physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual areas of life. The opportunity to identify your personal strengths and how you can use these to bring about a sense of empowered wellbeing in your day-to-day life. 

There are many options for seeking mental health support, in addition to meeting with your own GP, for example: 

Medic support is an NHSETV funded service that can offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for trainees. For further information see out medic support page.(Medic Support – Working across Thames Valley (

Practitioner Health is a comprehensive mental health service for health and care professionals across England (Practitioner Health

BMA Counselling which is available to all, not just BMA Members (Counselling and peer support for doctors and medical students (

Where you have involved therapeutic mental health support, it is worth considering if Occupational Health could offer additional support in the form of appropriate workplace adaptations. 

Effective and appropriate communication is key to safe and efficient healthcare working, but it can be hard, in the diverse and cross-cultural context of the NHS, to be perceived as appropriately clear and assertive. The team working nature of the NHS, which can be acute with a very short life span or longer term across the period of a training placement. Many workplace-based assessments offer feedback on communication and team working, representing the level of importance placed upon these skills. 

Communication can be viewed as the encoding of the information in one person’s mind into language, verbal and non-verbal, that is then decoded by the recipient. The process of encoding and decoding depends upon the experiences and cultural background of each individual. Challenges arise when these processes do not line up and the perception of what is communicated is not shared. 

One to one coaching offers a safe space to reflect on your natural style of communication in different contexts. To explore how your style might be perceived by those around you and how your own lens might impact how you perceive communication from others. 

In addition to exploring communication in the workplace, PSWS can also offer one to one support in communication for the exam context. See our one-to-one exam support for more information. 

In addition to clinical knowledge and skills, there are a number of other skills that trainee must develop in order to be successful in their training and to provide safe patient care. These include, but are not limited to, organisational skills, time management, dealing with conflict (with colleagues and patients), taking a holistic, ethical patient centred approach to working with patients, and handling complaints and significant event in a reflective manner. 

These skills are reflected in the GMC Good Medical Practice guide alongside clinical knowledge and skills, however, their development is often not as straightforward as learning from a guidelines or textbook, it can be a complex process of developing and expanding self-awareness. 

One to one support from PSWS can help you develop insights into your own values and beliefs and explore how these impact your thoughts and behaviours. Coaching is a non-judgemental process, your coach is not there to assess or advise you based on your current skills. The role of the coach is to help you reflect on yourself and your context in a structured manner, offering appropriate challenge in the process to help you towards new insights that lead to behavioural changes that represent improved professional skills. 

Healthcare work sometimes requires a level of assertiveness that is uncomfortable for some individuals. There are personal and cultural concerns that assertiveness will be viewed as aggression or over-confidence, with a discomfort around the idea of telling others what to do. One to one support from PSWS can help explore the strengths that you bring to your workplace and the barriers to you developing your assertiveness in the workplace. 

Related to assertiveness, but sometimes different in the way that it is seen in behaviours is a lack of self-confidence. This is not to be confused with introversion, more introverted people can be very self-assured and people who appear more extroverted can lack self-confidence. One to one support can help you focus on peak moments, on your individual strengths and motivations to help you find more confidence in who you are and what you do. 

In addition, PSWS runs workshops on Looking Confident, Feeling Confident and Assertive Communication, watch out on our Trainee Workshop page for any upcoming dates.