Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is key to learning new skills, but always make sure you feel safe and supported at work, writes Dr Beverley Ward.

Whether you're starting your first clinical placement or your first post as an FY1, there will be times when you'll feel out of your comfort zone.

Starting any new job can be daunting, and very few of us feel confident in the first few days. This will apply to all doctors starting any new post, but those starting their first FY1 job after graduation are likely to feel especially nervous.

So how can you manage those nerves, work safely and effectively, and learn new skills along the way?

Working within your competence – what does it mean?

The GMC says 'you must recognise and work within the limits of your competence'. Although you may not feel like it, those five years at medical school have armed you with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and prepared you for the first days working as a qualified doctor.

However, there is still a lot to learn. Here are some tips to help you through those early days.


  1. Make sure you attend induction meetings, and read what is required. The GMC emphasises the importance of taking part in the opportunities offered by your employer, particularly when you start a new job or your role changes significantly. It takes a while to get used to how things work at a different place, and the induction process will help you. The systems may be different and you will need to get to know the staff and layout of the hospital.
  2. Introduce yourself to colleagues and patients with your name and seniority, so that they understand your level of experience and have appropriate expectations of you.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You are surrounded by more experienced colleagues who all want what is best for the patient and will be happy to support you in providing care. This includes not only your senior medical colleagues within your team, but also the nurses, pharmacists, therapists, ward clerks and medical colleagues from other specialties.
  4. If you feel unsure about performing a procedure, or managing a patient, talk things through with a colleague or ask them to assist you.
  5. Familiarise yourself with your trust's policies and protocols. Most trusts provide management guidelines and care pathways for different situations. Make sure you are aware of these and follow them.
  6. Take any opportunity you can get to watch your colleagues work, and learn from them. They will be happy to teach you if you show you are keen to learn. Take up opportunities offered to you to go on courses or attend teaching sessions.
  7. If you feel out of your depth, don't be afraid to say so. Patient safety comes first.
  8. If you feel unsupported, speak up. Talk to your educational or clinical supervisor. If that doesn't resolve your concerns, then contact your Foundation Programme Director with your concerns.

Remember, medicine is a profession where you will never stop learning. Your colleagues and patients will understand that you are at the start of your career and have a lot to learn. Try to enjoy the process!

This page was correct at publication on 02/07/2018. 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.