Portfolio Pirate

Published March 9, 2023 | Updated July 24, 2023

Victoria Kinkaid

By Victoria Kinkaid

Junior doctor with a passion for women’s health and sexual and reproductive health.

Do you struggle with keeping your portfolio up to date? Do you dread ARCP season? Are you an IMG who loathes the idea of portfolio? If your answer to all these is yes, read on while we share 8 tips on how to avoid making your portfolio “walk the plank” and become a Portfolio Pirate!

Well first off, what is a Portfolio Pirate?

Someone who is all over their portfolio – they are able to capture those mini-cexs and can steer their career through the choppy waters of training. A portfolio pirate manages their portfolio efficiently and effectively, ensuring they meet the standards whilst not wasting their precious time. So if this sounds like someone you want to be, keep reading!

(Disclaimer: Whilst we support you becoming a portfolio pirate, we do not advocate portfolio piracy. All work should be original and authentic.)

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How to Be a Portfolio Pirate

1. Plan your route

Like every good pirate, route planning is key to avoiding a bumpy ride, so make sure you plan how you are going to achieve all the goals that are set. Think about how you will reach the set numbers of Case Based Discussions (CBDs), Patient Satisfaction Questionnaires (PSQs) and Mini-Cexs and create a watertight plan to ensure you meet the requirement. Always remember to ask for help along the way.

2. Don’t be afraid to give a nudge

Pirates are pretty fearless, and you should be too. Sending reminder emails to consultants to fill out your form is ok, and generally, they appreciate the nudge as it has probably fallen to the bottom of their email inbox.

3. Bragging is vital

Like all successful pirates, you must use your portfolio to brag about how great you are. Include all of the certificates you have received, all the nice emails from colleagues and even put thank you notes from patients in there.

You will be using your portfolio to help boost your speciality applications and as a blueprint for your interviews, so make it count!

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4. Be proactive

Pirates don’t get their treasure by just sitting on their boats, they seek it out. You should also seek out opportunities to demonstrate your skills. Ask to examine a patient on the ward round and at the end ask the consultant if you can send them a mini-cex for it.

5. Don’t get distracted by the “Sirens”

Portfolio sirens are the people who tell you not to worry about your portfolio or who falsely reassure you that they have not done anything for theirs.  Pirates don’t get distracted by these devious sirens at sea and neither should you. Ignore what other people are saying around you and plan your portfolio well and with a method that suits you.


Sirens were human-like creatures in Greek mythology, similar to mermaids, who lured sailors to their demise with the sweetness of their song.


The story goes that passing sailors would get lured to the sirens’ islands, hypnotised by their songs, ultimately resulting in their death.

One very creative group of sailors survived the sirens’ song by stuffing their ears with beeswax. However, we do not recommend you do this in your defence against portfolio sirens.

6. Capturing your treasure  

A pirate’s main aim is to capture their treasure, and as a portfolio pirate your treasure is your annual review pass. So make sure you tick all of the boxes, upload all of the evidence, and make your portfolio worthy of that chest of treasure!

7. Consistency is key

Pirates are pretty consistent in their efforts, and you must be too. Small wins, and little bits of progress on your portfolio means that you aren’t rushing it at the end of the year. It also shows your supervisors and assessors that you are engaged and committed to your training.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to reflections; don’t write them all at the end of the year just before your portfolio review. This will look like you have not been reflecting at all throughout the year and have just “dumped” them at the end.

If you ever have spare time on a night shift (we can all dream!) or on quieter days, use it wisely.

8. Don’t let your portfolio walk the plank

Pirates get rid of their enemies by making them walk the plank, and as a portfolio pirate, your portfolio is not your enemy! “Portfolio hate” is that resentment that you hold towards your portfolio. You must quash this in order for you to create a successful and professional portfolio.

Pirate Doctor Cartoon

Spot the difference – Mini-CEX vs CBDs

Many people get confused between mini-cexs and case based discussions (CBDs). Let’s demystify. The two are pretty similar however a CBD is more of a dialogue whereas a mini-cex is an observed patient encounter by your supervisor or other healthcare professionals.

So you can send CBDs anytime you ask a senior colleague for advice about a patient, or when you reflect on a case you have seen with your supervisor; this doesn’t even have to be a long chat, as long as you reflect on it appropriately and can demonstrate some learning.


If you follow our 8 tips, you too will become a Portfolio Pirate and successfully navigate your way through the choppy waters of professional training.

Being a Portfolio Pirate, just like being a real Pirate, is for life; Getting it right now will enable you to build good habits and skills which will continue to pay dividends (or treasure) for the rest of your career.

Good luck!

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