10 tips for doctors starting a new post in GP training

Starting your first post in training or changing to a new rotation can be exciting, but it can also be scary and comes with lots of challenges. In this article, Dr. Mahibur Rahman looks at 10 tips to help you in your new post.

1. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions!

Whenever you change to a different specialty, ward, practice or department, there will be lots of things that will be new to you. Some things will be specific to that ward (like where they keep specific forms), some will be specific to that hospital, department, practice – some will even be specific to each consultant or GP trainer you work with. If there is anything you are unsure of, don’t be scared to ask. When you start your first post in a GP practice, there can be lots of things that you may have never dealt with before (e.g. the electronic record systems, home visits, arranging admissions) and it can take time to adjust.

You may feel shy or embarrassed, but it is important to overcome this and ask so that you can do your job properly rather than pretend you know what to do or where to go and then cause problems.

2. Eat, drink, take a break

It is easy to get caught up with all the requests from the ward, patients waiting to be clerked in the emergency department, or to get through clinic, home visits, admin and find that you have gone without any food, drink or a rest and it is almost the end of the day. The first few days, you may not realise as you are fuelled by adrenaline, but this is not sustainable. Make sure that you have some proper food, away from a desk at lunchtime. Stay hydrated with water, tea / coffee throughout the day. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the different tasks on your list, but it is important to take a break for a few minutes to recharge yourself. Apart from a cardiac arrest or something of similar urgency, most tasks can wait 5-10 minutes.

3. Remember everybody is nervous

It is normal to feel nervous your first time doing anything in a new post – and the second, third, and fourth time in some cases! You won’t be the only one feeling nervous, so if you need some help or want to talk a procedure over with a senior colleague or look something up, it is fine! We won’t think less of you – in fact I prefer the junior colleague who admits when they are unsure and asks for help, especially early on. Remember we all had similar experiences when we started.

4. Medicine is a team sport

Looking after our patients’ needs will involve lots of team members. As well as doctors, there are the nurses, health care assistants, ward clerks, secretaries, porters, radiographers, cleaners, receptionists, practice manager and many more. Acknowledge the role others in the team play – say thank you, get to know them and they will help you when you need them. Bring in some treats for the nursing team on your main ward or the reception team in your practice once in a while and see the benefits!

5. Smile, and the world smiles with you

Although you may be tired and or stressed out, remember that your patient may be in pain, worried, scared, feeling sick and emotional. In most situations, a smile goes a long way make the patient a little more comfortable. Of course, there are times when you may need to avoid smiling e.g. if you are breaking bad news or if a patient is angry and they might mistake a smile as you not taking their situation seriously, but hopefully you will be able to recognise this early on. Similarly, your colleagues may be feeling tired or stressed if the shift is really busy – your smile may help lift them up and boost their morale a little bit.

6. Watch out for yourself and your colleagues

We all know that medicine can be stressful, and there are comparatively high numbers of doctors that suffer from things like depression, stress, alcohol and drug dependence. As well as looking after yourself and ensuring you seek help from your own GP if you feel you are becoming unwell, watch out for any signs that your colleagues might need support.

7. Don’t forget “My name is…”

Start every interaction with a patient with a polite, professional introduction, let them know your name and your role as one of the doctors in the team. It is not only common courtesy, but it will help start your consultation or assessment on the right foot.

8. Plan ahead

Try to meet with the other junior doctors early on and plan any dates when you need someone to cover your on call so you can go to a family event, or attend a course. Plan your holidays in advance and try to book a break – knowing something is booked can give you something to look forward to which can help you get through those tough shifts or difficult weeks.

9. Get familiar with the e-portfolio

Try to spend some time early on learning how to navigate the e-portfolio and putting in regular learning logs. You need to stay on top of the minimum requirements and complete all the assessments to get through the Workplace Based Assessment (WPBA) part of your MRCGP – remember this starts from ST1 and continues throughout the whole of training.

10. Wear sensible shoes

Whether you are in GP or a hospital post, you will be on your feet and do a lot of walking (and occasionally running in hospital) as a junior doctor. From doing ward rounds, taking emergency bloods to the lab, going to radiology to request scans, going back and forth to the emergency department to clerk in new patients, doing home visits in GP and going up and down stairs to respond to pager requests from different wards and running to cardiac arrests. Buying some smart but comfortable shoes will make a real difference by the end of a long day!

I hope these tips are helpful and I wish you all the best in your new job!

Please do add your own tips in the comments and share this with any of your friends who are starting GP training or changing jobs!

Dr. Mahibur Rahman is a portfolio GP and a consultant in medical education. He qualified as a doctor in 2001 and as a GP in 2007. He is the medical director of Emedica and is the author of GP Jobs: A Guide to Career Options in General Practice.

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