The Daily Life of a Doctor in the NHS

Last updated: 20/04/2021

One of the best parts of becoming a doctor is the sheer variety of the pathways you will be able to pursue. Whether you decide to become a surgeon, a paediatrician or a GP further down the line, you will be sure to be greeted by a fresh array of successes, challenges and even failures on a daily basis. On this page we give you a glimpse of what a typical day is like in the shoes of various types of doctors.

Testing blood pressure with an inflatable cuff, stethoscope and gauge

Life of a Foundation Year 1 Doctor (FY1)

Once you graduate from medical school you become a junior doctor, specifically a Foundation year 1 doctor. You are assigned to a ward, where you will be involved in the care of the patients there.

08:00 Arrive on the wards.

08:30 Conduct a ward round with registrars and the consultant. You check in on your patients on the ward. You play a part in clinical decisions and create a list of jobs such as doing bloods and writing discharge summaries.

12:00 After the ward round, you split the jobs between yourself and your colleagues and everyone works on completing these tasks. During this time, nurses will contact you if they feel a patient is deteriorating and you will deal with these situations as they arise, escalating them to your senior colleagues if any becomes more serious.

13:00 You have your lunch during which your weekly departmental meeting or training session takes place, where presentations are given to update your knowledge about diseases and new types of management available.

14:00 You are back on the wards, continuing to complete your jobs and ensuring that everyone on the ward is recuperating well and everything is running smoothly. You work hand in hand with the nursing staff. You may speak to some patient relatives to update them, either in person or over the phone.

18:00 After a long day at work, you head home.

A doctor in a waiting room

Life of a Specialist Trainee Doctor (ST4)

As an ST4, you will have more responsibilities than a FY1 as you will be more knowledgeable and better equipped to deal with any emergencies. Your days will vary depending on whether you are on call or not.

If you are on call and there are issues relating to your specialty within the hospital you will be called to give your medical opinion and play an important role in the management of the patient. Multi-tasking and thinking on your feet are essential as you may receive several calls in quick succession. The key is to prioritise, alongside recognising emergencies when they present.

If you are not on call, your day would typically consist of helping out with the ward round in the morning, followed by running afternoon specialist clinics alongside your consultants. During these clinics, you will have the opportunity to see patients and make changes to their management if necessary, but always checking with the consultant to see if any changes are appropriate in each case.

A doctor in a ward

Life of a Consultant

The daily routine of a consultant will vary greatly depending on specialty. For example, a consultant dermatologist may work between 9 am and 5 pm whereas a consultant vascular surgeon may have to come to hospital at 3 am to treat a patient who is severely bleeding. It will depend on whether the consultant is on call. On-call consultants are in charge of acute admissions that occur throughout the day. Consultants who are not on call run the daily ward round and head the afternoon specialist clinics, or carry out any specialist procedures, such as a lumbar punctures, that require their expertise.

A doctor examining a patient

Life of a General Practitioner (GP)

07:30 Arrive at the GP practice.

07:45 Sit down for a coffee and check emails and phone messages before starting clinic.

08:00 Clinic begins; start seeing patients in appointments that each last 10 minutes.

11:45 By this time you have just about finished your morning surgery and grab a coffee while finishing typing your patient letters and making some phone calls.

12:30 You head off on some visits to patients that are too ill or too frail to visit the practice. You travel around for an hour while eating some lunch.

13:45 You head back to the surgery just in time to speak to some colleagues about some queries and check awaited blood results and follow ups.

14:00 You start your afternoon surgery with back-to-back 10 minute appointments.

18:00 You finish typing up your final few letters for the day, phone patients and check in with patients you recently visited.

19:30 You drag yourself away from your desk and head home after a busy day.

Some afternoons you may run specific clinics, like a baby clinic, or may carry out training of GP registrars. Some GPs have specialist interests ranging across various medical fields, which means that patients can see them in hospital for one to four sessions a week.

Your tend to establish a long-term and close relationship with your patients and see their families through many years of care. The patient population that you work with is directly dependent on where you work.

You may work with a young and dynamic population that is ethnically diverse and always changing, or it may be an older community with families that have several generations living in the same neighbourhood.

You are a true generalist and as such in one day can go from diagnosing a baby with pneumonia, to helping a young woman with depression to managing a patient’s early diabetes

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