Tips for new doctors: advice to help you start a successful medical career

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  01 Aug 2016

Over 7000 UK medical graduates will start as doctors on 3 August. Two consultants, a GP partner, and a specialty trainee offer them some advice

Els Draeger, consultant in genitourinary medicine, London:

  • The best person to ask for advice in your first week is usually the ward sister or nurse in charge.

  • Not stopping to eat in the interests of saving time will mean that you work more slowly and leave later than if you’d eaten.

  • Angry patients are either scared, in pain, or both.

  • If you haven’t been for a wee once during a 12 hour shift, you haven’t drunk enough fluid, and you should take a break next time.

  • It’s OK to carry an emergency snack with you at all times.

Krishna Kasaraneni, GP partner, Sheffield:

  • I wish that someone had told me that your three best friends as a foundation year 1 trainee are the ward sister, the dinner lady in the hospital canteen, and your senior house officer. Without them you won’t get through the day, any day.

Vishal Sharma, consultant cardiologist, Merseyside:

  • Problems don’t always develop exactly as described in textbooks. If you’re faced with a clinical problem and don’t immediately know what to do and find yourself having to think twice, you really should seek advice from a senior colleague. Not only will this prevent you from making the wrong decision at the time, you’ll learn the correct treatment and deal with similar problems better in the future.

  • Many juniors feel anxious about calling the consultant in charge, particularly out of hours. When I first started I remember feeling reluctant to disturb my consultant. But, as I became more senior, I contacted my consultant much more frequently, even though I was much more experienced in dealing with unwell patients. This was because I realised the importance of ensuring that my consultants were informed. Now that I’m a consultant myself, I’d always want to know immediately if any of my patients had become unwell, as opposed to finding out the next day.

  • All doctors experience time pressures. However, it’s important that you don’t try to cut corners, as that’s how mistakes happen. If you’re too busy, seek help: there are others around who can help you.

Melody Redman, paediatrics academic clinical fellowship specialty trainee year 1, South Yorkshire:

  • When you find comfy but smart work shoes, buy two pairs.

  • Buy a clipboard for your jobs list. Keep a list of important hospital phone numbers in it, as well as a couple of each of the different request forms and any useful hospital protocols.

  • As long as it’s safe to do so, take your lunch or tea break. It’s in your patients’ and team’s best interests to fight the “hanger” [hunger-anger] and keep yourself well.

  • On nights, take a pocketful of sweets to keep you going.

  • Update your e-portfolio regularly, and make the most of every opportunity for a mini-CEX [supervised learning event] or DOPS [direct observation of procedural skills].

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: