Advice for New Doctors, From a Still Mostly New Doctor

I’m away from home this week and so I’m missing much of watching the shadowing F1s take their first shaky steps into the hospital, like Bambi learning how to walk. But on Monday, the first day of shadowing week, I found myself in another hospital, many miles from home, and on my way out I walked through the lobby and right into a group of very new, very shiny, very terrified doctors on a tour of their new home. I could tell from the recently folded and not yet worn out look of their ID lanyards and the fact that they haven’t yet had time to develop permanent suitcases under their eyes.

I don’t mean any of that to sound condescending. I remember it all too well – in a really nauseated and flashback having kind of way. I still mostly feel like that myself whenever I let myself think too hard about next week and Being The SHO.

My first shift was eight hours on the endocrinology ward. I was there for ten hours and the first thing I prescribed was Novorapid and I had the first of what would be many conversations with a consultant radiologist and demonstrated that I patently did not have a clue what I was talking about. I was broken in remarkably gently, considering, and I was saved from things going too hideously wrong until my first Saturday, ten days later, of which frankly the less said the better.

So, the first thing for you to know is that it’s okay to be petrified.

The second thing to know is that if you haven’t read the excellent #tipsfornewdocs hashtag on Twitter, you should do that now.

And here are a few from me:

  • No idea is too stupid to say out loud. No mistake is so stupid that someone hasn’t already made it. The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask.
  •  Ask advice from your pharmacists and microbiologists and dietitians and palliative care nurses and radiographers. They are experts in their particular field and will usually be glad to give it.
  •  It isn’t beneath you to make a cup of tea or to fetch a sick bowl.
  • You don’t need to go through this alone. You will become each others’ most valuable resource – for way-too-early-morning coffee, for mutual hand holding the first time it’s you who’s deciding whether that’s really hospital acquired pneumonia or just artifact, for falling apart on after really awful arrests, for the different bits of knowledge you’ll all have acquired by the end of the first week.
  •  It is absolutely worth coming in fifteen minutes early for how much more easily it can make the rest of your day go. The questions to ask at 8.45am are: “Is anyone new? Is anyone sick? Is anyone going home?”
  • Don’t leave ePortfolio until the last minute. Remember that the deadline for F1 sign off is two months before the actual end of F1.
  •  Get a little sleep. Spend a little time doing things that aren’t work with people who you don’t work with. Eat something. (No, chocolate from the nurses’ station does not count.)
  • Your patients have names and their names are not Bed 22.
  • It is never wrong to ask for help. Ideally, you will know what the story is and what the obs are and what exactly you’re worried about before you pick up the phone, but if all you know is that someone looks really sick and you don’t know what to do, then that is all you know and calling with that is still better than not calling.
  •  Care.
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