Getting a few basics right can make your early days of training a little less fraught

The responsibilities that come with being a junior doctor make it all the more important that you are fully prepared. Not only have you got to put into practice all your medical knowledge, but you have to deal with the complexities of working in a large organisation like the NHS.

Here are some essentials which will help to make your new role a little easier.

Get to know your trust's policies

All hospitals will have their own policies, both clinical and administrative. These will include policies on things like confidentiality, infection control and antibiotic use.

It is important to be aware of your trust's policies and also where to find them so that you can refer to them quickly. Most trusts will have policies available on their intranet.

Not following a trust policy, without good reason, could result in disciplinary action.

Keep it confidential

Confidentiality is a big concern in every hospital setting.

You will be given a username and password when you start so that you can access the trust's computer systems, including those for ordering investigations and checking patient results. It is essential to keep your password safe and never allow anyone else to log in as you.

Always make sure you log out every time you leave the computer to stop anyone accessing data under your log in details. Again, allowing others to use your log in is taken very seriously and could result in disciplinary action.

Your life will be made much easier if you establish a good working relationship with the nursing staff as soon as possible.

Don't try to work unsupervised

It is easy and understandable to feel out of your depth when dealing with patients, especially those who are very unwell. You should always be supervised and never left in the situation where you feel that you are working outside the limits of your competence. Make sure you know who your seniors are and how to contact them, especially when you are working outside normal hours.

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Handling complaints

Complaints happen - ask any doctor. And while they can be upsetting, complaints can provide a good opportunity to reflect on your practice and identify areas where you may need some further training.

If you receive a complaint, you shouldn't try to deal with it on your own. Tell your consultant and the trust's complaints department as soon as possible. They will address the concerns raised. However, they should seek your comments so that you have an opportunity to respond. The MDU can help you prepare your response and offer you support.

Finally, some general housekeeping points

  1. Good communication skills are not only important from the point of view of interacting with patients, but also with your colleagues. (See article 'Listen up - communication is vital' for a doctor's perspective on communication.)
  2. Your life will be made much easier if you establish a good working relationship with the nursing staff as soon as possible. They are a good source of advice and support and will be much more helpful towards you if they like you.
  3. There is nothing nurses like less than having to clear up after doctors who have just performed a procedure, so always show that you are willing to tidy up, especially in disposing of sharps.
  4. When you are on duty it is important that you are contactable at all times. Make sure your bleep works at the start of each shift and answer it as soon as you can. Complaints are often made by other members of staff when they are unable to easily contact doctors and this can be another disciplinary matter.

If you do find yourself in difficulty in relation to your provision of clinical care to patients you can seek advice and support from the MDU.

This page was correct at publication on 21/04/2015. 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.