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By Dr Rachel Khaw

Top tips for starting FY1

6 min
Female medical students wearing scrubs sitting at desk taking notes

Starting FY1 can be a daunting experience for those who are new to working life. There can be a lot to take in, a routine to build, new people to meet and much more to think about.

So, we thought we would help you on your way with this blog from Dr Rachel Khaw. Here, she shares her top tips for starting FY1.

Organisation is key

As with medical school, staying organised will help your day-to-day run smoothly as an FY1. Keeping an up-to-date jobs list will allow you to prioritise easily, particularly when working an on-call or busy ward job.

Following a ward round, identifying urgent jobs first will streamline your workload. For example, you could start with discharge medications (which will take a while to be processed), then order scans and carry out blood tests, followed by writing discharge summaries when the other jobs are in progress.

Departments will often ask for eight weeks’ notice for annual leave requests. Looking at when you want to take your annual leave early on will maximise your chances of getting it, and potentially allow you to request your desired dates before others.

Each new hospital or department you work in will come with its own door codes, places for specific items, instructions on how to order labels and ways to use the printer. Note down useful tips for yourself on your phone – they will come in useful when you don’t have the brain-processing capacity during the middle of a busy night shift.

Get to know everyone

Working in an MDT becomes a lot easier if you know the members of the team well.

Make a conscious effort to get to know all of the different ward and team members that you will be working with – particularly those you work with regularly. This will not only make your working life easier, but will also make it much more enjoyable.

Everyone will be able to provide you with valuable tips from their own experiences, which will no doubt be helpful at some point.

If there are opportunities to socialise with your colleagues, take them. Some of the people you meet during FY1 will become your long-term friends, and a friendly face on a bad workday can make all the difference.

Ask questions

No question is a stupid question. Whether it’s working out how to use a system or struggling to understand a clinical picture or result, you can get help from colleagues. Not only is this good for your own learning, it also shows interest. Don’t forget that others were once in your shoes.

Identify your areas of weakness or those that you feel less confident about. Face them head on and find support from others. This way, when you need to do the task on your own, it will feel much more manageable.

For example, if you feel less confident when it comes to ABGs, volunteer to do one during the daytime when someone else can accompany you and give you tips and support. This means that when there’s an acutely dyspnoeic patient who requires an ABG overnight, you will feel more confident carrying out the procedure.

Try not to take everything to heart and speak out when you’re uncomfortable

The very nature of our job means that you will come across a lot of people with varying attitudes and personalities. This can be both a perk and a downside.

Many people will be polite and kind. However, some will be emotionally charged due to the context of your meeting, and this can often present in the form of aggression or shouting. Try not to take it personally. It’s often a reflection of how they’re feeling, rather than anything you’ve done.

Equally don’t let people (whether it’s a patient or colleague) walk all over you. It’s hard to do, but if you feel that something is wrong, speak out.

Your years of training will have given you a good foundation when it comes to knowing when something isn’t right. Don’t feel that you need to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Your name and GMC number is a reflection of your own actions, and often, others will understand if you explain your rationale. In these situations, ask a colleague or senior for support.

Look at the bigger picture

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Often, when finishing a particularly bad shift, it’s easy to feel that your personal contribution has been minimal. However, if you take a step back to look at each patients’ journey, your actions will have influenced their treatment along the way.

There will be a fair amount of bad days in the job, but the good days will make it all feel worth it. Take time at the end of a day to reflect on the experiences you’ve had. It will allow you to switch off from a busy day.

Keep on top of your portfolio

Try to keep on top of your portfolio as you complete each placement. If you’ve looked through your requirements early in the year and know what you need, it will allow you to ask other members of the team to sign you off for assessments that you’re already doing.

This will mean that you can tailor your assessments later in the year to fulfil any criteria that’s left. It’s typically the main part of the foundation programme that stops progression, so despite it not being particularly exciting, it’s best to crack on with it.

Start to think about your long-term plans

Think about your career plans early on and try to combine the work you do for portfolio to make it relevant for your career applications. This will allow you to work more efficiently and avoid doubling up on workload.

Foundation years fly by. Start thinking about what you want to do post-FY2 – whether that’s FY3, further training or travelling. There will be things to organise, and they’ll often need to be sorted out in advance, so it’s worth thinking about early on.

Specialty applications open shortly into FY2, which will come around sooner than you think. If you’re considering specialty training, look at application points and maximise the projects you do to get the best output. You can also consider taster weeks, which can be planned any time during FY1 or FY2, in any specialty, to help you explore your career aspirations.

Work collaboratively with your colleagues

Support your colleagues where possible, and they will do the same for you.

Whether it’s sharing jobs on the list after ward rounds or making a well-needed cup of tea, helping others will, for the most part, only serve in your favour. This also applies to working collaboratively on research projects, audits, learning opportunities and flexibility.

Look after yourself

Last but certainly not least, taking care of yourself is very important. You’re the only person who can do this. You’re looking after other people all day, and a run-down, tired, hungry, burnt-out doctor isn’t helpful for your colleagues or for patient safety.

Taking breaks when there’s a quiet moment and making sure you take the time to feed yourself, go to the toilet and rehydrate all sound like straightforward measures, but they can often fall by the wayside during a busy shift.

Leaving work on time can feel difficult, particularly when you first start working. Getting the last few jobs done, and then documenting them, can add up if you’re doing it regularly.

Working in shifts could mean you’re able to handover pending jobs to others (jobs that are semi-urgent, requiring completion out-of-hours). If you’re unable to do this, consider submitting an exception report.

Finally, make sure you have something to look forward to outside of work. Whether it’s a hobby, sport or social activity, it will help to take your mind away from work and relax.

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