Last week marked the start of a new dawn for thousands of junior doctors up and down the country, as an estimated 50,000 medics across the UK moved into new posts in NHS hospitals to train in an array of specialties.
We spoke with Dr Victoria (Tory) Selwyn, an FY1 (foundation year 1) doctor, about her experiences in her first week at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, based at Lister Hospital in Stevenage.
Describe your role in one sentence
“A foundation year 1 doctor is the most junior doctor, in the first stages of training after graduating from medical school. The role entails working as part of the multidisciplinary team to treat patients – by seeing them on a ward round every day, ordering and carrying out investigations, prescribing treatment, liaising with other staff and specialities – and to help them recover, and prepare them for discharge from hospital.”
What did you do in your first week?
“My first week has been action-packed, filled with inductions and mandatory training sessions, as well as working out where everything is, getting to grips with new systems, seeing patients on ward rounds and ensuring all of the medical jobs are completed for the day.
“It has been fairly overwhelming and exhausting, meeting a whole new team and the 59 fellow FY1s that started at Lister at the same time as me – but, so far, everyone has been very friendly and welcoming.
“I’m so thankful to the nursing team, pharmacists and senior doctors within the Diabetes and Endocrine team who have already been so helpful and very patient with me.”
Did you have any fears prior to your first week and, if so, were they as bad as you had thought?
“Yes – I was worried that I would have forgotten everything that I had learnt at medical school, and that I would be too rusty to be of any use, especially during my first week. However, the only real issue I encountered was with the blood tubes, which were different to those that I had previously encountered on wards in Norwich.”
What are you most looking forward to about your role/working here, and what will you find most challenging?
“I am most looking forward to putting everything I have learnt over the past five years into practice. It’s a little stressful knowing the amount of responsibility that comes with the role, the importance of doing things correctly, making sure patients, and their relatives, feel that they are being looked after the best I can.”
What, if anything, are the differences from studying at medical school to working with patients in a hospital environment?
“Working with patients in a hospital environment is quite similar, whether you’re a medical student or a junior doctor – the biggest differences would be that, as a doctor, you get to know patients better as you spend a lot more time with them!”
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in your profession?
“I have three pieces of advice:
- Pace yourself: There is no rush, if medicine is your passion then you will find a way to pursue it.
- Gain some work experience: Getting some experience in a different clinical setting will give you an idea of what the job is actually like day-to-day – shadow doctors at different stages of training, and across different specialties, such as community settings, care homes and hospices, as well as medical and psychiatric ward settings.
- Don’t lose track of life outside of medicine: After all, medicine is a career, so should complement your life, rather than take control of it. Keep taking part in your hobbies, this will help you unwind outside of the medical world – whether it be arts and crafts, sport or performing arts.”
Medicine is a long and challenging profession to pursue. Are there any regrets or life-lessons that you have, which you feel may benefit others interested in a career in medicine?
“Yes – I would encourage individuals to ensure they have a good support network! At times, especially around exam season, the medical school journey can feel overwhelming. When you feel stressed, reach out to the people in your life who care – whether that be family, friends, a partner, fellow students or pets! Cats and dogs are always up for a cuddle, which is guaranteed to cheer you up!”
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
“If you are ever in doubt, ask for help! Working in healthcare is a team effort, there will always be someone around who has a different knowledge base or skillset, who may know the answer that you are looking for.”
What do you wish people knew about your job?
“It gets very real, very fast! One day, you’re a medical student shadowing doctors and clinical staff while feeling, for the majority of time, like you are just in the way or being a nuisance. And then, the next day, you’re being addressed as ‘doctor’ by all of the team, ‘on-call’ or carrying bleeps on a night shift – stressing about whether you’re going to get parked!”
Who is your inspiration?
“My dad always jokes that it is him! While studying at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia (UEA), I had the most inspiring mentor, consultant psychiatrist Dr Julian Beezhold – who was dedicated to teaching and supporting medical students such as myself, working collaboratively with his patients within clinical practice, while also promoting psychiatry as the fantastic specialty it is.”
Finally, what would your colleagues be surprised to discover about you?
“I have recently been on TV, radio and featured in newspapers talking about graduating from medical school, working as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) tutor for schoolchildren, also focusing on student mental health.
“I won some national awards, including The Diana Award 2022 for my work around mental health education and advocacy with the Headucate UEA society and creation of the national Headucate UK charity.
“I have also acted as Sharpay in my secondary school’s High School Musical production!”