Top tips for new doctors – from someone who’s been there

In the UK, the beginning of August marks the point at which newly graduated medical students become foundation doctors. Here, Rachel Williams – now a trainee anesthetist – gives her top tips for those new on the wards.

Being nervous is normal

The transition from medical student with little responsibility to foundation doctor with responsibility for 40+ patients can seem daunting – and that is quite normal! Doctors work in big teams – senior doctors, consultants, nurses, microbiologists, physiotherapists, radiographers, porters, etc. and they are all there to help when you feel lost or confused.

It’s ok to ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The medical registrar may seem a little grumpy on the telephone but secretly they love saving lives and will come to help you. A good handover/referral and completed basic tasks will make them more than happy to help in a crisis.

Nurses are founts of knowledge

Nurses are your best friend – butter them up with chocolate and cake and they will help you with the daily runnings of ward life and get you out of hot water when you’re in trouble! Often, the nurses have been there for many years and have a vast amount of knowledge and experience – they have seen the struggles of junior doctors year after year and know exactly what needs to be done.

You don’t have to be an expert straightaway

It’s ok not to know! You’re not expected to become a consultant overnight – no one is expecting you to make a “House” style diagnosis.

Be organized

What your consultant will expect is for you to be organized and thorough. A useful clipboard can house many an X-Ray request form, continuation paper, pocket prescriber, and spare pens to make those long ward rounds efficient – and get you to the pub even quicker.

Keep asking questions

Ask questions and use your ‘taster days’ before choosing a specialty. Speak to specialist registrars and consultants about their experiences and what makes their specialty so great. Do they look happy? Ask them where they see their specialty in 5-10 years? And importantly, ask what is the worst part of their week.

Keep learning

Get into the habit of attending X-Ray meetings, lunch time teaching, and theatre sessions. Try to remember to reflect on these experiences as you go along – it will make your end of year ARCP much less stressful! Little and often is the key.

Get involved in extra work

Try to find time to get involved in audits and research – it doesn’t need to be ground breaking but audits and projects can improve patient care as well as improving your CV!  Presenting audits, projects and research at a national conference or meeting will get you good points when you come to apply for your specialty.

And of course….Have fun!

My Foundation years were some of my most memorable and most fun. I look back fondly on my time and have made friends for life. It’s the perfect time to find your feet,  grow as a person and enjoy your hard-earned money.

Let the adventure begin!

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