The challenge of working within a multidisciplinary team (MDT) is something I would also echo from the research. For example, I don’t think I fully realised before I started work how vital social care and therapy teams are to the experience patients have.
As an F1, you very much bridge the gap between your seniors’ medical decisions and the therapy teams, nursing teams and social care, as well as patients themselves and their families.
Communication between all of these in an effective manner allows the patient to have the best quality of life within and outside the hospital. I have found that working with the MDT can allow you to empower patients and their families to decide what the best next steps are for them, as they recover from illness outside the hospital as well as within it.
Based on my experience, and reflecting on the research, my advice to current undergraduates would be:
- Try to get as involved as possible in your clinical placements, and work with your clinical teams to try to take on individual responsibility for patient care in a supervised fashion. This will push you out of your comfort zone but make you much more familiar with what being an F1 entails than passive shadowing.
- Work with allied health colleagues to understand the scope of their roles. This will make you a more effective F1 and allow you to significantly improve patient care. Understanding the scope of the MDT will also give you a perspective on what is a reasonable treatment goal and enable you to start making more complex clinical decisions.
- Try to attend as many out-of-hours shifts as you can to see the type of decision making that happens at those times. It will be helpful to gain an appreciation for the decision-making processes overnight.
What this research highlights above all is that being an F1 cannot be taught in a didactic fashion. I hope it will push more medical schools towards an ‘assistantship’ model of education, like I had at Plymouth, where medical students are able to be much more engaged within clinical teams, and with supervised responsibility within them.
Dr Michael Marsh, Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement South West, added:
“The experiences Alex describes are balanced and helpful, and it was really interesting to read that junior doctors face similar challenges to the ones I faced 36 years ago when I started as a ‘House Surgeon’, as it was called then. Of course, there is much more support available for our trainees than in my era, and the General Medical Council has done a huge amount of work to support the transition from a student to a professional.
“Thank you to Alex for sharing his experiences which will hopefully help other junior doctors and those considering a career in medicine.”