Toolkit for doctors new to the UK

Communicating with colleagues and NHS structure

Location: UK International
Audience: International doctors All doctors
Updated: Monday 6 June 2022
Topics: International doctors

The below gives some rough guidance on how to speak to your colleagues. Don't be too hard on yourself or be scared to mess up - you are in a new country and are not expected to be perfect. That will come with experience!


How to talk to other team members

  • Do make every effort to learn the names of all the staff that work within your team. Not only does this encourage the rest of the team to get to know you but it also sounds better to refer to a member of your team by their name rather than their job title, eg ‘sister’ or ‘nurse’.
  • Do maintain good working relationships with the nursing staff, they are a key part of the multi-disciplinary team.
  • Do ensure you tidy-up post procedure. Team working is crucial and this will be appreciated by other members in your team. In return, they will
    be happy to help in instances when you are not able to tidy up.
  • Do introduce yourself to everyone. Be proactive, say thank you after a ward round or before you go home. There is no ‘hierarchy’ between nurses and doctors – they are all colleagues.
  • Do always say directly what you mean to say. In Britain all written and spoken communication is taken at face value.
  • Do make the effort to talk to colleagues about things other than work. Talk about sports, weather, TV soaps and family. Keep it light-hearted - nothing personal.


How to speak to senior colleagues

  • Do ask your senior colleagues how they would like to be addressed.
  • Do use first names rather than adding 'doctor' to their name if they introduce themselves on a first name basis.
  • Do ask your senior colleagues for help and guidance. It is okay to do so and is a part of learning.
  • Do always clarify any instructions that you have been given by saying "just to recap..." and confirm back all the instructions as you understand them.


General things to bear in mind at work

  • Do say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’.
  • Do speak to a senior overseas doctor. They have been through the experience of making a life here and can be a fountain of knowledge.
  • Do encourage colleagues to correct you if your English pronunciation is not up-to-par.
  • Do ask for feedback frequently.
  • Do stand straight with your shoulders back and your head held up. This gives the impression of confidence.
  • Do keep eye contact with the person that you are conversing with. In Britain this is seen as a sign of honesty and sincerity.
  • Do make sure that you extend a firm handshake when you are introduced to someone.
  • Do take advice from senior colleagues and a trade union such as the BMA if you think you have made a mistake or need help.

Remember - you should never be made to feel like an outsider, or treated differently from other colleagues, because of where you are from. If you feel you haven't been treated well, speak with a manager or contact the BMA for advice.

Need help? For questions about any aspect of your working life, our advisers are here to help you. Opening times: 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday (excluding UK bank holidays)