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  • Writer's pictureKhadija Owusu

5 lessons learnt in my first year of being a doctor

It's been a year of 'doctoring' already and I can't believe it!

This time last year, I completed medical school and was starting work as a doctor. Although I had the preparatory experience over the years in medical school during various placements, I still didn't know what to fully expect. They always say 'no amount of medical school will prepare you for the job', and boy were they right! Additionally, I could no longer hide behind the real doctors on the ward as a medical student, I am now THE DOCTOR with the FULL responsibility.

But first, how does the UK system work?

I've built an international audience over the past few months here on LinkedIn and so it is only right that I explain how the initial medical training pathway works here in the United Kingdom. Medical school takes approximately 5 or 6 years, after which you become a junior doctor. The first 2 years of 'doctoring' are titled your Foundation Years; a very crucial time period with the first year being compulsory in order to receive your full medical license to practice.

With that being said, thank God I am now halfway through the Foundation Programme, as indicated by the arrow above and here are the 5 key lessons I have learnt over the past year:

1.Ask For Help

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

We are often afraid to ask for help and in some cases, we perceive it to be a sign of weakness. I believe the ability to assess and recognise that you are in a state of the unknown, thus requiring assistance - is a strength in itself. In the case of a junior doctor, being so new to the role, you heavily rely on your seniors. It is a must. Aside that, we have to ultimately remember that we have people’s lives in our hands. If we feel out of our depths, we MUST ask for help. The same principle applies across various industries too.

2. You are not alone

Team work makes the dream work!

Sometimes we succumb to the pressures of our jobs and as a result feel all alone. It is important you remember your core responsibilities, especially when you are junior in your role. You must know and be transparent about your capabilities and limitations. You have a team around you to support you. Do what you know you are capable of doing and lean on others who are there to support you in your role when needs to be.

3. Imposter Syndrome is Real

Everyone feels like an imposter sometimes, and that's okay.

Imposter syndrome is a reality some of us often face and I pray you do not encounter this. However, just remember, you are there for a reason. You've made it to where you are now because it was meant to be, because you are more than capable and you deserve it!

Read more on imposter syndrome and how to overcome it in my previous article here.

4. Be your Biggest and Best Advocate

Working in healthcare can often be a high-pressure environment. In a system that requires improvement, it's employees become overwhelmed, agitated and stressed. With that being said, you may encounter incidences completely out of the norm whereby you will have to be your own biggest advocate.

I remember experiencing a moment whereby my duty was being questioned by a senior nurse. Prioritisation is one of the key skills that is required as a doctor and in this particular scenario, I had an acutely unwell patient that required my full attention. On the other hand, the nurse's ask was not urgent in that moment. As a result of me not completing her task according to her timeline, she became frustrated and let it out on me. In situations like this, you must always remain cool, calm and respectful; despite the other not being so. I simply explained that an urgent situation required my attention which meant her task was not a priority to be completed in that time. Most of the time, some people expect that you will simply accept the disrespect. That should never be the case. Surprisingly, you may even shock yourself at times with the level of confidence you never knew you had in such moments. That is exactly how I felt, right after I had defended myself.

'Stand up for yourself' is what they alway say. Although it is easier said than done, it is necessary for a healthier work-life balance. It will boost your self-confidence and at the end of the day, you're also human, you deserve to be respected at all times in the workplace regardless of your role or even how junior you may be.

5. Do what makes you happy!

Life only comes around once, so do whatever makes you happy, and be with whoever makes you smile!

Finally, I cannot stress the importance of keeping at the things or activities that make you happy. Whether that be maintaining your personal relationships by making time for your family and friends, your hobbies, spending time with just yourself or even escaping by going on vacation? DO IT!


Overall, it's been a great year full of many experiences and I can't complain! I look forward to what this new year of work brings for me and for you all too.

If you're junior or even senior in your role and have any tips for those just starting out in their careers, regardless of the field; please share your tips in the comments below!

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