Starting life as a junior doctor

After the excitement of passing your finals fades, the horror of starting work as a doctor sets in. No one expects their first day to be anything less than terrifying.

Many newly qualified F1s will be well outside their comfort zone, perhaps in a new city, or with new friends and a hospital computer system which you have no means of accessing. But on the first Wednesday of every August, known as 'Black Wednesday', a new cohort of junior doctors start work for the first time and all manage to live to tell the tale!

Before starting as an F1 I wasn't sure how to even start preparing for work. Finals were a blip on the horizon. With just a week to go, I realised I remembered no medicine whatsoever and tried to read the Cheese and Onion (Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine) front to back. It was pointless.

Luckily, everyone on my ward was extremely supportive and sufficiently experienced to compensate for my self-perceived incapability. I never felt alone in making a single decision but I know that others weren't quite so lucky. Fortunately, most hospitals have systems in place to cope with the arrival of fresh-faced doctors and all hospitals are required to organise a compulsory paid shadowing period. Many also offer an additional optional period. I would recommend this to anyone starting in a hospital outside their medical school; it definitely helps make the transition easier.

During the first few weeks what most people struggle with is the lack of sleep, the new responsibilities and simply the routine of having to wake up for work every day. You are pretty much running the medical side of the ward, and your patients, the team and the other F1s rely on you being there and being on your game. Somehow you must morph from 'med schools biggest slacker' to a pillar of morality and punctuality.

The good news is that you have achieved something you have worked most of your adult life towards doing. Even if at times you feel overworked and that you are being paid less per hour than the minimum wage. You will feel an immense sense of satisfaction when you do something right and make even the smallest difference to someone's life. And failing this, no one is above bribery with cake and chocolate!

This guidance was correct at publication 28/11/2013. It 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.

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