Be prepared for your first on calls. You’ll need lots of snacks, a flask and a water bottle for coffee/drinks, lots of pens and all the contact numbers you might need. Most trusts now have apps that you can download with lists of key bleep numbers, as well as apps for local microbiology policies and the BNF. You should hear about these during your induction, but if they’re not mentioned, don’t be afraid to ask.
Ask for help
The moment you recognise that you might need help, ask for it. Don’t delay. This applies to any problems you face at work, whether it’s an unwell patient or that you feel you’re struggling with any aspect of work. Your colleagues and seniors would always rather know early for both the safety of you and your patients.
There is no perfect answer for lots of medical problems such as which fluids to give or how exactly to manage high blood glucose in a diabetic patient. Don’t be afraid to ask your consultant or senior for advice. They’ll all have different preferences for treatment plans and ideas about the right answer so it’s best to find out early on in the job!
Don’t be afraid to handover. You’ll probably spend several evenings in the hospital sorting out various patients who always become unwell just as you’re leaving. Obviously, make sure the patient is safe and stable but don’t be afraid to call whoever is on ward cover to come and help or take-over (if they’re able to).
Look after yourself
Resilience and wellbeing are hot topics in medicine at the moment, and whilst you might be tempted to throw your all into the job, rest is important! Look after yourself, take your breaks, and if you’re unwell, don’t be a martyr and come in. If you wouldn’t tell a patient in the same state they can go to work, you shouldn’t be going in either. Remember that if you’re staying late or missing breaks, you can exception report this time – find out how here.
If things are hard, speak to someone. I guarantee there are no doctors out there who haven’t had an awful shift/job/case they still remember. Your trust or hospital might also run more formal sessions where you can reflect on difficult cases – check local resources to find out if you have access to Balint groups or similar. Your fellow FY1s will be able to sympathise when things are difficult, and seniors may be able to offer pearls of wisdom, so don’t be shy in reaching out if you need support.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Depending on the hospital you work in and the rotations you have, you might be offered various opportunities to help with audits, QI projects or other research or educational activities. An abundance of opportunities is wonderful so long as you stay focused. Pick one or two projects in a year and make sure they’re fully written up and completed. Overestimating your time leads to a pile of unfinished projects, which is as bad as no projects at all.
Keep on top of your portfolio
Do your portfolio as you go! Everyone will tell you this but unless you want to be reflecting until midnight on the deadline of completion, get on top of the requirements early.
Always check your pockets to make sure you’re not taking the bleep home at the end of the day! They have a surprisingly long range…
You are ready for this. All those hours at medical school, both at the revision desk and on the wards, have been leading up to your foundation years and preparing you to be a doctor. The first few days and weeks can be really overwhelming but after six or eight weeks you’ll look back on that time realizing how quickly you’ve grown into your first role as a doctor!
Camilla has devised a video course aimed at final year medical students and new FY1 doctors, which can be found here. It’s part of Medics.Academy’s F|Docs platform, which provides video courses on clinical scenarios you may encounter as a foundation doctor, as well as the ‘hidden curriculum,’ with videos on understanding your contract; leadership as an FY doctor and more.
Want to talk to other students who are about to start the foundation programme in August? Join our Facebook community of final year medics and junior doctors here.
About the Author
Camilla is a junior doctor working in London. She has been awarded prizes during her foundation training for teaching, clinical excellence and quality improvement. She plans to pursue a career in gastroenterology and this year has been doing research looking at decompensated liver disease. Outside of medicine, Camilla is a keen runner, skier, sailor and tag rugby player. She also enjoys travelling and will be spending a lot of this year jetting off around the world.