Junior doctor Overseas qualified doctor Life and work in the UK

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Things I wish I had known


Take your wellbeing seriously

  • To avoid become overwhelmed or stressed, 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. This includes email communication
  • You have to very flexible in your way of thinking and also be very receptive to the work environment around you. You learn very quickly and you automatically adapt.

  • Never feel embarrassed to ask questions, however trivial the topic may seem to you – you never know, others around may also not know the answer. You are not expected to know everything; patient pathology can be unpredictable and everyone, however senior, is still learning.
  • Whilst you should remain courteous and professional, you are an important member of the team and equally, you should be respected and treated kindly.
  • 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. Try to avoid open conflict with other staff members in front of patients, it is better to deal with colleague disagreements away from clinical areas.


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 or other sensitive issues before doing so independently.
  • Keep your own record or eportfolio of clinical cases, courses attended, certificates, exams and reflective practice. <
  • As part of the NHS, 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. This could include performing an audit to review current practice and the see the impact after implementing recommendations and changes.
  • Make sure you obtain constructive feedback on how to become a better doctor from those working around you – this can be done by issuing a  “360 degree feedback form”. If you are not sure how to organise this, speak to your educational superviser
  • Do not underestimate the importance of good record keeping, clear communication and regular training within the NHS – this is the same for every health care worker in the NHS.

    Think about your career development

  • Consider how you want your career to develop and what you want to gain from your role so that you can plan accordingly – for example, do you need to undertake post-graduate exams? Or to apply for a training number to progress to the next level? Discuss it with your senior colleagues and educational supervisor.
  • If relevant they may suggest that you contact the local Deanery for advice on postgraduate training as well as the Royal College.
  • There is a lot of information for those applying for training posts, as well as courses for interview technique such as BMA Interview skills course), so make sure you book onto a relevant course if you think this will be helpful.


Be proactive when things go wrong

  • Working in the NHS can be difficult and stressful, with things happening extremely quickly. It’s important to realise that things will not always be smooth sailing, but 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 (eg. MPS). They can review your statement and make sure it is appropriate. Write a reflective practice and keep it in your e-portfolio.


The importance of joining the BMA

Why? Here's some good reasons:

  • We understand your working life
  • Get your contract checked for free
  • If you have a query about pay issues, leave entitlement, working relationships, rotas or discrimination you can contact a BMA adviser Monday to Friday between 08.30 and 18.00
  • Get access to tailored financial services from BMA finance and insurance
  • Get the latest learning on appraisals and revalidation
  • Enhance your professional competencies with ethical decision-making guidance
  • Maximise your study leave with our online guidance... and there's lots more to get from BMA membership


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