Congratulations – you’ve made it to FY1 as junior doctor, but what has your day got in store?
Starting out as a junior doctor can be intimidating. The media doesn’t do anybody any favours with lurid stories of under staffing and overcrowding, so if you’re starting out it pays to know what your typical day is going to be.
Your day will vary depending on where you’re working, your speciality and what unexpected curve balls come your way – however, here are some things you can expect…
Days will normally start early so it pays to fuel yourself up with a big breakfast. The chances are you won’t get to eat anything until lunch and there is no sure-fire way of knowing when it will be. Everything depends on scheduling and how long it takes to see all the patients in the ward.
8.00am: Start the day
Once in the hospital, the day may start with a meeting where you go through all the patients on the ward and who may be on any theatre lists. You may then draw up a list of all the patients with brief details about their backgrounds, treatments and conditions.
The main business of the morning will be making the rounds. You may start by prioritising anyone who is particularly unwell or have pressing problems which need to be addressed. For example, if someone has a problem which may need surgery you might have to organise a CT scan, gets blood tests done and returned as quickly as possible.
A couple of times each week there may be a consultant-led round in which you’ll have to explain to the consultant everything that’s going on with the patients.
Aside from that, you may be seeing to the care of patients, taking bloods, prescribing medications or fitting catheters – whatever jobs need doing. Sometimes the job can also include teaching medical students if you have time.
Lunch can be a moveable feast depending on how hectic your day is turning out to be. But, even if it’s a busy day you need to stop for some lunch and to refuel. Many junior doctors like to get away from the ward for a time and meet up with friends in the canteen.
2pm: Back to work
The team regroups and checks to see if there’s anything they’ve missed on the jobs list. Test results are checked to see how patients are getting along.
The patients’ families start to arrive to see their loved ones. This time might be spent talking with the families, explaining what’s happening with the patient and answering any questions.
A typical afternoon may offer many different challenges. There may be an emergency with one of the patients in which case it’s all hands on deck to save the day. A patient may develop a complication which means you may have to order new tests.
In other words, the chances are every day will send a curve ball in a direction you’re not expecting.
With visiting time over, it’s time to review the jobs on the day’s list to make sure everything has been done and nothing has been missed.
6pm: Home time
It’s 6pm and it’s time to head home assuming the job allows it. This is not any job, and you may find you’re staying later if needed.
So that’s a typical working day, but it is worth a reminder that we’re using ‘typical’ in the loosest possible terms. Weekend or night shifts may be different with fewer staff on duty, and so much more patients to share between each one of you.
Tasks will obviously vary depending on the type of ward you’re working on and there will almost certainly be unforeseen events to test you out. The day is challenging, but undeniably rewarding!
Words: Tom Cropper
Want to know more about what it’s like to work as a junior doctor?