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Life of a doctor

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. In this chapter, we aim to give you a glimpse into what a typical day in the shoes of various types of doctors is like.

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 Ward round with registrars and 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 gets to work 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 it becomes quite serious.

13:00 You have your lunch during your weekly departmental meeting or training session where presentations are given to update your knowledge about diseases and new managements available.

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

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

Life of a Specialist Trainee doctor (ST4)

As an ST4, you will have more responsibilities than a FY1 as you are more knowledgeable and well equipped to deal with any emergencies. Your days would vary depending on whether you are on call.

If you are on call, this means that if there are any 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. Prioritising is key, 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, always checking with the consultant to see if any changes are appropriate in each case.

Life of a Consultant

The daily routine of a consultant would vary greatly depending on their specialty. For example, a consultant dermatologist may work between 9am to 5pm whereas a consultant vascular surgeon may have to come to hospital at 3am to treat a patient who is bleeding severely. Also, it depends on whether the consultant is on call, with on call consultants being in charge of acute admissions which come in throughout the day. Consultants who are not on call run the daily ward round on the wards and head the afternoon specialist clinics or carry out any specialist procedures such as lumbar punctures (a procedure to obtain a sample of the fluid surrounding your spinal cord) which requires their expertise.

Life of a General Practitioner (GP)

07:30 Arrive to GP practise

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

08:00 Clinic begins, start seeing patients in 10 minute appointments

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

12:30 You head off on some visits to patients that are too ill or too frail to make it into the practise. You travel around for an hour whilst eating some lunch.

13:45 You head back to the surgery just in time to speak t some colleages about a couple of queries and check back in with awaited blood results and follow ups.

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

18:00 You finish typing up your final few letters for the day, phone up a few relatives 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 baby clinics or may carry out training of GP registrars. Some GPs have a specialist interest ranging across various medical fields which means patients can see them in hospital for 1-4 sessions (half days) a week.

Your tend to establish a long-term and close relationship with your patients and see their families through many years of care. Where you work will directly affect the patient population that you work with – you may work within a young and dynamic population that is always changing and ethnically diverse, or may be an older community with families that tend to bring up several generations in the same neighbourhoods. You are a true generalist and as such can go from diagnosing a baby with pneumonia, to helping a young women with depression to managing a patient’s early diabetes.