Being a doctor is an amazing role and opportunity, but it’s important to be prepared for the large difference between medical school and life as an FY1.
Here’s my advice for all the new doctors joining us in August.
It will be tough at first
It seems to be a universal truth that the first few weeks as a new doctor are tough. You're finally in practice and the expectations of you are higher.
Thankfully you’re not expected to hit the ground running, and staff are by and large conscious (and understanding) that you’re new and inexperienced. Not only are you trying to forge the beginnings of your professional identity and place in this strange new world, but you’re learning new IT systems, trying to piece together where every obscure paper form is, how to make the printers work, negotiating the politics of your department – there’s a huge amount to learn.
During my first few weeks I was working in a busy surgical unit, coming home (late), immediately falling asleep and doing it all again the next day. And the next day.
It can be a demanding start, but it does get better. Go easy on yourself.
If you’re struggling, please ask for help. We’ve all been through this transition period to becoming new doctors and it’s hard.
Protect your own time
You’re an employee now and you have to look after yourself as such.
The healthcare environment can be challenging, particularly in the NHS, where the work never stops. It can be difficult to find time to take a break. It’s up to you to take lunch, go to the loo and take a 15-minute break here and there. Nobody else is going to do it for you, so make sure you protect your own time.
The same holds true for your protected teaching and self-development time (SDT), which is designed to help with your career development plans. It’s protected in your contract, but hospital departments may not be aware of your protected time, or when you should take it.
Ultimately, this is your time and you’re required to use it – especially to attend teaching.
Get started early on your e-portfolio
It goes without saying, but don’t leave your portfolio work to the last minute.
Just like medical school, foundation doctors are required to keep an ongoing log demonstrating their commitment to training and skill development, recording case-based discussions, procedures and more besides.
Make sure you get the compulsory forms signed off as soon as possible (such as those that require your clinical/educational supervisors – go to a meeting with a clear plan of everything you need them to sign off). Some portfolio forms are time-sensitive and can’t be completed after the fact, so discuss with your peers and make sure that you’re up to date – especially if you’re an academic foundation doctor with reduced clinical time to achieve your objectives.
Ask for help
Finally, if you’re struggling, please ask for help. We’ve all been through this transition period to becoming new doctors and it’s hard. I’ve struggled with it and so have my colleagues – and I’d want to know if one of my fellow junior doctors was struggling.
I’ve received some immensely helpful advice by chatting things through with other FY1 and FY2 doctors, as well as more senior staff members like wellbeing services and our supervisors.
There’s no shame in asking for help and it’s more likely that you’ll be able to find the support you need.
Ollie Burton is an academic foundation doctor working between the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospitals in Newcastle, England. He graduated from Warwick Medical School in 2021 and is now pursuing a career combining his interests in medical education and the clinical neurosciences.
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