It's never too early to start acquiring management skills, which will stand you in good stead for years to come

Fresher or final year, whatever stage you're at, you can start to hone the management skills that you'll need in the big, wide world of work. Start developing good habits now - these skills will never let you down.

Leadership

As soon as you graduate, others will be looking to you to make clinical decisions and take responsibility.

The leadership competencies expected at graduation are set out in guidance and cover five 'domains':

  1. Personal qualities - your integrity, self-awareness and self-management.
  2. Working with others - establishing networks and relationships, contribution and teamwork.
  3. Managing services - for example, planning.
  4. Improving services - such as patient safety, innovation, critical evaluation.
  5. Setting direction - applying knowledge and evidence, making decisions and evaluating impact.

If you have ambitions to take on a formal leadership role in the future, it's worth getting a head start by trying your hand at leadership in your medical school environment. When you move into your F1 year, you could ask about opportunities to take part in quality improvement projects at your new trust; join the training group of a royal college; learn about financial management, or ask senior colleagues to give you an insight into their work.

Time management

Can you stay calm under pressure? An organised approach helps when your workload is overwhelming you.

Focus on prioritising tasks by urgency and work through the list methodically. It's usually easier to make progress with difficult tasks if you break them down into 'bite size' chunks.

This is a helpful skill when you start work on the ward. It's really important to complete the tasks assigned to you during a shift, as routinely dumping unfinished work on your colleagues is unfair and unprofessional. If you really, truly haven't been able to finish something despite your best efforts, you should personally hand the task over to a colleague.

Finally, a healthy work/life balance is important in alleviating stress and boosting performance. Switch off properly when you are not working so you can recharge your batteries ready for the next day's fray.

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Communication

Never, ever underestimate how important it is to communicate well. In work, you will need every ounce of communication savvy to interact well with patients and colleagues. Being a smooth talker is not enough. As the GMC makes clear, effective communication is as much about listening to the other person's views as putting forward your own.

And if you think communication is a doddle, try this exercise. Work with two others - one is the patient, who will choose an illness and 'describe' to you (and only you) a set of symptoms using only hand gestures. You must work out what these symptoms are and then describe them verbally to the third person who must try to diagnose the illness. Did you understand what the 'patient' said to you and describe it sufficiently well to get a reasonably accurate diagnosis?

Being calm and assertive will often make the difference between a constructive discussion and a hostile confrontation

Dealing with difficult people

The vast majority of the people you meet in your early placements will be friendly and helpful but you will inevitably have to deal with some challenging colleagues or have difficult encounters with patients or their relatives.

Being calm and assertive will often make the difference between a constructive discussion and a hostile confrontation. Taking a deep breath and hearing the other person out - rather than trying to interrupt - is often the best way to disarm them.

Assertiveness training could help if you find it difficult to cope with someone's anger, or to say no.

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Working in teams

Respect and appreciation for others is a prerequisite for good team-working. GMC guidance says you must:

  • work collaboratively with colleagues
  • respect their skills and contributions
  • treat colleagues fairly and with respect
  • be aware of how your behaviour may influence others within and outside the team.

Patients are often treated and cared for by multidisciplinary teams so you need to work effectively with other healthcare professionals. Their help and cooperation will enable you to learn, and provide the best possible care for patients. Plus, a friendly word from a more experienced colleague could help you avoid some of the pitfalls that await newly qualified doctors.

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.