Imagine your first day on the ward. You’ve made it! You’ve achieved something you may have dreamt of since you were a child – you are finally a qualified doctor. With the hard work of medical school behind you and your first few weeks of F1 ahead, you may already be thinking about what you can do to maximize the opportunities you have access to in your Foundation years.
Put your best foot forward
The first step in making the most of your FY1 is making sure you’re prepped and ready for the jobs you’ll be doing on the wards, in clinic and on-call. Many of these skills will be picked up on the job, but to get a head start, take a look at our F|Docs Programme for how you can be in the best possible position before starting work. Being well-prepared will help you to find your feet more quickly in your first job, meaning you’ll be able to maximize what you get out of your first rotations.
Think about next steps
As you’re rotating through your jobs, it is important to keep your career plans and goals in mind. It may even be useful to keep a short written record of each job – what did you like or dislike about the specialty? Look at the jobs of the seniors in each job too – what are the hours of the consultants like, and do they seem to enjoy their job? Two years may seem like a long time but decisions about whether to apply to specialty training, or take a year (or even two!) out after F2 have to be made during your fourth rotation of your Foundation years, so it’s good to bare in mind. Don’t worry too much if you don’t find your calling in F1, though – over half of trainees are now opting to take an F3 year, so this is also a viable option.
Consider exams and other specialty-focused extracurriculars
If you’ve already got your heart set on a specialty or come across something you love early on in your Foundation years, consider sitting some of the membership exams. Many Royal Colleges recommend taking these exams early, as they often test concepts you will have learnt thoroughly in preparation for your finals. Exams also make your CV more appealing when it comes to applying for specialty jobs. However, they can be expensive – make sure you read the information given on the Royal College websites carefully before booking an exam.
If you have a specialty in mind, or are torn between a few different disciplines, you could attend specialty specific events, both to build your CV and help you decide on your pathway. Many of the Royal Colleges run conferences or similar events for junior doctors, which are often free to attend. Keep an eye on their websites and social media.
Other opportunities available to boost your CV for specialty applications are prizes – again, Royal Colleges and the Royal Society of medicine run a range of essay prizes for junior doctors, which could look great on your CV and add points to your future applications.
With all these specialty-focused extracurricular activities, make sure you check the requirements of the individual Royal Colleges carefully in order to target your activities to their desired applicant characteristics. Most will have transparent summaries of the number of application points they assign to various achievements.
Try to take the opportunity to build networks with peers, seniors and allied healthcare professionals during your Foundation years. If you’ve moved away from many of your friends from university for your Foundation years, this can be a great opportunity to build new friendships – after all, you are all in the same boat! Networking can be a challenge, but can definitely be useful for medics – take a read of a previous blog post on networking for medics.
An audit, QI project, or some teaching can all help develop the skills you’ll need to move forward in your medical career, and can also look great on your CV. Get in touch with seniors and make sure they know you are interested in taking on a project or other extracurricular. If your trust takes medical students, you may be able to find teaching opportunities by contacting the medical school directly.
You might also be interested in other opportunities, such as sitting on the BMA Junior Doctor Committee, or similar. These can be great roles to help you develop new skills, and even explore more unusual ways to use your medical degree, like in medical law or policy.
Whatever you decide to do alongside your work, it’s important that you don’t take on too many projects – this will put a strain on your free time. Extracurriculars can be challenging, but should be projects you’re really interested in or passionate about, rather than just CV boosters.
Whilst working as a doctor is often stressful, you should also be enjoying your job as much as possible. If not, seek advice from peers, seniors or management, as your welfare is just as important as your patients!
Medics.Academy have put together the F|Docs Programme. It’s a platform which provides video courses on clinical scenarios you may encounter as a foundation doctor, continuous learning and so much more! Sign up here to receive more information about the F|Docs Programme:
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!
About the Author
Anna is a final year medical student at King’s College London, past Editorial Scholar at the BMJ and has been part of the Medics.Academy team. Her main area of interest lies in medical education, particularly widening access and neer-peer teaching schemes. She is also interested in health journalism and science communication and, when she can find the time, writes the occasional piece freelance. Outside of medicine and writing, you can usually find her at one of London’s small music venues or running somewhere very slowly.