Being an international junior doctor in the NHS

Things I wish I had known

Location: UK
Audience: International doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 September 2020
Topics: International doctors

Senior IMG doctors share their top tips for starting out in the NHS.


Take your wellbeing seriously

  • To avoid becoming overwhelmed, make sure you have regular breaks throughout the day and book in regular holidays.
  • If you are busy, see whether you can find a colleague to help – and in turn, return the favour when they are busy.
  • Remember to stay calm and professional, both in person and in writing – particularly in communications around patient information.
  • Never feel embarrassed to ask questions, however trivial the topic may seem to you.
  • You should be respected and treated kindly by others.
  • If you are having difficulties with another member of the team, try and resolve this informally initially but if this is unsuccessful, raise it with your seniors
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Get into good habits at work

  • Handover time is known to be a high-risk time for patient care, so make sure you are prepared and communicate all the key points for each patient, so that nothing is missed by the incoming team
  • Try to avoid abbreviations where they may be confusing. Minimise the use of jargon when speaking to patients.
  • Where possible, volunteer to sit in with consultants or senior trainees during difficult consultations - eg breaking bad news, before doing so yourself.
  • Keep your own record or eportfolio of clinical cases, courses attended, certificates, exams and reflective practice.
  • If you identify a more efficient way of doing things, volunteer to lead change within your department after discussing it with your seniors and nurses.
  • Make sure you obtain constructive feedback on how to become a better doctor from those working around you.


Think about your career development

Be proactive when things go wrong

  • Working in the NHS can be difficult and stressful, with things happening extremely quickly. It’s important to know where to turn when they don’t go to plan.
  • Speak to a senior colleague to identify where things could have gone better and, if a patient was involved, whether to approach the patient with a colleague.
  • Remember, saying sorry does not mean that you automatically did something wrong.
  • If you have been asked to write a statement, contact your medical defence union for advice. They can review your statement and make sure it is appropriate. Write a reflective practice and keep it in your e-portfolio.