A week of on-call shifts isn't the ideal way to start your foundation year, but it can be one of the most rewarding, writes Dr Vivienne Ralph.

Starting out in FY1 I was one of the ‘unlucky’ ones, as I began my job working long days on call. The thought of these twelve-hour shifts was so daunting – what if I was sent to clerk someone and didn’t know how to come up with a management plan? What if I needed help but everyone was too busy? What if it was extremely busy and I didn’t get a break, would I be able to concentrate?

It’s safe to say anxiety was high on my list of emotions, and looking at my allocated rota slot only heightened that. No one wants to begin their career caring for patients on call; everyone hopes they will begin on normal days, so they can get used to their day-to-day job role.

First day on call? That was me.

Unfortunately, someone has to do it and once you conquer that, your day-to-day job seems a lot less intimidating. On my first shift I was part of the ‘take team’. It felt very surreal that my clerking and subsequent management plans were an integral part of the patient assessment. For the first time, it had truly sunk in that I was a practising doctor.

After finishing my on calls I was exhausted, but getting through those days I felt such a sense of elation. I’d done my first on calls and lived to tell the tale! I remember the look on the other FY1s’ faces after my shift. So many questions, so many worries. It felt great to actually give advice, answer their questions and most importantly reassure them: ‘It WILL be fine!’

What I learnt from my first few days on call was that no one expects you to know exactly what you are doing. The understanding and support you receive from your team is beyond what you would expect.

After finishing my on calls I was exhausted, but getting through those days I felt such a sense of elation.

Everyone, even consultants, remembers what their first few days and months were like as a junior doctor. I’ve found that, as a result of this steep learning curve, team members are very protective. Seniors will not only check that you are looking after patients correctly, but they will also look after you. I remember my registrar bleeping me at 1pm ordering me to go to lunch!

This is the approach from all teams across the board, and I know from my colleagues that they experienced the same support when they started. You will become comfortable in your job role and realise that the biggest expectation seniors have from you is to identify and voice it when you feel out of your depth.

Remember that senior colleagues are on hand to supervise and support you, and they will do so willingly – they will help make the transition from medical student to junior doctor as seamless as possible.

This page was correct at publication on 08/11/2016. 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.