Making the most of your SSC

Speak to any Year 5 or 6 student and they will tell you that there are many things they wished they had known or done in advance or at the beginning of their SSC block which would have made their lives easier. Here we have tried to collect some of these hints and tips into a handy document which we hope you can use as a ‘checklist’ of things to think about before your SSC in order to make the most of your experience. It is not possible to emphasise enough the value of preparation when it comes to using your time on SSC to its fullest potential.

Discussions with your supervisor:

  • Before your SSC:
    • Get in touch a few weeks in advance of the SSC to follow up on your previous discussions and to organise a meeting during the first couple of days of your placement
    • Make sure you understand the project and that it is well defined. In particular check:
      • That you and your supervisor have similar expectations for the outcomes of the project and the workload
      • If you need/have ethical approval
      • If funding is needed and whether you need to be involved in applying
      • If you need to, how you will access records, in particular which IT accounts you need (see below)
      • Where any data will be kept ( computers/memory sticks etc)
      • Whether your supervisor is on leave for any part of the SSC
      • That you have agreed a back-up plan in case your initial project falls through
    • Find out about any reading or preparation that it would be helpful for you to do. You could start a literature-search and associated reading before the placement starts, for example.
  • During your SSC:
    • Getting in contact with your supervisor – Most supervisors are consultants who are extremely busy and have many other things to do in addition to replying to your emails. They sometimes don’t reply or are slow at replying. During your SSC this can be frustrating. Some suggestions to get around this:
      • Introduce yourself to their secretary who is often able to help you find time when the consultant is free
      • Find out when your consultant will be in clinic or theatre – you can go and find them to see if they have time for that 5 minute chat
      • Whenever you meet, just try to fix a time for the next meeting then and there
      • Ask the consultant to introduce you to one of their juniors who is interested in teaching/research and who might be able to give you some more support
      • Try to get your supervisor’s phone number if possible or offer them yours
    • Agree on regular brief meetings to catch up about your progress
    • Give the supervisor a list of the SSC key skills that you have to complete (on myprogress, at the time of writing)

Planning your time:

  • Get a timetable of clinical opportunities (clinics/theatre lists/ward rounds/MDTs) from your supervisor so that you can decide what to attend
  • Set deadlines for yourself for tasks, agreed with your supervisor

Getting IT accounts sorted early:

We can’t stress how useful it will be to try to sort out logins and IT access in advance of your placement. So many people spend the first week (or two) of their project waiting for various IT approvals. It is often quick to apply for these accounts and if you sort it out in advance you can hit the ground running! If there are any problems with access inform your supervisor sooner rather than later and anticipate everything taking twice as long as you’d think!

IT accounts:

  • As above – find out in advance what access you will require. You’ll have to ask your supervisor to confirm specifically as they may not realise you don’t have access.
  • You may already have EPIC access but you probably don’t have access to EMR, PACs or many of the other legacy systems which are useful for many projects and audits.

Once you know the details of the access you require, ring the IT helpdesk from any Addenbrooke’s phone on 2757. They are very helpful and will take you through the process of obtaining the access you require.

Bring your own device (BYOD) – EPIC at home:

  • EPIC at home enables you to access EPIC from your own device
  • It is very useful if you are doing a data collection project, particularly since EPIC computer access is so limited for medical students
  • You will need to have approval from a consultant – ask your supervisor
  • Contact the IT helpdesk on 2757.
  • They will take you through the set-up. It takes 24-48 hours and requires downloading some encryption certificates to your computer to check a secure connection
  • Obviously some care is required – you could in theory access EPIC anywhere but you should not use it in a public place where there is any chance anyone could see over your shoulder. Remember that although you may be outside the hospital environment all the normal rules and ethics about confidentially still apply.


When sending any confidential information by email you should use a secure form of email. Everyone has an email address which is typically in the format [email protected] e.g. [email protected].

If you login to an Addenbrooke’s computer and open outlook it will take you to your email. Login is the same as your epic login. This can be accessed using BYOD (Bring your own device) on your own computer but you will not be able to upload or download attachments unless on the hospital network. When sending an email from to another email this is secure and confidential information can therefore be shared this way with the intended user. However, if you need to send information to outside Addenbrooke’s (e.g. GPs) then you will want an account.

Once you set up an account you can have it for the rest of your career therefore it is useful. It will allow you to send confidential information to anyone else with an account securely. To set it up you will need to call IT helpdesk. You will need approval from a consultant so again just check with your supervisor that they are okay for you to do this. The IT helpdesk can set this up over the phone but it can take 24-48 hours to be implemented.

Encrypted memory sticks:

Ask in the Curriculum office upstairs in the clinical school. In previous years one encrypted memory stick has been provided to each student free of charge. These allow you to transfer confidential information.

Funding for SSC travel

Clinical school offers up to £100 for travel during the SSC, therefore you can do one at Papworth or another regional hospital. Any student on placement at a regional hospital has free accommodation and this does not come out of your £100.

Funding for conferences

Many students will present some work at a conference as a result of their SSC work. Travel, accommodation and conference fees can be difficult to fund. Ideas for sources of funding:

  • Clinical school offers up to £100 for travel expenses per student per year – details on MedEd, apply to Clinical Dean
  • CUSCRS has a conference bursary – details on CUSCRS website, apply to Mark Gurnell and CC’ CUSCRS treasurer
  • College – details from your own college and will vary, speak to your graduate tutor.
  • Supervisor – your supervisor may have funds available to help you with conference costs, especially fees.
  • External bodies – is your supervisor a member of any professional organisations which may have conference bursaries? These include the Royal Colleges or speciality societies.
  • Conference itself – often the conference will have travel grants for students
  • Biotech companies – if your research involves any company see if they will sponsor you. Make sure you declare this in your presentation!
  • Prizes – there will often be best presentation prizes at conferences, try to win these for bonus funds!

Specific advice for Papworth:

Similar principles to above apply for planning an SSC in Papworth but we have included a few extra tips:

  • Make early contact with the education team in Papworth (contact details on MedEd) who will be able to help you with ID badges, IT access and accommodation – they won’t automatically be notified that you are coming!
  • Many of the interesting surgeries and procedures at Papworth happen out of hours, so it can be useful to request accommodation there even if you have a car.
  • As above, you will be able to claim limited travel expenses for your SSC placement if in Papworth

Once your SSC block is finished…

It is rare to finish everything by the end of your 6 weeks. Equally, most people will realistically only have completed 3 or 4 of the Key Skills. If you are interested, continue to work on you SSC project or related projects after your placement, most supervisors will be very understanding and patient even if you make slow progress alongside your other placements.

Please get in touch with any member of the CUSCRS committee if you have any questions. Remember that SSC arrangements may change periodically so ensure to check MedEd for the latest information.


Many thanks go to Abbas See, Alex Cole, Flora Langman, George Hourston and Shalin Abraham for their helpful contributions to this document.