Being an international junior doctor in the NHS

What you should know before you start

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

How to prepare for your first day on the job as a doctor.

Our top 5 tips

  1. Get to know the healthcare structure of the NHS - the order of responsibility and how to escalate any patient concerns you may have.
  2. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you are unsure.
  3. Understand the relationship between primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems.
  4. Find out about the needs of Britain's diverse population and get some insight into the problems of the local populations.
  5. Find out how the BMA can help you at every stage of your career in the UK.


Get your papers in order

  • Make sure you have got a criminal records bureau (CRB check) clearance through the HR team of your employer.
  • Keep your original certificates (MBBS, medical protection, PLAB, GMC certificates, immunisation records) along with photocopies, in an easy to carry transparent folder, and bring this to your induction day in the hospital.
  • Make sure you are registered with the GMC.
  • Have copies of your passport and make sure you have the correct visa category to work in the UK.
  • Organise medical defence cover – keep your certificate in a safe place and carry copies to your induction.


Dress code

  • Make sure you know the hospital dress code.
  • It's usually comfortable smart shoes, a clean short sleeved shirt and trousers or a dress/skirt - long hair should be tied back.
  • Find out whether it is appropriate to wear scrubs and if so, where you can get these. In some hospitals you can only wear scrubs in certain areas, so find out your hospital policy.
  • Find out your hospital’s policy on wearing a watch and jewellery during induction.


Tips for induction day

  • Sign into each session if expected to do so - check with the induction organiser.
  • Check whether you need to bring passport sized photos.
  • If you need to organise childcare, enquire whether there are nursery or crèche facilities within the hospital and how to apply for a place for your child.
  • Find out the amount of paid study leave you are entitled to at induction and how to claim your costs for this.
  • Find out how to book annual leave and do this as early as possible.
  • If you need a car park space, ask how to register your car and the cost of parking.
  • Make sure you know who to speak to to get a copy of your contract and have your bank details to hand.
  • Consider joining the NHS pension scheme.


Meet your team, if you can

  • Find out what your rota is like and ask about the exact hours you are expected to work, ideally from another junior doctor colleague.
  • Ask about the likes and dislikes of your consultant – for example, do they expect you to see all of the patients before theatre and to present their histories? Do all patients undergoing hysterectomies need blood crossmatched?
  • Find out what the duties of the job involve, the setup of the wards, the crash trollies and resuscitation equipment.
  • Ask how best to contact your seniors during the day and night and find out whether you can get access to current policies which the doctors use.
  • Contact the team on call to find out who oversees the rota in your department. If helpful, find out whether you can shadow a current member of the team during an on call.
  • Find out if there are departmental guidelines which you should follow and if so, if you can get hold of them to read before your formal start on the wards.


Useful apps and maps

  • Download a map of your hospital and how to get there to make sure you are not late on your first day.
  • Download apps such as the BNF (British National Formulary) and NICE guidelines, so that you can access them when on the wards.
  • Look over the relevant royal college website if you have a surgical post to make sure you are familiar with general national guidance and training.