After countless years spent on placement, in lecture theatres and locked up in your study on Saturday nights, you are finally qualified as a doctor. This can be an exciting but unnerving time in your life, since you are now applying all your theoretical and practical knowledge in real-world contexts.
However, these are a formative couple of years in your medical career, and it’s a great opportunity to establish a solid foundation on which to build a successful future. Here are some tips for coping with the demands that come with being a new doctor.
Communication is key
This is beaten into professionals in virtually every industry, but there’s a good reason for it. Building effective relationships with patients and colleagues is done through open and honest communication, and it’s imperative that you develop your speaking and listening skills for the sake of you and those around you. If you have any uncertainty or confusion, or feel the need to double check something, don’t sit around wondering. Miscommunication in healthcare cause disasters.
Respect patients and colleagues
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not a skill every new doctor is born with. While you are trained to provide the highest standard of care, it’s also important to respect your patients as the people they are. You’re bound to encounter individuals that are argumentative or just difficult to deal with in general, but it’s imperative that you learn to remain calm and respectful at all times. The same goes for colleagues, and always make a point of avoiding office gossip of any kind. Last but not least, write your notes as if your boss and the patient’s family members are watching: you never know who will read them.
Strive for improvement
This is only the beginning of your career, and while you’ll always be learning, you will never soak up more information than the you will in the first few years. Pay attention to the feedback you receive during annual reviews, and take the time to reflect on how you’ve grown in your role. You should also try to seek informal feedback wherever possible in a continual effort to improve yourself. Avoid taking things personally – instead, do whatever you can to learn from mistakes and be the best doctor you can be.
Be willing to admit you don’t know the answer
Despite what some patients may think, doctors are not supercomputers with the ability to solve any problem immediately. If a patient comes to you with a question, don’t be afraid to tell them if you aren’t sure what the answer is. In this case, your job instead is to help them find the answer – whether this be by referring them to a specialist or consulting a colleague.
It’s normal to be nervous when you start out as a doctor, but it can become overwhelming if you are poorly organised. Ensure you are always organised and thorough in your approach to each day by writing clear and accurate notes, keeping to schedule as much as possible, and being aware of your patient’s medical history and any other relevant information before any consultation.