Starting out as a newly qualified doctor is a whole new ball game for everyone, no matter how enthusiastically you traipsed around the wards while at medical school. Although you might have a lot of knowledge, you won't have applied most of it in practice. Nor have you had to take real responsibility, make decisions about patients or work all night long (and sometimes at weekends).

Starting as an FY1 is a big structural change in your life, and that inevitably takes a bit of getting used to.

Keep sight of what you want to achieve

Whether you are starting in a few months' time or a few years' time, it's always good to think: what am I aiming to get out of my work? I think there are three main areas, all inter-linked and co-dependent. Firstly, this is a job: you have a position of responsibility and want to provide the best possible care to your patients. Secondly, you want to learn and develop your skills and abilities. And thirdly, you want to really enjoy what you do – you chose this career path for a reason and there are lots of great aspects to it. All of these things feed off one another.

Don't stress – you're part of a team

So, how can you achieve these goals? Let's take a moment to think about how an FY1 fits into hospital life. In a nutshell, you are the most junior member of a team of other doctors. The structure of this team will vary depending on which ward and which hospital you are working in, but will include FY2s, core trainees, registrars and consultants. You will all be working together towards a common goal – managing each of your patients as best as you all can. Even when you are on call or on a night shift, when there are fewer staff, you will still be part of a team and beyond your immediate team there will always be other doctors in the hospital.

The importance of this cannot be emphasised enough. Sometimes, when the workload is tough, the pressure feels high and it's easy to feel as though you need to take on everything yourself. This is absolutely admirable in intention and certainly there are lots of things you will soon learn how to do yourself – prescribing medications for things such as pain and sickness, organising investigations, and writing discharge letters. However, there are also lots of things that you won't have come across before, and that you need help with. When this happens, remember that you are not alone, that you are part of a team, and always ask!

A happier you means a happier team. And a happier team means a happier you.

Be someone you'd want to work with

The importance of teamwork stretches beyond the division of tasks and the practicalities of having people from whom you can seek advice.

By being friendly, enthusiastic, hardworking and reliable, you will help to create a positive team dynamic. A happier you means a happier team. And a happier team means a happier you. Why is this so important? Well, it's essential for personal happiness, job satisfaction and high performance. Each of these things promotes the others.

Teams where there are strong bonds between the individual members, work better. People want to help one another, they feel more motivated and they get the day's tasks done more efficiently. You will go home at the end of the day feeling involved, valued, important and fulfilled.

Respect the wider team

It's not just the other doctors that you will be working with, but also lots of other healthcare professionals. These include nurses and nurse specialists, as well as physiotherapists, OTs, dieticians and non-clinical staff, including the ward clerks & discharge officers. In fact, the sheer number and variety of other hospital workers is something that I hadn't really realised before starting work as an FY1.

In the same way as the quality of your relationships with your fellow doctors is essential for creating a happy, productive body of clinical staff, positive and constructive interactions with all of these other people is very important too. Being polite, interested and respectful towards your colleagues will bring mutual benefits. The hospital staff will function like a well-oiled machine, and better care will be delivered to your patients.


This article was correct at publication on 27/04/2018. It 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.

Dr Anna Dunnigan

Foundation year one doctor

Anna studied pre-clinical medicine at Cambridge before moving to Oxford for clinical school. She is currently working as a foundation year one doctor at Milton Keynes University Hospital. See more by Dr Anna Dunnigan