Junior doctor Overseas qualified doctor Life and work in the UK

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Your first month


Take charge of your time

  • Remember to book some annual leave in the diary to ensure time away from work.
  • You generally need to provide six weeks' notice of any leave you want to take and inform the rota co-ordinator, so be sure to remember this when making your plans.   Although it's not impossible to organise leave at shorter notice, in such cases you may need to organise individual cover for your rota'd sessions and on calls.
  • If you have to swap any on calls during your leave period, make sure you inform the rest of the team who will be doing your on calls and if relevant, when you will be repaying them.


Take charge of your learning

  • Set up a “directory” of useful numbers – for example, contact numbers for the X-ray department, registrar on call etc which you can carry around with you for quick reference
  • Check the BNF if you are not sure of what to prescribe – or ask a member of your team
  • Refer to the BMA website and relevant College website to find out dates and costs of relevant courses. Ask your educational supervisor whether you are expected to complete work-place based assessments on your clinical ability and if so, where to obtain these
  • Ask your consultants for a suitable mentor, or join an organisation where mentorship is available – e.g. the BMA, MWF
  • Find the post-graduate education centre in your hospital and speak to the team there, to see if there are relevant lunch-time meetings or educational courses which you can join. Also become a member of the hospital library and find out whether you can gain access to journals online and at home.
  • 'The thing which amazed me was the accountability  of all the staff. Doesn't matter what your role is but you are expected  to explain and rationalise your actions at all time.'  

    Mr Jay Chatterjee, Consultant Gynaeoncologist and Gynaecologist

  • Get to know the risk management and incident reporting strategies within your department, so that you know how complaints are managed. Litigation is common in the NHS, so making sure that your medical indemnity is up to date is essential.
  • Network with others in the hospital not just in your department, so that you develop your own community. Attending or presenting at external meetings will add to this. This will help you to de-stress and obtain valuable information eg local schools for children, local accommodation.
  • Organise a formal introductory meeting with your clinical and educational supervisors to look at what you would like to achieve in the first six months of your post. This can be done by speaking with their secretary to organise a mutually convenient time and will involve filling in appraisal paperwork.
  • You will be expected to show evidence of having attended courses on communication skills, time management, negotiation as well as relevant clinical courses eg. ALS, ATLS, PLS.


Find out about the national training e-portfolio 

This is a folder, accessible through the NHS eportfolio system, in which you can keep a record of the following:

  • A description of each of your posts and the core duties you performed
  • Your educational personal development plan
  • Any assessments you have obtained (eg. being observed by your consultant breaking bad news, postgraduate exam certificate).
  • Assessments can be obtained in your day-to-day duties and can be done by sending a request via email to the senior who is observing you.
    An example of an assessment is a direct observation of procedural skills (DOPS). You will need to ask your educational supervisor how many of these you are expected to fill in annually.
  • Self-evaluation – eg. feedback obtained from the staff you are working with on a day-to-day basis
  • End of placement trainer’s report


Understand the processes

  • Get to grips with the administration tasks
  • Make sure you understand how to request investigations – in many hospitals, this may be done on the computer rather than by filling in a form. If you request

    Getting on with nurses, midwives and other staff is important. They can help you settle in so be nice to them.  

    investigations it is your responsibility to chase the results – or to hand the task over to the oncoming team if you are seeing a patient on call.
  • Learn to prioritise your tasks – on some wards, the nurses have a “jobslist” for doctors to work through. If you are unsure, ask them what is the most important task to start with first. As you become familiar with each ward, this will become easier in time.
  • Use the correct technique to insert a cannula and take bloods – every hospital varies, so make sure you are familiar with the protocol. If you are unsure at any time, make sure you ask a member of your team or another junior doctor working within your department.
  • Getting on with the nurses, midwives and other staff is important as they can help you settle into your new environment – so be nice to them.
  • When seeking advice on a patient, make sure you can give a clear history to your senior as they will assess you on your communication skills and clinical ability.
  • Get to know what patient information leaflets are available for you to refer to and whether you are expected to consent patients for operations/clinical procedures. If so, ask whether there is any national or departmental guidance which you should adhere to.
  • Remember, annual leave is different to study leave – so make sure you know how many days you are contracted for each (this should be clarified at induction) and book the correct type of leave.


Next... Read what other doctors wish they had known at the start