ACEM trainee Dr Brett Cliff does not hesitate when asked for the secrets to his success, following the news that he had jointly won the Buchanan Prize for his performance in the 2018.1 Fellowship Clinical Examination (OSCE).
“It’s a great testament to how much support I’ve had at home,” Dr Cliff says. “I'd also like to thank all those at Westmead and on the NSW fellowship training program who helped me.”
The Buchanan Prize is awarded to the candidate achieving the highest score in the OSCE. Dr Cliff shares the award with Dr Elayne Forbes. Read Dr Forbes’ story here.
Dr Cliff says the win came as a “massive shock”, however he was thrilled with his success. “It’s a fantastic feeling, it’s nice to know that all that work I did, all the times that I was working rather than doing something else I wanted with family and friends, it’s all come to something.”
Dr Cliff pays tribute to his wife, who was pregnant through his studies, and they have just welcomed their second child. He describes his home situation as possibly different to others, as he often studied with a toddler running around.
“The most important part was that every night I had dinner with the family, gave my kids a bath,” Dr Cliff says, “and that happened every night, no matter what.”
“It is really important to communicate with your support network the workload that the OSCE entails and how you plan on managing that in advance, especially for those with a family.”
When asked about tips for helping him through the exam and study process, Dr Cliff focused on making his everyday work an ongoing practise for the exams.
“The way I saw the OSCE is that it’s almost like a day on the floor at work, so whenever you’re at work use that opportunity to see patients and treat almost every patient as a mini OSCE station.”
Dr Cliff maintained this constant preparation for six to twelve months, ensuring that every day on the floor was vital practice time.
Other tips that he recommends, is not overwhelming yourself with courses and study groups, but focusing on those you find most beneficial and seeking out mentors to give you honest and constructive feedback. He also recommends that prior to the exam to thoroughly read the question and try “to recognise what is being asked of you, try and understand what they want from you, before you are in front of them”.
“You can do anything if your priorities are correct,” Dr Cliff says of his decision to embark on emergency medicine while having a young family at the same time.
Since moving from England to Australia his passion for emergency medicine has gown and he cites the comradery and teamwork as some of his most enjoyable aspects of the role. “The flexibility of the shifts and the support and training where you work, really encourages growth of all in the industry, and shows you can have a career and a family,” he says.
How to prepare for the Fellowship Exams
ACEM provides an extensive range of online resources featuring past papers, past exam reports, and much more. These are all located on eLearning under ‘Resources for Trainees’.